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Air Quality & Herbs

August 15th, 2021.

As we continue to experience moderate to downright bad air quality from fire smoke, I want to share with you some tools we use to help cope with the chest congestion, sinus crud, fatigue, and general malaise that can result from prolonged smoke exposure.

When you can't escape to the fresh sea air of the Pacific coast, herbal medicine can help reduce the damaging impacts of air pollution. Read on for information on Qing Fei Tang as well as local herbs that can help support your respiratory health in these smokey times.

Qing Fei Tang

Qing Fei Tang means Clear the Lungs Decoction. There are many Chinese herbal formulas that use this name, due to the many different afflictions that can affect the lung and many different herbal lineages with their unique approaches. I have developed our Qing Fei Tang over the last 8 years of living through smokey Septembers (and Julys and Augusts) in the mountain west. With its current composition, it's the working the best it has yet. Over the last year working with patients to treat lingering respiratory effects from COVID19 and long COVID, I gained a better understanding of several key herbs that I had not used much before. And it turns out, they also work great in addressing the impacts of smoke inhalation.

Chai Hu clears heat from the Liver and Gallbladder, stimulates lymphatic drainage and circulation. Supports liver detoxification. Anti-viral.

Huang Qin clears heat from Shaoyang layer when paired with Chai Hu. Clears heat from the Lung, Gallbladder, head and upper body. Anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, active against MRSA.

Xing Ren moistens the Lung and helps to descend Lung Qi, used especially for cough and wheezing induced by dry heat.

Zi Su Zi moistens the Lung, expels phlegm, and descends Lung Qi to calm cough and wheezing.

Lu Gen clears heat from the Lung and generates fluids. Used especially for pathology in the lower lungs involving dry phlegm, Lu Gen helps to open and drain the lungs while moistening.

Ting Li Zi clears heat from the Lung and expectorates thick, sticky, dry phlegm. Powerful herb in asthma treatment. (In chronic asthma Ting Li Zi is paired with other herbs)

Wu Wei Zi tonifies Lung and Heart Qi, supports Lung and Kidney yin fluids to support breathing. The unique 5 flavors of Wu Wei Zi simultaneously open the Lung to support breathing and astringe the Lung to stop coughing. Also shown to lower liver enzymes and support liver detoxification.

Yu Xing Cao clears heat and toxicity from the Lungs. Used in infection and inflammation in the lower lungs. Virucidal against SARS-COV1. Antiviral, active against Candida, active against MRSA.

She Gan clears heat and toxic heat from the Lungs and lymphatic system. Used especially with lymphatic congestion and difficult to expectorate phlegm.

Huo Xiang aromatically transforms dampness and turbidity. Aromatic nature calms nausea, supports digestive strength, and opens the Lungs. Anti-viral, anti-fungal.

Cang Zhu aromatically transforms dampness and turbidity, tonifies Spleen Qi to support energy production and metabolism.

Ma Bian Cao clears heat from the Liver and Gallbladder, supports liver metabolism and detoxification to help the body clear toxic metabolites and irritants affecting the lung and lymphatic system.

Our Qing Fei Tang is effective in many cases for the following symptoms related to smoke exposure and inhalation: wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, headache, sinus congestion, cough, phlegm in the lung and/or sinus, fatigue, nausea, malaise.

This is a general formula, and these types of formulas generally work well. They are safe and effective, but do not take into account the specific conditions of an individuals past and present health history. For general discomfort including the above symptoms related to smoke exposure - I can recommend this formula to many people. To address your current health more specifically, or to take into account underlying health conditions, please come in for a custom prescription. People on blood thinning medications (warfarin, eliquis, etc), anti-psychotic medications, and ADHD medications (adderall etc) should not take Chinese herbal medicines. Pregnant women should not take Chinese herbs unless prescribed.

Dosage and Ordering. Qing Fei Tang is a granule formula, taken by dissolving the granule extract in water and drinking. One 140 gram bottle is $60. For significant discomfort with above symptoms, it's recommended to take 6 spoons twice/day - one bottle will last 1 week. For mild discomfort or to protect respiratory health during smoke exposure, take 6 spoons once/day - one bottle will last 2 weeks. If you are coming in for regular treatment, just let Sean or Mara know you'd like some Qing Fei Tang. If you won't be in to the clinic soon, send an email to and let me know the quantity and address to mail it to.

***Qing Fei Tang is only available to patients of Chinese Medicine of Idaho.***

An exotic red chrysanthemum. Sean with an armload of Mullein. Chrysanthemum tea.

Let's talk about two wonderful food-grade herbs that you can use at home any time to support yourself. When we say "food-grade" this designates gentle herbs that can be safely used without training or prescription and no harm will result. Home remedy is another way to think about them, but that is a somewhat misleading term. Food grade herbs have mild impacts. They aren't going to tackle bronchitis, pneumonia, or significant hypertension like prescription Chinese herbs could, but they also won't cause problems if used incorrectly.

Mullein is a native herb that grows like a weed through much of the mountain west. You can harvest it yourself or buy it from local herb shops like the Vervain Collective or online places like Mountain Rose herbs. It's a great plant for a medicinal, drought tolerant garden as well. To use mullein for respiratory health, make a hot water infusion (aka tea) from the dried leaves. If you are harvesting your own, pick the leaves when they are green. Pour boiling water over the leaves, steep 5 to 15 minutes, strain and drink. Mullein has very fine hairs on the leaves that can be irritating to the throat, so it's worth using a fine strainer (muslin or cloth if you want the finest) if this bothers you. Mullein gently clears heat from the lungs, has a mild moistening action, and is good at effectively stimulating lymphatic movement and drainage. Mullein leaf is primarily used for dry cough, and sticky dry phlegm in the lungs. Some also find it helpful for mild lymphatic congestion of the throat or ear. Mullein flower is used to make an ear oil for ear infections and congestion. Mullein root is used in some BPH formulations for prostate health.

Chrysanthemum, Ju Hua, is a traditional Chinese herb that has long been used as a household tea. Ju Hua is a particular variety of white chrysanthemum, so you'll want to get it direct from an herb shop rather than scouring your garden. That is, unless you are growing the specific varieties that can be used for tea. (I grow the Shungiku variety - it's beautiful) Ju Hua clears heat from the Liver, Lungs, clears heat from the eyes, and promotes longevity. It is most known for its ability to soothe eye irritation and improve vision. It's helpful for allergic itchy eyes, smoke irritated eyes, and computer and reading strained eyes. For eyestrain and chronic vision degeneration it is traditionally paired with Gou Qi Zi, goji berry. Ju Hua's liver clearing properties can help to soothe mild irritability. Ju Hua is a mildly cold natured herb, so individuals with sensitive stomachs or cold constitutions may consider taking it short term or brewing it with fresh, sliced ginger.

Thanks for reading this tome of a newsletter, and I hope that it's helpful!

Fingers crossed we get some rain and clear skies soon.

Take care, Sean Dugan L.Ac.

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