Bing Pian (Borneol) in Chinese Medicine

English: Borneol

Chinese: 冰片

Parts used: Organic compound obtained from plant extracts

TCM category: Herbs that open the Orifices

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Organ affinity: Spleen Heart Lung

Scientific name: Dryobalanops aromatica

Use of Bing Pian (borneol) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Extracts from the Dryobalanops aromatica tree and other species

Dosage: 0.03 - 0.9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Opens the Orifices and awakens the spirit. Clears Heat and relieves pain.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Bing Pian may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Convulsions Dizziness Sore throat Vaginitis Sores Photophobia Summer Heat Restlessness

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with Qi or Blood Deficiency, it should not be used during pregnancy and should not be exposed to extreme Heat or flame. Like many of the substances in the herb that 'open the Orifices' category, it should not be taken over a prolonged period.

Common TCM formulas in which Bing Pian is used*

Su He Xiang Wan

Source date: 752 AD

Number of ingredients: 15 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and aromatically opens the sensory orifices. Promotes the movement of Qi. Transforms turbidity.

Conditions targeted*: Cerebrovascular accidentEncephalitis and others

Bing Pian is a king ingredient in Su He Xiang Wan. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Su He Xiang Wan, Bing Pian break up turbidity, open the sensory orifices, as well as unblock the channels and collaterals throughout the body.

It is powerful in treating Wind and Phlegm affecting the head. 

Read more about Su He Xiang Wan

Bing Peng San

Source date: 1617 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Toxic-Heat. Dispels putrescence. Reduces swellings and relieves pain.

Conditions targeted*: ThrushGingivitis and others

Bing Pian is a king ingredient in Bing Peng San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Bing Peng San, Bing Pian reduces swelling and alleviates pain.

Read more about Bing Peng San

Zhi Bao Dan

Source date: 1075

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat. Opens the sensory orifices. Resolves toxicity. Transforms Phlegm .

Conditions targeted*: Acute encephalitisAcute meningitis and others

Bing Pian is a deputy ingredient in Zhi Bao Dan. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Zhi Bao Dan, Bing Pian is also highly aromatic. It opens the sensory orifices and clears away filth. 

Read more about Zhi Bao Dan

Qi Li San

Source date: 1762 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Invigorates the blood and removes Blood Stagnation . Invigorates Qi . Reduces swelling and pain. Stops bleeding .

Conditions targeted*: Stasis by traumatic injuryContusions and others

Bing Pian is an assistant ingredient in Qi Li San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Qi Li San, Bing Pian is acrid and aromatic. It eliminates blockage from the Channels, assisting the herbs that invigorate the Blood and dispel Blood Stagnation

Read more about Qi Li San

Key TCM concepts behind Bing Pian's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Bing Pian belongs to the 'Herbs that open the Orifices' category. The functions of these herbs are much more platonic than the name implies. They're used to help treat conditions associated with central nervous system collapse, including strokes and coma.

Furthermore Bing Pian is Cool in nature. This means that Bing Pian tends to help people who have too much 'Heat' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Cold in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Heat in their body are said to either have a Yang Excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition Bing Pian can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Bing Pian also tastes Bitter. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like Bing Pian tends to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing Heat, drying Dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Bing Pian is thought to target the Spleen, the Heart and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. In addition to regulating Blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the 'Mind' which basically refers to someone's vitality. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.

Research on Bing Pian

Borneol possesses significant central and peripheral antinociceptive activity; it has also anti-inflammatory activity.1

Borneol showed neuroprotection on cortical neurons against oxygen-glucose deprivation/reperfusion in vitro. It also exerted anti-oxidation and anti-inflammation on cortical neurons against oxygen-glucose deprivation/reperfusion2


1. Jackson Roberto Guedes da Silva Almeida, Grasielly Rocha Souza, Juliane Cabral Silva, et al., “Borneol, a Bicyclic Monoterpene Alcohol, Reduces Nociceptive Behavior and Inflammatory Response in Mice,” The Scientific World Journal, vol. 2013, Article ID 808460, 5 pages, 2013.

2. R. Liu, L. Zhang, X. Lan, L. Li, T.-T. Zhang, J.-H. Sun, G.-H. Du (2011). Protection by borneol on cortical neurons against oxygen-glucose deprivation/reperfusion: involvement of anti-oxidation and anti-inflammation through nuclear transcription factor κappaB signaling pathway. Neuroscience, Volume 176, Pages 408-419. DOI: