top of page
  • Writer's pictureDr. Elias Lu, DTCM

Post-Viral Cough: A stubborn Case of Rebellious Qi

Man coughing a lot
Man coughing up a storm
  • Persistent cough frequently follows an upper respiratory infection

  • Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for cough

  • Experience The Power of Touch with Point of Cure Acupuncture & Electromedicine


Lingering Cough

Recently, a colleague of mine asked me about the best acupuncture points for treating post-viral cough. I saw an opportunity to share insights through this blog post.


Persistent cough frequently follows an upper respiratory (viral) infection. While initially serving as a protective mechanism during the acute phase of infection, once the illness subsides, coughing does little good but irritates the lungs and, quite frankly, the people around.


Inflammation of the airways and excess mucus production can directly stimulate cough receptors, leaving them in a hypersensitive state. Additionally, unrelenting coughing can be perpetuated by the secretions draining from the nasopharynx (postnasal drip) or acid reflux from the esophagus.



Common Cough Remedies

Treating lingering cough requires quieting inflammation in the respiratory mucosa and modulating the nervous system.


Symptomatic treatment typically involves oral antihistamines (to reduce postnasal drip), benzonatate (vagal anesthesia), dextromethorphan (centrally acting antitussive), inhaled ipratropium bromide (anticholinergic), and/or steroid (anti-inflammatory). Some physicians may even resort to a brief course of oral corticosteroids.


Acupuncture – Natural Option

An ever-increasing number of folks are turning to acupuncture.


Acupuncture, an ancient healing art rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy pathways, or meridians. By restoring balance and harmony within the body, acupuncture aims to enhance the body's natural healing mechanisms.


According to TCM, a persistent post-infectious cough is associated with deficient Yin “Fluids” burned out during the active infection.


By regulating the flow of Qi, or vital energy, acupuncture helps to strengthen the lungs, boost the immune system, and promote respiratory function. In addition to acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, and herbal medicine may also be incorporated into the treatment plan.


Research studies have provided evidence supporting the efficacy of acupuncture in treating respiratory conditions. Acupuncture has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects, which can be particularly beneficial in the context of post-viral cough.


Point Selection

My favorite points for treating dry lingering cough are as follows:



GV 20

Location: Top of the head

Innervation:  Greater occipital nerve (C2)

TCM: “Calming” point

Modern View: General anti-inflammatory effect



CV 22

Location: Front of the neck, in the middle, in the depression right above the chest bone.

Innervation: Supraclavicular nerve (C3-C4)

TCM: Descends “Rebellious Qi”

Modern View: Laryngopharyngeal reflux reduction


LI 18

Location: Side of the neck, level with the 4th cervical vertebra

Innervation: Great auricular nerve (C2-C3), lesser occipital nerve (C2), accessory nerve (CN 11)

TCM: Descend Rebellious Lung Qi (throat action)

Modern View: Desensitizing throat



BL12/13, GV 14/EX-B1

Location: Along the spine, in the C7-T3 area

Innervation: Dorsal ramus of corresponding spinal nerves

TCM: Nourish and descend Lung Qi

Modern View: HPA axis modulation (anti-inflammatory), bronchodilation (β2-adrenergic)


Upper Extremity:


LU 7

Location: Radial side of the wrist

Innervation: Musculocutaneous nerve (C5-C7), radial nerve (C5-C8)

TCM: Calm the Lungs

Modern View: Antitussive


PC 6

Location: Inner side of the wrist

Innervation: Median nerve

TCM: Open the Chest

Modern View: Suppression of cough reflex


Lower Extremity:


ST 36

Location: Below the knee

Innervation: Deep peroneal nerve (L4-L5)

TCM: Tonify Yin Qi

Modern View: Parasympathetic (vagal) modulation, general anti-inflammatory effect


SP 6

Location: Above the ankle

Innervation: Tibial nerve (L4–S2)

TCM: Balance Yin and Blood

Modern View: As ST 36 above, vagal neuroimmunomodulation, anti-inflammatory effect


KD 3

Location: Inner ankle

Innervation: Posterior tibial nerve (L4-S2)

TCM: Nourish Yin, Clear deficiency Heat

Modern View: To be discovered


The Bottom Line

Don’t reach for antibiotics … yet! First, try simple over-the-counter cough remedies. Honey (the real one) works fine too. Maybe even ask your doctor for Medrol 6-day Dosepak. Or, if you are a holistically minded person, visit Point of Cure Acupuncture and Electromedicine for a gentle yet powerful healing session.





Braman S. S. (2006). Postinfectious cough: ACCP evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Chest129(1 Suppl), 138S–146S.


Hsieh, P. C., Cheng, C. F., Wu, C. W., Tzeng, I. S., Kuo, C. Y., Hsu, P. S., Lee, C. T., Yu, M. C., & Lan, C. C. (2020). Combination of Acupoints in Treating Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: An Apriori Algorithm-Based Association Rule Analysis. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM2020, 8165296.


Li, N., Guo, Y., Gong, Y., Zhang, Y., Fan, W., Yao, K., Chen, Z., Dou, B., Lin, X., Chen, B., Chen, Z., Xu, Z., & Lyu, Z. (2021). The Anti-Inflammatory Actions and Mechanisms of Acupuncture from Acupoint to Target Organs via Neuro-Immune Regulation. Journal of inflammation research14, 7191–7224.


Mao, D., Deng, Y., Zhang, L., Zhao, Y., Li, Y., & Wang, F. (2020). Effect of acupuncture on chronic bronchitis: A protocol for systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine99(24), e20676.


May, G., & May, M. M. (2022). A Possible Treatment for Persistent Cough Status Post-pulmonary Carcinoid Tumor Resection. Cureus14(5), e25499.


Nurwati, I., Purwanto, B., Mudigdo, A., Saputra, K., Prasetyo, D. H., & Muthmainah, M. (2019). Improvement in inflammation and airway remodelling after acupuncture at BL13 and ST36 in a mouse model of chronic asthma. Acupuncture in medicine : journal of the British Medical Acupuncture Society37(4), 228–236.


Tu, H., & Zhang, Q. (2022). Assessment of Acupoint Therapy of Traditional Chinese Medicine on Cough Variant Asthma: A Meta-analysis. BioMed research international2022, 4168308.


Wang, G. X., Zhou, J., Chen, Y. M., Xu, L. D., Tao, S. M., Ma, J., Sun, Y. H., Wu, M. S., Chen, Z. W., Zhu, Y. F., & Xie, M. R. (2023). Mechanism of electroacupuncture at acupoints of the lung meridian through PKA/PKC regulation of TRPV1 in chronic cough after lung surgery in guinea pigs. Journal of thoracic disease15(4), 1848–1860.


Xiong, J., Qi, W., Yang, H., Zou, S., Kong, J., Wang, C., Zhou, Y., & Liang, F. (2021). Acupuncture Treatment for Cough-Variant Asthma: A Meta-Analysis. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM2021, 6694936.


bottom of page