Phlegm is a pathology that often originates from weak digestion sourced in the spleen Qi. One of the spleen functions is to govern water metabolism, in charge of separation, transformation and movement of fluids.  If spleen qi is deficient it cannot sufficiently transport fluids, eventually leading to fluids retention which accumulates to form internal dampness in the body.

When Spleen is chronically misbalanced the Lung will become misbalanced as well.  Long term dampness in the spleen will eventually transfer to the Lung and manifest as phlegm in the Lung.

Excessive consumption of mucus forming foods such as dairy foods, greasy foods or cold and raw foods will lead to the formation of phlegm and can therefore contribute to the formation of this pattern.

Symptoms and signs

Phlegm is heavy and obstructive in nature, thus chest oppression and shortness of the breath will be experienced together with a feeling of heaviness and dizziness of the head.  A major symptom that indicates phlegm in the Lung is chronic cough as the Lung is trying to expectorate the phlegm. Wheezing, nausea and dislike of lying down can also appear.

If the phlegm is cold the cough is accompanied by profuse watery white sputum that is easy to expectorate. The tongue coating is greasy and white. In cases of hot phlegm the heat has thickened the phlegm making it yellow or green in color and more difficult to expectorate. The cough is profound with barking quality and the tongue coating is greasy and yellow.   


To treat phlegm in the Lung it is important to address the underlying condition that causes it, which is dampness in the Spleen and deficiency of Spleen Qi.

Diet includes foods that transform, reduce and expel phlegm. The diet should consist of foods that digest easily and do not add any further mucus.

Preferable cooking methods are baking, steaming, stir-frying. Food texture should be crunchy.

Cooked grains:barley grits, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, rye, brown basmati rice.

Legumes: white bean, red bean, adzuki bean

Cooked vegetables: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, turnip, horseradish, radish, daikon, beetroot, jerusalem artichoke, green pea, string bean, celery, leek, fennel, artichoke, spinach, swiss chard, asparagus, purslane, okra.  

Fresh vegetables: radish, kohlrabi, carrot, onion, rocket, arugula, lettuce, spring onion, chives.  

Oils: used sparingly; nigella oil, pumpkin seed oil, flaxseed oil, sunflower oil.

Baked fruits: apple and pear.

Herbs and spices: fenugreek, fresh ginger, cinnamon, celery seeds, ajuwan seeds, black pepper, cayenne pepper, oregano, thyme, zaatar (origanumsyriacum)  

Beverages: drink warm beetroot juice, barley beverage, Yanu coffee (macrobiotic grain beverage), fresh ginger and cinnamon tea.


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