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Chinese Medicine and Respiratory Problems

Our bodies need oxygen to breathe, and every cell in our bodies needs oxygen to help metabolize energy from food and perform its vital functions. It is our respiratory system that delivers air into our lungs, separating the oxygen from the rest of its components and then moving it to the rest of the body to nourish it and sustain it, and it is the respiratory system that moves carbon dioxide out of our bodies. When that system fails and the body can’t take in enough air or expel enough waste, it results in dangerously low levels of oxygen.

According to the World Health Organization, respiratory diseases are leading causes of death and disability around the world. COPD, asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema kill millions of people around the world. These chronic respiratory conditions, which manifest themselves as shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing, and difficulty expelling carbon monoxide are viewed and addressed by Western medicine in terms of triggers. By contrast, Traditional Chinese medicine views lung problems on a case-by-case basis, with issues often stemming from another channel or organ system. Lung issues can also be strongly affected by the emotions, and by grief. Through the use of acupuncture and Chinese herbs, acupuncturists have been able to provide patients with proven benefits and relief for asthma, chronic cough and allergies.


The ability to stimulate unimpeded flow in the body is among the proven benefits of acupuncture, and is an essential goal of any treatment involving a problem with the lungs. Not only does acupuncture increase blood flow that carries oxygen to the body’s cells, it also helps to dilate the airways and can produce anti-inflammatory effects that improve smooth breathing.  This aids in reducing cough and reducing muscle contractions and spasms while increasing lung capacity.  Often, traditional Chinese medicine views difficulty in inhalation experienced by asthma patients as weakened Kidney qi being unable to grab and pivot the inhalation or Lung qi, leaving the body working harder with diminished return of function. When a trained acupuncturist is able to correct or improve respiratory disorders through the lens of Chinese medicine, both immune function and vitality can flourish.

Seasonal allergies are one of the biggest triggers of respiratory problems and asthma, and afflict roughly ten percent of the population. While Western medicine treats allergies with medications that suppress the allergic response, these therapies often affect people with feelings of drowsiness and immune system suppression. The sneezing, running nose and watery eyes that characterize these allergies can be improved with acupuncture, which can yield relief during the first visit and can be bolstered by subsequent sessions.

Bronchitis is a particularly insidious respiratory illness that, when chronic, represents one form of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Both can severely impact patients’ lives and make everyday activities a challenge. Acupuncture, with a focus on the unimpeded circulation of energy through meridians, sees bronchitis and COPD as a disruption of the flow.  When acupuncture is strategically crafted based on the individual patients’ symptoms and diagnosis, the blockages are reduced and qi’s flow is restored. Studies have shown that regular acupuncture treatments are equal in effect to steroid treatments while reducing a higher quality of life score. Other studies have shown that acupuncture provided in combination with traditional Western medicine protocols can reduce the need for medication among patients diagnosed with COPD and bronchitis.

Chinese Herbs

The importance of herbs in Traditional Chinese medicine cannot be overstated, and truly shines in treating respiratory system problems. Chinese herbs have delivered significant shortening of bronchial symptoms seen in colds and viruses, as well as improvements and reduction in symptoms in asthma patients. A study found that the use of Chinese herbs reduced the risk of asthma hospitalization for at-risk children. Chinese herbs also help allergy sufferers manage their symptoms without the drowsy effects that antihistamines have on many people.

Other Chinese Medicine Treatments

In addition to acupuncture and Chinese herbs, Traditional Chinese protocols such as cuppingGua Sha and diet adjustments have proven effective at treating respiratory problems. Where cupping and Gua Sha increases blood flow, thus aiding in the transport of crucial oxygen throughout the body, dietary adjustments and changes in exercise are also used to resolve excess mucus production and bolster the lungs.

Whether you are dealing with asthma, seasonal allergies, COPD or other respiratory system problems, Chinese Medicine can help. Sharon Sherman has been licensed to practice acupuncture and Oriental Medicine since 2001, and holds the highest credential available from both the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine and the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Her knowledge and understanding of its use assure patients of the highest level of care and professionalism.

Empirical Point Acupuncture

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Philadelphia, PA, 19118

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