yunnan baiyao


Yunnan Baiyao (also spelled Yunnan Paiyao and meaning, literally, white herbal medicine from the province of Yunnan) is probably the most famous of all the Chinese patent remedies.

Its nearly instant ability to stop bleeding, whether from injury or internal disease, is renowned.

It comes in powder form to sprinkle on an open wound or cut, or to be taken internally in a capsule. The exact formula, ingredients and proportions, is a closely guarded secret. Westerners came to know Yunnan Baiyao during the War in Vietnam. Prisoners from North Vietnam were often found carrying a tiny bottle of this powder inside their uniforms. Inside the lid of the tiny bottle was a little red “hit pill” which was taken only when a soldier was seriously wounded. The little red pill would staunch bleeding, restore the senses from shock and, hopefully, save a life.

Yunnan Paiyao was formulated in 1916 by a Chinese physician, Qu Huanzhang, of Yunnan. The Yunnan province is known as “the Kingdom of Fauna and Flora” for the abundant varieties and vast supply of plants and animals used in Chinese medicinals. It is likely that the original formula was altered somewhat during the Cultural Revolution when factory owners were forced to yield proprietary control and reveal the secret ingredients. By 1956, larger-scale manufacturing of the medicine began at the Yunnan Paiyao Factory. Legend says that the formula is still so closely guarded that only one copy of it exists and is locked in the safe of the Commanding General of the Chinese Armed Forces.

The main active ingredient is Panax notoginseng or pseudoginseng root (tien qi or san qi in Chinese) Of all seven major ginseng types, notoginseng offers the highest concentration of hemostatic constituents. Other identified ingredients in Yunnan Baiyao include geranium, borneol and musk (although today only the active ingredient muscone in musk – the secretion of the musk deer – is used in its preparation). Laboratory research shows that pseudoginseng reduces both bleeding time and clotting time. In TCM terms, it reduces bleeding but also disperses “congealed blood” (a condition which refers to bruising, swelling, some menstrual problems, some kinds of arthritic pain and some internal organ pains where clotting, stagnation and poor circulation are responsible for pain). Because pseudoginseng both reduces bleeding (including internal bleeding) and breaks up congealed blood, it is very effective and very widely used in Chinese medicine.

The powder can be sprinkled on a cut, mixed with water and rubbed into a wound or mixed with alcohol and rubbed directly on a bruise. Apply it topically as an emergency or first aid medicine to stop bleeding and to prevent infection. Yunnan Baiyao is antibacterial as well as homeostatic. It will resolve the bleeding, pain and swelling, heal oozing wounds and damaged blood vessels, expel the pus and counteract toxins. Follow the application of the powder with pressure on the cut or wound. Wounds will heal quickly with even a single application. Yunnan Baiyao powder, with pressure and a butterfly bandage, can seal small wounds that otherwise would send you to the Emergency Room for stitches. This is why you keep Yunnan Baiyao in your Green First Aid Kit.

The capsules are useful for a variety of bleeding disorders and conditions. It is best to take them with warm water. For children: 2 to 5 years old, 1/4 the adult dose is taken each time; for children 5 to 12 years, half the adult dose is sufficient each time. 

Yunnan Baiyao is successfully prescribed to help patients recover quickly after surgery because it mends injured blood vessels. And, because it does not interfere with Western sedative drugs, it can be used on the same day as surgery. It is a remedy of choice also for menorrhagia (excessive menstrual bleeding) nosebleeds, blood in the urine or in the stool, for bleeding ulcers and postpartum hemorrhage. Because it promotes good blood circulation in the muscle layers, it is even used for conditions of arthritis and rheumatism. Unlike Western pain drugs, Yunnan Baiyao does not turn off pain centers in the brain. Instead, it facilitates and promotes strong blood circulation bringing oxygen to the injury and restoring equilibrium.