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Borneol (bing pian)

What is borneol? What is it used for?

Although borneol is not an herb per se, it is nevertheless a common ingredient in many traditional Chinese herbal formulas.Borneol is actually a compound derived from dryobalanops aromitaca, a tree that belongs to the teak family.

The compound is formed by tapping the trunk of the tree, then cooling the substance and allowing it to harden into a clear crystalline substance.Although some borneol is still made by tapping trees, the vast majority of it is created synthetically from turpentine oil or camphor.The compound is ground down into a fine powder before it can be used medicinally.

Borneol has a wide range of uses.It aids the digestive system by stimulating the production of gastric juices; tones the heart and improves circulation; treats bronchitis, coughs and colds; can relieve pain caused by rheumatic diseases and sprains; reduces swelling; relives stress; and can be used as a tonic to promote relaxation and reduce exhaustion.In some parts of the world, it is even used as an insect repellant.

In traditional Chinese medicine, borneol has an acrid, bitter taste and cool properties.It is associated with the Heart, Lung, Liver and Spleen meridians.

How much borneol should I take?

The standard does of borneol is 0.3 to 0.9 grams per day, usually taken as a decoction.Borneol can also be applied to the skin as part of a poultice or bandage to treat skin infections and bruises.

What forms of borneol are available?

Borneol is traditionally sold as a powder.Raw, unprocessed borneol may be available at some herbal markets and shops.

What can happen if I take too much borneol?Are there any interactions I should be aware of?What precautions should I take?

Research into the effects of borneol overdose have not been conducted as of this writing.However, there have been several reported instances of skin allergies as a result of using borneol to the skin; therefore, it should be used with caution by people with sensitive skin.In addition, because some versions of borneol contain low elements of lead, it should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and should be used with extreme caution by people who are qi or blood deficient.As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with borneol.As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking borneol or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Huo GZ, et al. Bing pian's anti-inflammation and analgesia effects on laser burn wounds. China Journal of Pharmacy 1995;30(9):532-534.
  • Long XH, et al. Research on quality standards of natural bing pian produced in China. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine Material 2000;23(7):394-395.
  • Zhang SW, et al. Initiation of one case of contact dermatitis by bing pianŐs external administration. Journal of External Application of TCM 1996;5(2):22.
  • Zhang ZK. Using spectrophotometry to determine lead content in e jiao and bing pian. Journal of Shizhen Medicine 1999;10(3):1-2.
  • Zhong ZZ. Report of two cases of bing pian induced allergic dermatitis. Journal of Yunnan College of TCM 1990;13(2):38.
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