The Importance of Understanding & Treating Phlegm

Part of the deep reaching clinical efficacy of Chinese medicine is its ability to make seemingly confusing conditions clear and accessible. We often understand tan/phlegm as being associated with the Earth phase but all Five Phases can be involved.

Brendan Kelly
Brendan Kelly

Course Overview

Part of the brilliance and deep reaching clinical efficacy of Chinese medicine is its ability to make seemingly difficult and confusing conditions clear and accessible. One example is the understanding of the different origins of tan/phlegm.


In our modern discussion, we often understand phlegm as coming from pathology of the Spleen as it is associated with the Earth phase and the climatic influence of dampness. And while the Earth can be a cause of dampness all Five Phases can also be involved and there are seven different types of phlegm. Interestingly,. in the long history of Chinese medicine there is no major tradition that emphasizes phlegm as the root cause of disease. In other words, it’s understood that phlegm is a branch issue that is responding to other deeper pathology.


We'll also discuss tan/phlegm as part of many seemingly difficult to address conditions where treatments are not responding, there's improvement but not complete healing, there's constant depression and lethargy and where there's pulse discrepancies and imbalances in the left and right pulses and differences in pulses in the three jiaos.


Brendan will also present an indpeth case study of treating a patient with long-term, late-stage Lyme with a Five Phase understanding of phlegm using acupuncture, herbs and eastern nutrition.


  • Understand the nature of tan/phlegm and how it relates to symptoms physically, mentally and emotionally. Included will be an historical discussion of tan.

  • Understand the differences between the seven different kinds of phlegm and the importance of differential diagnosis in treating the wide range of phlegm diagnoses.

  • Understand how the Wu Xing/Five Phase model can help us understand and treat the underlying causes of phlegm/tan.

  • Understand the potential role of phlegm/tan in addressing a wide range of difficult to treat conditions.

  • Understand the use of acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutrition in treating the seven different types of phlegm/tan.


  • 0 hrs - 30 min

    This section will present an overview of an historical understanding of tan/phlegm including it's role in potentially hard to treat conditions. Also included are ideas dating to the Tang dynasty and Sun Si Miao.

  • 30 min - 1 hrs

    This section will be an introduction to the application of Wu Xing/Five Phase theory to understanding of the root issues of phlegm and the importance of the Earth Phase in particular. The seven types of phlegm will be discussed.

  • 1 hrs - 1.5 hrs

    This section will continue with the application of Wu Xing/Five Phase theory to understanding the root issues of phlegm and the discussion of the use of herbal medicine, acupuncture and nutrition to address the seven types of phlegm.

  • 1.5 hrs - 2 hrs

    The section includes a case study on the importance of differential diagnosis to understand and treat the root causes of phlegm and the clinical application of acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutrition.


Brendan Kelly

Brendan Kelly LAc is an acupuncturist, herbalist, author and professor who has been practicing Chinese medicine full-time since 2004. His first book “The Yin and Yang of Climate Crisis” uses the lens of Chinese medicine to look at the bigger and deeper issues of global warming.


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More Details
  • CEUs:

    Approved By: NCCAOM (2), Standard Certificate (2), Florida (2)

    Pending: California [Upon Request]*

  • Language: English

  • Course Type: Recorded Seminar

  • Course Length: 2 h

  • Course Notes: Notes are provided with this course.

  • Access Period: Lifetime


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