According to Dr. Hu Xi-Shu, the main cause of coughing is the invasion of phlegm-rheum, which should be treated by warm transformation, descending counterflow, and calming (the cough).
When treating coughs in general, there are numerous formulas to choose from, some may even go so far as to say that there are thousands upon thousands, but Dr. Hu would most commonly use the formula Ban Xia Hou Po Tang (Pinellia and Magnolia decoction). When asked about the reasoning for this, he would answer that in the Jin Gui Yao Lue’s (Essential formulas from the golden cabinet) section on coughs it is said that there exists an intimate relationship between phlegm-rheum and coughs, and that many cases are in fact due to the upward invasion of phlegm-rheum, which causes qi counterflow with an inability to descend. In regards to the treatment of phlegm-rheum, it is said in the Jin Gui Yao Lue,
“In phlegm-rheum diseases, one must harmonize with warm medicinals”.
This is the most important main treatment principle when treating phlegm-rheum conditions, and in addition is the main treatment principle when treating coughs. When adapting this principle (in the treatment of coughs), one must also use appropriate medicinals to guide the treatment downwards in order to descend (counterflow). Clinical practice offers us many opportunities to promptly offer a resolution of this symptom.
To read one of Dr. Hu’s cases utilizing this formula, click here.