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   Apr 22

TCM wonderdrug Yunnan Baiyao forced to reveal secret formula

Yunnan Baiyao, a hemostatic over-the-counter Chinese herbal medicine developed more than a century ago, has long enjoyed preferential policies from the Chinese government, which allowed its formula to remain a secret — until now.

The medicine, widely touted as a “miracle drug,” was developed in the southwestern province of Yunnan by Qu Huanzhang in 1902. In China, the drug enjoys a similar reputation to the discovery and development of penicillin in the West.

The complete formula and ingredients, however, are a great mystery. The “white drug from Yunnan” has been designated as a Class-1 protected traditional Chinese medicine formula in mainland China, which has allowed its producer, the state-run Yunnan Baiyao Group, to keep the formula a secret.

Recently, after authorities renewed their guidelines for the publication of ingredients of Chinese medicines connected to classified state-level technical knowledge, Yunnan Baiyao reluctantly published the ingredients of the powdered medicine, which it said was a Chinese herb called “caowu,” or “duanchangcao,” in Chinese, and aconite or wolfsbane in English.

The substance is classified as a poison, as are many other substances used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Shanghai’s China Business News said Yunnan Baiyao had not made public that the medicine contained aconite even in 2002, when the company listed eight ingredients of the drug in its application to the US Food and Drug Administration for a sales permit.

Faced with safety concerns, Yunnan Baiyao executive Wu Wei stated in an interview with the newspaper that the toxicity of the ingredient had been reduced to “a safe range” through the company’s unique processing techniques.

The China Food and Drug Administration issued a notification in November 2013 stating that all Chinese medicinal drinks that contained ingredients classified as toxic must have ingredient notes that detail the toxins and a warning.

Following the new regulations, Yunan Baiyao received criticism over its mystery ingredients, including aconite, which contains an alkaloid that affects the kidney. An overdose of aconite can cause symptoms similar to poisoning, including nausea, vomit and limb paralysis.

Defending the toxicity of certain poisonous traditional Chinese medicine materials, Gao Xuemin, a professor at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, said that all the materials had to undergo a series of complicated processing procedures before they could be used for medicinal purposes.

During that process, their toxicity was greatly reduced. “It’s the science and characteristic of the 5,000-year-old traditional Chinese medicine,” Gao said.

The West became familiar with Yunnan Baiyao during the Vietnam War when American soldiers noticed Vietcong soldiers wearing vials of the powder around their necks. They discovered that the powder was used topically to stop bleeding from bullet and knife wounds, preventing wounded combatants from bleeding out before getting medical attention.


Qu Huanzhang 曲煥章

caowu 草烏

duanchangcao 斷腸草

Wu Wei 吳偉

Gao Xuemin 高學敏

Source: WantChinaTimes

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