I've always used Li Fei Pian, or "Benefit Lung Pills," for Lung Yin-deficient cough (a dry, nonproductive cough with other possible symptoms of low grade fever in the afternoon and/or evening and malar flush). However, I've recently discovered several other valuable uses for this incredible formula.
I first tried Li Fei just to clear phlegm in Lung Yin deficiency without cough or acute lung symptoms. Since it moistens and expectorates Yin-deficient type of phlegm, why not try it with those who have chronic phlegm from Spleen Qi deficiency with concurrent Yin deficiency?
Next I had a patient with slightly hard swellings on her ankles and wrists. A chronically Yin-deficient person with several autoimmune disorders, only acupuncture had helped somewhat in slightly reducing these lumps. However, when she traveled for several months and missed her treatments, upon her return I found the lumps had grown considerably, one even the size of a small lemon!
Concurrently, she came in with an acute Lung Yin-deficient cough. I prescribed Li Fei. The acute cough cleared but she still had Lung Yin-deficient heat on her tongue, so I kept her on the formula. At the same time, we noticed that her lumps reduced slightly. Four months later, we both discovered that three of her four lumps had disappeared and the fourth -- the lemon-sized one -- was half its original size! Needless to say, we were both thrilled.
In the meanwhile, I had another patient with a benign tumor on her thyroid. A woman with a condition of Dampness and phlegm, I decided to try Li Fei with her. Two months later, the lump was shrinking.
This leads me to say that what formulas are usually prescribed for doesn't necessarily cover all their uses. Because TCM formulas are applied energetically (in this case a formula to clear cough in a Yin-deficient pattern), they may also have other uses not listed but fitting that same pattern (phlegm-type lumps in a Yin-deficient person). As herbalists, it's important we think bigger than the "book box" and find broader uses for formulas than generally listed.
Li Fei Pian ingredients:
Uses: Clears lung heat, stops bleeding, relieves cough, nourishes Lung Yin. Indicated for dry hacking cough with bits of blood, dry cough due to lung heat, occasionally with small bits of sticky yellow phlegm that is difficult to expectorate, or for chronic dry coughs due to deficiency of Lung Yin with heat.
Contraindications: Do not use if there aren't signs of phlegm with Yin-deficient heat, or if there's burning in the palms, soles and/or chest without a dry cough or yellow phlegm in the lungs that's difficult to expectorate.
Comments: Although Li Fei is a formula for Lung Yin-deficient cough, note that bletilla adds the benefit of stopping bleeding and cordyceps, while a Yang tonic, helps anchor the Yin while treating the lungs.
Note: Phlegm arises from congealed Dampness. It is important to be cleared as phlegm can be quite insidious, clumping in channels to form cysts, soft lumps or nodules, or creating numbness, tremors and paralysis; blocking the heart orifices to muddle thinking and behavior (schizophrenic, even); and collecting internally to create masses and cholesterol among many other things. When combined with Blood stagnation and heat, the resulting dam festers and creates heat toxins.
Clearing phlegm thus becomes a key treatment approach in those who have it. And in the western diet high in flour products, cold foods and drinks and dairy, fried fatty and greasy foods, dampness is quite prevalent in a large section of the population. In the short run it leads to damp signs (feeling of heaviness, edema, loose stools, oozing skin eruptions, abdominal distention, chest fullness, nausea, sore, heavy or stiff joints and copious bodily excretions, such as mucus or excessive vaginal discharge). Over time, these foods injure digestion, leading to tiredness, obesity and swellings. In the long run the heat congeals the dampness to form phlegm and then potentially, cancer.