The lung’s main function in Chinese Medicine is very similar to the Western Medicine model—respiration. Specifically, the lung is said to be responsible for gathering Qing Qi, the energy the body derives from the air. The motion of the lungs also drives the circulation of energy throughout the entire body, which is why many Asian health practices such as yoga and Qi Gong place such a strong emphasis on deep, regular breathing.
The lung helps to regulate the water passages, including perspiration and urination. This association of the lung with water metabolism may have come from observing the shortness of breath and fluid edema that often appear together in patients with congestive heart failure. Additionally, sweating and labored breathing very often appear together with intense physical activity as most people have experienced for themselves at one time or another.
Fall is an important season for the lung because it is often the first organ invaded by external pathogens during cold and flu season. Chinese medicine has a saying: “The lung opens into the nose and the throat is the gate of the lung.” This refers to the first stages of a cold or upper respiratory infection which often includes a runny nose and sore throat and can easily progress to a cough which can linger for some time if not treated. Post infection there may be a lingering, non-productive cough as the lung repairs itself and restores normal function.
Chinese medicine has some very effective formulas for upper respiratory infections. These formulas include not only herbs with anti-viral and anti-bacterial actions but herbs that have been used for centuries to stop coughs and resolve phlegm, moisten the lung and help it to heal after the infection has run its course.