The Herbalist’s Corner
Jake Paul Fratkin
There are three Chinese patent medicines that belong in everyone’s first aid kit. All three are for topical application, and all three provide extraordinary benefits unavailable from any domestic over-the-counter. The three products are Yunnan Bai Yao, Plaster For Bruise (Pain Relieving Medicated Plaster), and Ching Wan Hung.
1. YUNNAN BAIYAO. The pinyin name is yun nan bai yao, which translates as “Yunnan (Province) White Medicine”. It is sometimes packaged as Yunnan Pai Yao. For topical use, it comes in a small bottle of powder. It is also available as a capsule for internal use. My son calls this the “Viet Cong Powder”, because I told him that during the Vietnam war, North Vietnamese soldiers would carry the powder to apply to gunshot and open wounds. It is amazing for stopping small wounds that are gushing blood. After applying the powder directly on the wound, you literally can watch the bleeding stop.
Last week, I cut my finger with an electric hedge-trimmer. I saw a rip on my work gloves, and could see blood forming beneath. When I took off my glove, I saw two deep cuts that bled profusely. When I went to wash my fingers with running water, I examined the cuts more closely, and determined that at least one of the cuts would require 2 or 3 stiches. Making my decision based on the garden work I needed to do, and not wanting to spend several hours in Urgent Care, I decided to see how good Yunnan Baiyao actually was. The wound was bleeding heavily, but I poured the powder directly on, and then securely taped on two gauze pads. I went back to work, allowing several hours before I would re-examine the wound. I was amazed. I washed off the powder, now brown with dried blood. The two wounds were closed, without bleeding, and without swelling or redness. I bandaged my finger again, and checked several hours later. Now it was completely closed, and just needing a Band-Aid. This incident would be one of many where for me, my family, or my patients, Yunnan Baiyao replaced the need for stitches. The herbs not only stop bleeding, but they allow the wound to close, to heal from the inside out, and to prevent infection.
The formula had been secret for many generations, until recently. Here is the actual formula:
tian qi (Radix Notoginseng) 40.0 %
san yu cao (Herba Ajuga Forrestii) 17.0
shan yao (Rhizoma Dioscoreae) 13.3
chuan shan long (Rhizoma Dioscoreae Nippon.) 11.5
lao he cao (Herba Geranii) 7.2
ku liang jiang (Rhizoma Dioscoreae Parviflora) 6.0
bai niu dan (Herba Inulae Cappae) 5.0
The key ingredient is tian qi (Radix Notoginseng), which provides the lion’s share of the formula’s ability to stop bleeding. With the exception of shan yao (Rhizoma Dioscoreae), all the other ingredients are unknown to most practicing herbalists. They are local herbs from Yunnan province, and the formula had been a family secret for years. The Chinese government, particularly the People’s Liberation Army, valued the medicine so much, they allowed the family to keep its secret for decades. It certainly belongs in every first-aid medicine kit.
People always ask about the little red pill that comes on top when you open a bottle. The formula for this is still a secret. It basically lowers blood pressure, and is used when wounds have damaged an artery, to reduce the pumping of blood. I recommend never using that red pill except for its intended purpose. People with low or even normal blood pressure can be negatively affected.
2. PLASTER FOR BRUISE AND ANALGESIC / WU YANG BRAND PAIN RELIEVING MEDICATED PLASTER. These are topical plasters that are applied directly over traumatized areas. They are cut to size and applied to swelling, micro-tears, and painful areas. What they are particularly amazing at doing is clearing away bruises. I have used these for patients for many years. The most memorable incident was a woman who had jumped off a 33 ft diving board, landing on her buttocks in the pool. She came in the following day with a deep buttock bruising (buttock contusion) that covered the whole cheek. The Plaster for Bruises come in either 10×28 cm patches, or in a 78 inch roll. I took a patch and covered as much of the bruise as I could. She came back the following day, and I removed the patch. Underneath the patch, the bruise was gone by 70%, but at the area outside the patch, there remained the same deep blue hematoma. There was literally a 90% angle delineating the area with the patch from the area without the patch.
I use these patches for numerous trauma presentations, but for bruising, it is always the preferred product. The bruising could be from trauma, IV punctures, or even due to too much aspirin or blood thinners – it always works. I use the larger roll in the clinic and cut to size, and I also give the patient several of the patches, advising them to wear throughout the night, taking off or replacing after showering.
The Chinese pinyin name for the product is die da zhi tong gao, which translates as “Traumatic Injury Stop Pain Plaster”. There are two available products, both of which say Wu Yang Brand, Guangzhou. The ingredients are mainly the same, but may be in different proportions. Ingredient percentages were only available for one of the products.
WU YANG BRAND PAIN RELIEVING MEDICATED PLASTER, Guangzhou Medicines & Health Products (percentages not reported):
er cha (Catechu) R
da huang (Radix/Rhizoma Rhei) PApu gong ying (Herba Taraxaci) DDxue jie (Sanguis Draconis) K
gu sui bu (Rhizoma Drynariae) AClong gu (Os Draconis) N
zhi zi (Fructus Gardeniae) DA
jin yin hua (Flos Lonicerae Japonicae) DD
hong hua (Flos Carthami) K
xu duan (Radix Dipsaci) AC
mo yao (Myrrha) K
PLASTER FOR BRUISE AND ANALGESIC, Guangzhou Hygienic Material Factory:
jin yin hua (Flos Lonicerae Japonicae) 20.0 % DD
tu bie chong (Eupolyphaga seu Steleophaga) 10.4 K
long gu (Os Draconis) 10.4 N
hong hua (Flos Carthami) 9.2 K
da huang (Radix/Rhizoma Rhei) 8.3 PA
pu gong ying (Herba Taraxaci) 8.3 DD
zhi zi (Fructus Gardeniae) 8.3 DA
mo yao (Myrrha) 6.3 K
er cha (Catechu) 6.2 R
xue jie (Sanguis Draconis) 4.2 K
gu sui bu (Rhizoma Drynariae) 4.2 AC
xu duan (Radix Dipsaci) 4.2 AC
The products combine herbs that clear heat (jin yin hua, da huang, pu gong ying, zhi zi), with herbs to move blood and break stasis (tu bie chong, hong hua, mo yao, er cha and xue jie). Gu sui bu and xu duan work together to heal fracture and repair bone trauma.
3. CHING WAN HUNG is a topical cream for burns, and can also be used for eczema, psoriasis and bedsores. The Chinese pinyin name, jing wan hong, translates as “Capital Ten-Thousand Red”. The name refers to the number of red ingredients, including the flowers of sanguisorba, boswellia and carthamus (safflower). It comes in small tubes (.35 oz/10 g.), or a larger tub (1.76 oz/50 g.).
This is China’s extraordinary herbal medicine for burns, so much so that it is used for serious third degree burns in hospitals. As a product, it is recommended as a topical first-aid for first and second degree burns. It reduces the blistering and pain of a burn, promotes tissue regeneration, prevents scarring, and prevents infection. It is also excellent for bedsores, open wounds, and topically over patches of psoriasis or eczema.
Ointment is applied directly to the area and covered with a Band-Aid or gauze to protect the ointment from being wiped off. For serious burns, the ointment is put on, covered with gauze, and then wiped off with dead skin every 24 hours, until healing is complete. The product is reddish and oily, and can stain clothes.
Two versions seem to be available. The older version contained ban bian lian (Herba Lobeliae Chinensis) as its principal herb, and is listed as 27% of the formula. Ban bian lian is an unusual herb with the properties of clearing heat and resolving toxins, and is special for repairing burned tissue. It is not listed in the newer version. Otherwise, both versions use herbs to move blood (mo yao, Myrrha; ru xiang, Olibanum/Boswelliae; and hong hua, Flos Carthami); tonify blood ( dang gui, Radix Angelicae Sinensis), and stop bleeding (di yu, Radix Sanguisorbae).
Ingredients: From Great Wall Brand, Tianjin Pharmaceutical. Ingredient percentages not listed.
dang gui (Radix Angelicae Sinensis)
ru xiang (Olibanum/Boswelliae)
mo yao (Myrrha)
mu gua (Fructus Chaenomelis)
hong hua (Flos Carthami)
di yu (Radix Sanguisorbae)
Plus base of sesame oil and yellow wax
Ingredients: From Tientsin Drug Manufactory, Tianjin.
ban bian lian (Herba Lobeliae Chinensis) 27.5 %
mo yao (Myrrha) 17.5
dang gui (Radix Angelicae Sinensis) 12.0
bing pian (Borneolum Syntheticum) 12.0
di yu (Radix Sanguisorbae) 8.5
mu gua (Fructus Chaenomelis) 8.5
ru xiang (Olibanum/Boswelliae) 8.5
hong hua (Flos Carthami) 5.5
Plus base of oil and wax
Anyone who has experience with Ching Wan Hung will know its merits. Although burns are infrequent, keeping a tube handy will take the pain out right away, and allow the wound to heal quickly. It is also the packaged topical medicine of choice for bedsores and psoriasis.
Commonly available in the Chinatown pharmacies, practitioners can easily obtain these three products from Nuherbs, Golden Needle, Acu-Market, or Eastern Currents (Canada).