In traditional Chinese medicine, phlegm is serious business. More than just an inconvenient byproduct of a sinus infection or chest cold, phlegm in TCM refers to congestion in the internal organs, caused by stagnant qi or energy. A few key acupressure points can help clear stagnant qi and reduce phlegm. Acupressure is not a replacement for conventional medical therapies.
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Energy blockages on a deep internal level occur when your body is in a state of fatique, infection or emotional upset. Circulation of qi—the cornerstone of health in TCM—becomes sluggish. In turn, body fluids do not circulate efficiently, and instead thicken and turn into internal phlegm, according to Steven Clavey, practitioner of acupuncture in Melbourne, Australia, and author of “Fluid Physiology and Pathology in Traditional Chinese Medicine.” External phlegm—the kind you cough up or blow out through your nose—is the end product of your body’s attempt to get rid of deep internal phlegm, Clavey notes. Acupressure treatments for excess phlegm seek to identify and treat deep level stagnation at its point of origin.
Correspondence With Organs
A TCM practitioner identifies the location of internal phlegm by taking note of how external phlegm tends to express itself. Different organs correspond to different “external gateways”—areas from which fluid can express itself, according to the website of the Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation. A runny nose expresses a dysfunction in the lungs. The liver purges stagnant qi through the eyes, in the form of tears. Thick phlegm gathering in the throat indicates a problem with the stomach.
In addition to a runny nose, cough or watery eyes, excess phlegm manifests in a number of less obvious ways. General symptoms of phlegm include dizziness in the head, numbness, inhibited speech and a clouded, dull spirit, according to Tietao Deng, professor at Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Guangdong Province, China. In his book “Practical Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine,” Deng notes that more serious symptoms of excess phlegm include convulsions.
Any acupressure treatment designed to deal with phlegm must address the sluggish qi that led to its creation in the first place, says Clavey. He cites an old traditional Chinese saying: “to treat phlegm, forget the phlegm.” Acupressure treatments should instead focus on restoring the smooth, abundant flow of qi. In TCM, the kidneys draw qi from your environment, while the liver governs its smooth flow throughout the body. Those two organs should be the focus of any acupressure treatment that seeks to address excess phlegm.
Two useful acupressure points for clearing excess phlegm are Liv3, a liver point, and K27, a kidney point, according to Acupressure Online’s allergy treatment protocol. Liv3 sits on each foot, between the bones of the big toe and second toe, where they join the foot. Use your thumb to push into the space between these bones, pressing down and toward the ankle. Feel for a tender spot. Massage and hold the point with firm pressure until it is no longer painful. Do both sides, then move to K27. Follow your collarbone in toward the center, where it joins the breastbone. K27 rests in the hollow underneath the collarbone. Raise your shoulder to make the collarbone protrude if you can’t find the hollow. Massage, then press and hold the less tender side, then work on the more tender side, until the point no longer feels sore.