As one of highly prized and very rare native Chinese herbs, Bing Pian (Borneol Flakes) has been extensively studied and used by generations of physicians in ancient China. Modern pharmacological study showed that it has multiple direct therapeutic effects. Very often it is classified into the species of inducing resuscitation traditionally, which makes it very popular in adjuvant therapy for a variety of conditions due to the excellent transdermal delivery ability.
This crystalline particle, metaphorically speaking, is more like a needle than a piece of thread like other medicinal herbs. So to speak, this agent can deliver the medicine directly to the affected area while enhancing the therapeutic effect. For reason given above, it ever was, and is, and shall be, playing an important role in treatments of severe diseases.
What is borneol?
Also known as dryobalanops aromatica Gaertn. f. in Latin, it has three main different types for medicinal purposes.
(1). A natural colorless transparent or white crystalline particle, dissolved from the resin and volatile oil of dipterocarp trees in Dipterocarpaceae family;
(2). Ai Pian, the crystal distilled by steam and cooled from leaves of perennial herb of Blumea balsamifera DC. in the Compositae family;
(3). Artificial compound, chemically synthesized by turpentine or camphor.
The synthetic one contains mainly 59.78% to 58.93% of borneol, 38.98% to 37.52% of isoborneol, and 2.70% to 2.09% of camphor. the natural one contains nearly pure d-Borneol only. Beside of borneol, the crystals from dipterocarp tree have many kinds of terpenoids like Humulene, β-Elemene, Caryophyllene, Oleanolic acid, Alphitolic acid, Asiatic acid, Dipterocarpol or Hydroxydammarenone II, Dryobalanone, and Erythrodiol.
What is it used for?
From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is acrid, bitter, and cool in nature and covers meridians of heart and lung.
Main functions are to induce resuscitation, clear stagnated fire, remove nebula for improving eyesight, and relieve swelling and pain. Main uses and indications are lockjaw in stroke, coma in febrile diseases, convulsion due to phlegm confusing heart, deafness caused by qi blockage, pharyngitis, canker, otitis media, carbuncle and swelling, hemorrhoids, corneal opacity, and enterobiasis.
Usual dosage is 0.3 to 0.9 grams in Wan or San internally.
Related Chinese herbal formulas
This herb is contained in many commonly used patent traditional Chinese medicine, such as Su He Xiang Wan (Liquid Styrax Pills), An Gong Niu Huang Wan (Calm the Palace Pill with Cattle Gallstone), and Bing Peng San (Powder of Boras and Borneol), especially Speedy Heart-Rescuing Pill (Su Xiao Jiu Xin Wan), in which borneol is the main component.
(1). Kai Guan San, from Sheng Ji Zhong Lu (The Complete Record of Holy Benevolence), is employed for treatment of lockjaw and dizziness in stroke patients who can’t swallow medications. Another herb in this formula is Tian Nan Xing (Arisaema);
(2). Bing Peng San, from Wai Ke Zheng Zong (Surgery Authority), is adopted for chronic coughing out phlegm and acute/chronic swelling and pain in throat/mouth/tooth. Other herbal ingredients are Zhu Sha (Cinnabar), Xuan Ming Fen (Dried Gluber’s Salt), and Peng Sha (Borax);
(3). According to Jian Bian Dan Fang (Simple and Single-drug Prescriptions), borneol is applied with juice of green onion in internal or external hemorrhoid treatments.
Modern medical applications
Now this herb has been confirmed with following effects by modern medical experimental methods.
(1). Antibacterial action. It inhibits or kills clinical common pathogenic bacteria, such as staphylococcus aureus, beta hemolytic streptococcus, and viridans streptococci;
(2). Anti-inflammatory effect. Both borneol and isoborneol can effectively inhibit rat paw edema induced by egg white but poorly in mouse ear edema by croton oil;
(3). Relieving pain. Treating wounds resulted from laser therapy with borneol has a 2.78 or 6.24 times higher pain threshold in animal models than from Jingwanhong group (positive control) and saline group (negative control);
(4). Promoting division and development of neurogliocyte like schwann cell. This function is similar to moschus.
Potential side effects and contraindications
According to the results of medical experiments, borneol may induce miscarriage at middle and late pregnancy in mice, with abortion rates of 100% and 91% respectively. But the effect at early pregnancy isn’t obviously shown. So, pregnant woman should stay away from it, so does those diagnosed as qi-blood deficiency in TCM.