Resolve Dampness in the Body

Dampness represents a condition existing within the body that is a reflection of dampness as it occurs in nature. Dampness can be due to a problem arising from the inability of the digestive system to transport and transport fluids, or from the body being overwhelmed by external damp from the environment, (damp weather, damp living conditions, damp-producing foods).  It can also arise from as a response to an illness, or from the overuse of medication that promotes dampness, such as certain antibiotics.  Phlegm is seen as a thicker, stickier, condensed form of dampness.  Dampness can show up in your body as edema, swelling, loose stools, a sticky tongue coating, nausea, and a foggy feeling in the head.  Phlegm is seen as a thicker, stickier, condensed form of dampness.  We can see phlegm when we have a bad cold with a productive cough.

Foods to resolve dampness include:


Corn, barley, basmati rice


Alfalfa sprout, button mushroom, capers, corn, pumpkin, radish, turnip


Papaya, lemon


Aduki, lentils


Eel, tuna


Aniseed, garlic, horseradish, marjoram, nettle, parsley, white pepper


Green tea, raspberry leaf tea, jasmine tea

Foods that are useful to resolve damp combining with heat:


Asparagus, celery, Chinese cabbage


Blueberry, cranberry, tamarind



Foods that are useful to resolve phlegm in general:


Button mushroom, watercress


Almonds, walnuts




Caraway, cardamon, garlic, horseradish, marjoram, mustard seed, thyme, white pepper

Foods that are useful to resolve phlegm with heat:


Seaweed, radish, water chestnut


Apple peel, grapefruit, lemon peel, pear, persimmon, tangerine peel




Elderflower tea, peppermint tea

Foods that are useful to resolve phlegm with cold:


Mustard leaf, onion, scallion


Basil, black pepper, cinnamon bark, fennel, fresh ginger, onion, rosemary


Jasmine tea, freshly grated ginger tea

Foods especially useful to resolve damp heat in the Bladder

  • Cranberry: this is best taken in tablet form as the juices often contain sugar.

  • Barley: barley water can be made by pouring 1 quart (4 cups) of water over 30 grams of barley grains. Simmer until the liquid has reduced to half. Add lemon juice, strain, and drink at least four cups per day.

Foods especially useful for phlegm congesting the Lungs

Phlegm in General

  • Thyme: this makes a useful herbal bath to help resolve phlegm and reduce coughing (especially at night). Simply take a handful of fresh garden thyme, crush slightly between your hands and steep in a liter of water that has just boiled while you run a warm bath. Close all the windows and doors, add the thyme water into the bath and take a bath for at least 20 minutes.  You can also make thyme tea with lemon and honey for a cough.

Phlegm cold

  • Ginger tea: grate some fresh ginger (about the size of your thumb nail) into a cup, steep in boiling water for five minutes, add a little brown sugar or honey to taste, drink warm.

  • Onion: a simple cough mixture, safe to use in pregnancy, can be made by chopping up one onion and covering this with 1 tablespoon honey. Leave overnight or for several hours before taking the juice 2 –3 teaspoons at a time, as needed.

Phlegm heat

  • Grapefruit juice: two to three glasses per day

  • Pear juice: two to three glasses per day.

Foods to avoid in cases of dampness

For those prone to dampness, limit or avoid the following:

  • Dairy products: this includes milk, cheese, ice cream and all foods that contain high amounts of dairy.  Yogurt is perhaps the exception to the dairy food rule, as it has good bacteria that aid digestion.  Sheep and goat products, such as goat milk, goat yogurt, sheep or goat cheeses are regarded as less prone to causing dampness.

  • Pork and rich, fatty meats

  • Roasted peanuts, including peanut butter

  • Concentrated fruit juices, especially orange and tomato juice

  • Excess refined wheat products

  • Bananas

  • Sugar and sweeteners

  • Deep, fried foods

In dampness and phlegm, it is important to nourish the Spleen, which means that the consumption of raw, cold and processed sugary or fatty foods need to be limited to aid the spleen’s essential digestive function.  The Spleen is similar to our digestive enzymes released in the digestive tract.

Original source:

Debra Betts, L.Ac. in New Zealand