Borneol (Bīnɡ Piàn) in Chinese medicine

Borneol

Chinese: 冰片

Pinyin: Bīnɡ Piàn

Parts used: Organic compound obtained from plant extracts

TCM category: Herbs that open the Orifices

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: SpleenHeartLung

Scientific name: Dryobalanops aromatica

Use of borneol (Bīnɡ Piàn) 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 practitionner, 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 borneol 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 borneol are used*:

  • For sudden loss of consciousness combine borneol with camphor.

Key TCM concepts behind borneol's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), borneol are plants that belong 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 borneol are plants that are Cool in nature. This means that borneol tend 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 borneol can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Borneol also taste Bitter. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like borneol tend 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 borneol are thought to target the Spleen, the Heart and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, blood coagulation and fluid metabolism in the body. In addition to regulating blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the "spirit" which basically refers to someone's vitality. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the body fluids that nourish the body.

Research on borneol

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

Sources:

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. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/808460.

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: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2010.11.029.