Acupuncture for Respiratory Disorders
World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2009
Huisheng Xie, DVM, PhD, MS
Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine, Reddick, FL, USA

In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), the Lung dominates Qi and respiration, regulates the water pathway, and controls the body surface. The pathological changes of the Lung affect those physiological activities, leading to respiratory disorders. Three main clinical signs include cough, asthma or dyspnea, nasal discharge or congestion: these are considered the TCVM Lung pathogenic changes. The most commonly seen patterns of respiratory disorders include Wind-Cold, Wind-Heat, Lung Heat, Damp-Phlegm, Lung Yin deficiency, Lung Qi deficiency, Lung Qi+Yin deficiency and Kidney+Lung Qi deficiency (Table 1).

Table 1. Acupuncture for treatment of common patterns of respiratory disorders.

Pattern type

Clinical signs

Acupuncture point/herbals


Aversion to cold
Clear nasal discharge
Cough with sputum
Cold ears and nose
Acute onset of cough or asthma
Tongue: Pale red
Pulse: Superficial / slow

LU-07, LI-4, GB-20, BL-10, BL-13, Ding-chuan, CV-22
Zhi Suo San


Depression, Fever, Thirst
Acute onset of cough
Loud cough
Warm air exhaled from the nose
Tongue: Red
Pulse: Superficial / fast

LI-1/4/11, LU-5/10/11, BL-13, GV-14, Ding-chuan, CV-22
Yin Qiao San

Lung Heat

Asthma/cough, worse in summer
Dry and thick nasal discharge
Dry cough
Tongue: Red and dry
Pulse: forceful and rapid

GV-14, LI-11, LU-5/7, BL-13, CV-17/22, ST-40, Ding-chuan
Qing Fei San


Bright sound of cough with productive phlegm
Cold nose/ear
Tongue: Wet and pale
Pulse: slow

SP-6/9, ST-40/36, LI-10, CV-22, Ding-chuan, BL-13
Er Chen Tang

Lung Yin deficiency

Prolonged and weak cough
Cough is better in day and worse at night
Dry hair
Dry/thick nasal discharge
Tongue: Red and dry
Pulse: Thready and rapid

LU-9, SP-6, KID-3, BL-13, BL-42, CV-22, Ding-chuan
Bai He Gu Jing Tang

Lung Qi deficiency

Cough with weak voice
Exercise intolerance
Tongue: Pale and wet
Pulse: Deep and weak

CV-17/22, ST-36, SP-6/9, ST-40, BL-13, LU-9/-8, Ding-chuan
Bu Fei San

Lung Yin + Qi deficiency

Prolonged and weak cough
Cough worse all time & at night
Tongue: Pale or red
Pulse: Thready and rapid, or weak and deep

LU-9, Kid-3/6, BL-13, SP-6/9/10, CV-17/22, Ding-chuan
Bu Fei San + Lily Combination

Kidney + Lung Qi deficiency

Prolonged course of asthma/cough in the older Exercise intolerance; Loss of breath Tongue: Pale/swollen; Pulse: Deep and weak

BL-23/26/13, CV-17/4/6/22, ST-36, KID-3/7/10, Shen-shu, Ding-chuang
Ren Shen Ge Jie

Case 1

Silver, a 2-year old male Thoroughbred, febrile 3 days ago. His rectal temperature was 104.5° F. He has thick, yellow nasal discharge and a slight cough. His tongue is red, slightly dry, and pulse is fast and superficial. His personality is Wood. His appetite and thirst are ok. Bowel movements and urination are within normal limits. Four other horses at the same barn have similar symptoms.

 TCVM Diagnosis: Wind-Heat

 Acupuncture Treatment: Electro-acupuncture at GV-14 and Bai-hui, BL-13, Ding-chuan

 Dry-needling at LI-4, LI-11, LI-1, LU-11

 Herbal Medicine: Equine Yin Qiao, 50 g, bid, orally, 10 days

Outcome: Silver and 4 other horses had similar treatment and all recovered within 10 days.

Case 2

WB stallion 4 YO was presented with equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) 3 months ago. Western meds improved the neurological signs, but continued to trip. Initial ACP (3 weeks ago) improved symptoms by 60%. Today (10-2-06): Acute onset of cough & thick nasal discharge 3 days ago. A skin rash was noted in all pasterns. Pulse: strong and fast; Tongue=red Cough, very loud and strong; Personality: Wood

 TCVM Pattern: Wind-Heat in the Lung, Wei Qi Deficiency with Qi Stagnation

 Dry needle: GV-14, BL-10, LU-5. LI-4, LI-11, LU-10

 Electroacp: BL-21, BL-22, BL-24, Shen-shu, BL-53 + BL-54

 Herbal Meds: Equine Yin Qiao, 8 scoops, bid, 7days. And then Qing Hao San, 2 scoops, bid

Case 3

A 13 year old spayed female Siberian Husky was presented with gagging or hacking (dry cough) occurring a few times a day for the past 2 years. She is moderately thin dog. She coughs upon palpation of the trachea. She has a good coat condition. Her pulses are thin and rapid, tongue is red and dry with no significant coating. She urinates less frequently with a normal amount. Her thirst level is normal. X-rays indicates that she has mild to moderate bronchial cuffing, normal cardiac silhouette.

 TCVM diagnosis: Lung Yin Deficiency.

 Acupoints: BL-13, Ding-chuan, CV-22, LU-7, LU-9, SP-6, BL-23 and KID-3

 Herbal Medicine: Lily Combination, 0.5 g per 10 lb body weight, bid, 3 months

Outcome: Her cough had almost completely resolved after 6 biweekly acupuncture treatments and 3-months of daily herbal medication. She then received the "tune-up" (preventive maintenance) acupuncture once every 3-6 months and eventually passed away at the age of 15 years old.

Case 4

A 2-year-old Thoroughbred Colt Febrile, 10 days ago. Antibiotics and antifebrile medications kept the horse body temperature normal, but a cough presented 2 days ago. The cough is forceful and loud. He has been coughing up thick and yellow sputum. He has a decreased appetite. Tongue: Red and dry; Pulse: fast

 TCM dx: Interior Heat Excess. LU phlegm-heat

 Acupoints: LI-4/11/20, GV-14, LU-5, BL-13

 Herbal: Qing Fei San, 30 g, bid, 3 weeks

Case 5

"Mary", 9 year old domestic long haired cat. History: Presented for 3-year history of asthma (about 1 episode per week), congenital heavy breathing and obesity. Personality Type: Water--She is shy, hid for most of the exam in a cabinet. She does fight with another cat in the house but never initiates the fights. Physical Findings: Overweight, Breathing heavily, Last asthma attack 5 days ago, Ears/nose: cool, Tongue: pale and wet, Pulse: right side weaker.

 TCVM Diagnosis: Lung Qi deficiency

 Acupuncture: Dry needling at GV-20, Ding-chuan, BL-13, LU-7, and LU-9

 Herbal Medicine: Bu Fei San 1 pill BID, 3 months.

 Recommendations: Acupressure at Ding-chuan and CV-22 daily 5 minutes per point

Outcome: Mary was given acupuncture once every 2 weeks for 6 treatments (3 months). Two episodes of asthma were noted in the first month, only one in the second and third month. No asthma attacks have been noted for the past 2 years.

Case 6

A 10-y male cat was presented with a serious chronic sinus infection. The cat has been treated so far by an internist with large doses of various antibiotics, with poor results. There has been a lot of congestion and a deep seated Pseudomonas bacteria cultured. In general, the cat looks strong. His tongue: red and dry; and his pulse is deep and strong.

 TCVM Diagnosis: Damp Heat with Qi stagnation at the sinus level

 Acupuncture Treatment: GV-14, Er-jian, LI-4, LI-11, ST-44, LU-5, SP-6, 3 sinus points including LI-20, Bi-tong and Yin-tang. Daily acupressure at LI-20 and Bi-tong by owner was also recommended.

 Herbal Medicine: 1) Xin Yi San (to move Qi-blood stagnation and resolve nasal congestion), 1 capsule (0.2 g) twice daily for 2 months. 2) Nasal Damp-Heat formula (to clear Damp-Heat and resolve the bacterial sinus infection), 1 capsule (0.2 g) twice daily for 2 months.

Outcome: The cat showed great improvement after 4 biweekly acupuncture treatments and 1-month daily herbal medicine. He had much less nasal congestion and discharge. After 3 monthly acupuncture treatments and 3 months of herbal medication no nasal congestion or discharge was noticed. He had no recurrent sinus infections and he died at 18 years of age due to renal failure.


Acupuncture and herbal medicine are effective for the treatment of upper airway infections and chronic respiratory disorders including asthma attacks, heaves, and COPD.

Speaker Information
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Huisheng Xie, DVM, PhD, MS
Chi Institute of Chinese Medicine
Reddick, FL , USA

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