Sinus Congestion and Hoarseness (Theres
and then theres the SPLEEN)
By Brian Benjamin
Carter, MSci, LAc
Brian is an author of international renown and public speaker.
He is currently writing his book Chinese Medicine: A Practical
Guide to Optimal Healing. Brian practices acupuncture and
Chinese herbal medicine in sunny San Diego, California.
I had my spleen removed because of Hodgkins Disease. What
should I use for stuffy sinus and constant hoarseness?
In my opinion, you shouldn't "use" anything, but go
see a Chinese medicine (CM) practitioner
(acupuncturist/herbalist) for the appropriate herbs for your
condition, which I cannot diagnose over the internet. I wonder
if you are hoarse because of over the counter decongestants?
I went to the Doctor because I was hoarse. With the sinus
drainage and him thinking that it could be stomach acid, I did
try things like Nexium and Nasonex spray, without any luck. In
reading some of your website I thought that I read something about
a sinus and spleen connection. I think it was something about
wet or dry spleen that herbs could help. If you don't have a spleen,
it seems that you would be prone to constant sinus problems, which
I think I have. It seems like I always have some mucous at the
back of my throat.
Any ideas? I would appreciate any info you can offer. I will
try to locate a Chinese medicine practitioner.
The Spleen in Western and Chinese Medicine
Well, first please note that the Spleen of CM is different than
the anatomical spleen of western medicine. The western spleen
organ is mostly involved with blood, whereas the Chinese medicine
Spleen organ-system is about digestion, assimilation, getting
energy to the four limbs. In western terms, Spleen qi is probably
something like enzymes (though not limited to that), which work
with the stomach acid (part of the Stomach qi or yang) to digest
Causes of Sinus Congestion
There is a connection with the sinuses: In CM, Spleen deficiency
leads to dampness and phlegm (this is probably the "wet spleen"
you were trying to remember), which can show up in sinus congestion.
The Spleen is said to "raise the clear yang and descend the
turbid yin." But there are other causes and factors in sinus
congestion: inflammation (heat), stress, qi stagnation, and Liver/Gallbladder
Treat the Causes and the Symptoms
To treat it well, you need not only a sinus draining formula
like Cang Er Zi Tang (CEZT) as the basis, but also herbs that
address the root and related patterns. Only taking CEZT would
not fix the cause of the problem, so by itself it would be only
a temporary fix. We would add all or parts of formulas like:
- Liu Jun Zi Tang for Spleen deficient dampness
- Er Chen Tang for phlegm
- Long Dan Xie Gan Tang for Liver Gallbladder damp-heat
- Shu Kan Wan or Xiao Yao San for Liver qi stagnation.
- Huang Lian Wen Dan Tang for phlegm and Stomach heat
But you can't take them all! And, taking the wrong ones could
make you worse. So, get thee to an herbalist - that is, an acupuncturist
who knows their herbs. We have an acupuncturist-finding
resource which also has some tips for evaluating several acupuncturists
before deciding which one to see.
For more on sinus problems, read these three articles:
Hoarseness and the Lung-system
In Chinese medicine, we generally attribute hoarseness and loss
of voice to dryness. The Lung-system, which includes the throat,
is said to "hate dryness." The Lung likes to be moist
- so the Lung yin is very important, and dryness is the enemy.
In fact, the autumn season (when this question was asked and
article was written), is associated with both the Lung and with
dryness. So this would be the time of the year that the most people
would get hoarse.
There are good herbs for this- e.g. the formula Ophiopogonis
Plus (O+)from Far East Summit. But again, the complexity of the
whole condition may make just one formula problematic - this one
increase Lung yin, and if you also have sinus congestion, it might
even worsen that. So, you'd need some combination like CEZT and
A simple kitchen remedy for Lung dryness would be to drink some