Acute bronchitis, a common respiratory condition, results from inflammation of the bronchi – the air passages within the lungs. While often caused by viral infections, bacterial infections, or environmental irritants, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) attributes bronchitis to a variety of imbalances in the body. This article explores the TCM approach to treating acute bronchitis, focusing on herbal remedies and formulations that address specific imbalances.

  1. Cold-Wind Restricting the Lungs

Symptoms: Common cold, cough with heavy unclear sounds, dislike of cold, fever, headache, itch in the throat, lack of perspiration, nasal congestion, nasal discharge, and panting.

Treatment goal: Disperse wind and cold, expand the lungs, and stop cough.

Recommended formula: Xing-Su-San

Foods to incorporate: Almond, rock sugar, asparagus, peppermint (including oil), spearmint, sweet basil, cayenne pepper, fennel, fresh ginger, mustard seed, star anise, prickly ash leaf, leaf or brown mustard, walnut, common button mushroom, and tangerine.

  1. Wind-Heat Offending the Lungs

Symptoms: Common cold, coughing out yellow and sticky sputum, dislike of wind, fever, flickering nostrils, headache, pain in the chest, pain in the throat, perspiration, sore throat, sputum with blood, and thirst in the mouth with a desire for drink.

Treatment goal: Expel wind, clear heat, expand the lungs, and stop cough.

Recommended formula: Sang-Ju-Yin (1)

Foods to incorporate: Apple, apple cucumber, sweet rice, lemon, sweet potato, tofu, tomato, white sugar, coriander, and parsley.

  1. Lungs-Dryness

Symptoms: Coughing out blood, dry cough, dry cough without sputum or coughing out slightly sticky fluid, dry nose, dry throat, dryness in mouth and nose, loss of voice, morbid hunger, thirst, nosebleed, pain in the throat, presence of sputum that can't be coughed out easily, and tickle in the throat.

Treatment goal: Clear heat, produce fluids, lubricate dryness-lungs, and rescue the lungs.

Recommended formula: Qing-Re-Jiu-Fei-Tang

Foods to incorporate: Almond, apple, apricot, asparagus, white fungus, licorice, loquat, peanut, pear peel, rock sugar, and tangerine.

  1. Spleen-Dampness Offending the Lungs (Chronic)

Symptoms: Cough, discharge of sputum that can be coughed out easily, discharge of white watery sputum, fatigue of the four limbs, heavy sensations in head as if head were wrapped up, heavy sensations in the limbs and trunk, inability to lie on back, poor appetite, short breath, swelling of hands and feet, and vomiting.

Treatment goal: Strengthen the spleen, dry dampness, transform sputum, and regulate the lungs.

Recommended formula: Er-Chen-Tang

Foods to incorporate: Gold carp, corncob, horse bean, Job's-tears, prickly ash, adzuki bean, bamboo shoot, cheese, ambergris, barley, common carp, cucumber, mung bean, seaweed, shepherd's purse, and star fruit.

  1. Liver-Fire Attacking the Lungs

Symptoms: Cough that causes pain in the upper abdomen, cough with sticky sputum, coughing out blood, dry throat, 

painful sensations running through chest and ribs, rapid breath, red face, sputum with blood, thirst, and vomiting of blood.

Treatment goal: Calm the liver, sedate fire, clear the heat in the lungs, and stop cough.

Recommended formula: Ke-Xue-Fang

Herbal ingredients: Asparagus, soya milk, duck egg, olive, spinach, chestnut, shepherd's purse, rye, black fungus, vinegar, abalone, asparagus, chicken egg, white fungus, pork, and royal jelly.


Traditional Chinese medicine offers a variety of herbal remedies and formulations to treat acute bronchitis based on the specific imbalances present in an individual's body. These remedies aim to address the root causes of bronchitis, such as cold-wind, wind-heat, lungs-dryness, spleen-dampness, and liver-fire, and alleviate associated symptoms.

As with any medical treatment, it's essential to consult with a qualified TCM practitioner or healthcare professional before starting any herbal therapy for acute bronchitis. This ensures the chosen treatment is appropriate for your unique needs and can help you achieve the best possible outcome in managing your condition.