It started so gently, I was caught off guard. I noticed a few occasional coughs but there was not any other sign of a cold. No runny or stuffy nose, headache, or phlegm.
To suppress my cough, I took Ke Chuan Pian (Breathmooth™), our remedy that had served me well in the past when I had a lingering cough after catching a cold. This time, the remedy seemed to work, at least at first. The cough stopped right after a dose, and I had very little cough for several hours. And whenever the cough returned, I took another dose.
This reactive dosing lasted for several days. A couple of times, I thought the cough was completely gone, so I skipped a dose. But ultimately, the coughing returned and seemed to get worse.
In hindsight, I should have taken the cough remedy at regular intervals instead of simply taking it whenever I would start coughing again. So I started to take it 4 times a day (3 times at daytime and once before bed). And while it relieved the cough, it did so only temporarily. My coughing resumed and became more persistent. It felt like smoke was bursting forth from my lungs through my throat. My throat was very irritated. It became apparent that the root cause for the cough had progressed beyond what Breathmooth™ could solve.
On top of that, shortly after this realization that I needed another remedy, I felt some neck stiffness and chills, which suggested a Wind-Cold type of cold invasion. I decided to take a couple of doses of Ge Gen Tang Pian (Kudzu Relaxe™), which is the primary herbal remedy for such a cold. These symptoms quickly went away, but the cough remained the same.
In fact, the cough became progressively worse ever since the effect of Breathmooth™ waned. The cough seemed to come from the bottom of my lungs, loudly and forcefully. My whole chest shook and my face would turn red. I would expectorate a small piece of yellow thick mucus with many of the violent coughs. My throat was dry and thirsty. My wife worried that I was having bronchitis or even pneumonia and urged me to see a medical doctor.
I realized at this point my cough had evolved to a Heat-Phlegm type, in which the cough is caused by the buildup of phlegm in the lungs. The phlegm is likely the result of an infection from an untypical cold or flu. As Qing Qi Hua Tan Pian (Flemclear™) is the most appropriate herbal formula for dissolving the Heat-Phlegm and our Zhong Gan Qing Pian (Coldclear™) is the primary herbal remedy for severe cold, I started to take both of these formulas together, each at 8 to 10 tablets.
What happened next amazed me. After the first dose, the severity of coughing was mitigated. The forceful cough disappeared. With the lesson I learned with irregular taking of Breathmooth, I adhered to the regimen of 4 times a day for a few days. The cough was mostly gone with the phlegm. But my throat was still dry and hurt.
This suggested a Yin deficiency of the lungs from the view of TCM, resulting from damage to the Yin energy by the stubborn cough. A classic solution for this is Bai He Gu Jin Pian (LungVigor™), which moistens and nourishes the lungs and resolves coughing. Indeed, the discomfort in my throat went away within a day. I continued to take LungVigor™ for another couple of days to further nourish my lungs. Within a very short time, I stopped coughing.
I’ve had some tough, nasty coughs in the past. Before I started taking Chinese medicine for colds, any cough lingering from a cold or flu would last anywhere from one month to three months … even with the use of over the counter cough remedies! This particular cough was the most stubborn cough I have experienced. It started mildly but kept evolving, which demanded the adjustment of Chinese medicine at each stage. But with the appropriate application of our Guang Ci Tang herbal medicine, the whole coughing episode was resolved within two weeks.
As a final note, as I was writing this article, I received a call from an acupuncturist and noticed she was coughing over the phone. She said she had coughed for more than a month and tried many solutions. I asked her to describe her cough, and it appeared that she was having the same type of coughing as I did. So I recommended she take the same combination of Flemclear™ and Coldclear™, which, conveniently, she already carried on her medical shelf for patients. The next morning, I received a call from her again. She told me her cough was much better.