TCM treatment is based on “identifying the ailment before curing”. To treat a disease, one must first understand its symptoms before applying medication. Early autumn is the peak period for upper respiratory tract ailments and coughing is one of their symptoms. We can know the symptoms and features of coughs from the following two aspects:
First of all, know the time, frequency, nature and sound of the cough, and the factors that make it worse.
If the coughing is rapid with a heavy sound, if it occurs more frequently in the daytime than at night, or it is caused by an itchiness in the throat, then it is likely to be caused by an infection of the upper respiratory tract resulting from external wind-cold or wind-heat. If the sound of coughing is hoarse, the coughs come quickly and the illness escalates rapidly accompanied by fever, then it is caused by external wind-cold, dry heat or acute infection of the upper respiratory tract. If the coughs come slowly and persist for a long time, it is due to a deficiency in yin-energy or qi. If the sound of the cough is rough and strong, it is due to wind-heat or phlegm-heat causing internal damage to the saliva.
If the coughing is weak with a low sound, it is a hollow-cold cough; if it is loud, it is a solid cough that is caused by heat or dry-heat. Violent coughing in the morning with strong sounds, whose frequency is reduced after expelling the phlegm, is mostly a wet-phlegm cough or a wet-phlegm-turned-heat cough. Afternoon and evening single-sound, faint and short coughs are usually the result of weak yin-energy or dry lungs. When coughing worsens in bed at night and persists, to the extent that the cougher cannot lie down and has to sit up to cough, or when the cougher has shortness of breath or is panting, he is suffering from hollow-cold ailments that cause persistent coughing that results in panting. Coughing that worsens due to fatty, sweet, raw and cold foods is wet phlegm coughing. Coughing that worsens due to blocked breathing, depressive moods, mental provocation and anger is blocked-breathing and phlegm-fire coughing. Coughing that worsens due to tiredness and feeling cold is mostly phlegm-wetness and hollow-cold coughing.