Traditional Chinese Medicine for Pain Relief

No matter what your age or activity level, you will likely experience some type of pain during your lifetime. Whether you suffer from sciatica, knee pain, or menstrual pain -- or pain from an injury like a sprain, bruise, or burn -- there is a traditional Chinese medicine designed to ease your discomfort.

This article details several traditional Chinese pain relief medications. We'll explain each medicine's indications, functions, and even dosages. These effective remedies have stood the test of time; in fact, many are based on traditional formulas that have been in use for thousands of years.

First, let's look at a treatment for traumatic injuries that include bruising and swelling. Read the next section for the details.

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Traditional Chinese Muscles and Bones Injury Pill

Chinese Muscles and Bones Injury Pill contains powerful herbs that relieve pain, bruising, and swelling resulting from a traumatic injury.

Chinese name: Chin Koo Tieh Shang Wan (chin koo dyeh shahng wahn)

Also known as: Muscles and Bones Injury Pill


Traumatic injuries, bruises, sprains, and swelling


Moves blood, reduces swelling and internal bleeding, relieves pain


Chin Koo Tieh Shang Wan is useful for traumatic injuries that have bruising and swelling as the primary symptoms. The chief herb in the formula is Panax pseudoginseng (san qi), which is also the active ingredient in Yunnan Pai Yao. Chin Koo also contains myrrh (mo yao) and frankincense (ru xiang), two herbs that are commonly paired to increase circulation and reduce pain.

These same herbs have also been used as incense for thousands of years. The essential oils that give them their heavenly aroma also act to stimulate blood circulation. Since traditional Chinese medicine sees stagnation of qi and blood as the major cause of pain, circulatory stimulants are the treatment of choice in traumatic injuries.

Manufacturer: Tientsin Drug Manufactory

Dosage: 10 pills, three times a day until injury improves

In the next section, learn about a classic Chinese pain relief formula that also strengthens the body.

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Traditional Chinese Angelica Loranthus Pills

Traditional Chinese Angelica Loranthus Pills effectively relieve chronic pain and stiffness, making them a popular remedy for seniors and arthritis sufferers.

Chinese name: Du Huo Ji Sheng Wan (doo hwaw jee shuhng wahn)

Also known as: Angelica Loranthus Pills


Cold, damp type pain and stiffness in the low back and knees with underlying deficiency of qi and blood


Expels wind dampness, relieves pain, tonifies the liver and kidneys


This is another classic formula, first put into writing about 1,200 years ago. A very elegant and subtle formulation, it not only relieves pain, it also strengthens any underlying deficiencies that make one susceptible to injury. The specific indications for the formula are pain in the lower back and knees accompanied by general weakness, stiffness, and a desire for warmth, especially in the areas of pain. While especially appropriate for the elderly due to its tonifying and strengthening qualities, it is useful for anybody with arthritis, chronic low back pain, or sciatica.

The formula derives its name from two of the principal ingredients, du huo (Angelica pubescens) and sang ji sheng (Loranthus parasiticus). Du huo is specific for rheumatic pain that is sensitive to cold, especially if it occurs in the lower body. Its pharmaceutical actions are antirheumatic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic (pain relieving).

Sang ji sheng has dual functions: It strengthens the liver and kidneys while subsequently nourishing the bones and tendons, and it relieves the pain of arthritis. As a "side effect," it lowers blood pressure and is useful in coronary heart disease. Other ingredients in the formula include the basic formulas to tonify both qi and blood, which assist the remedy in returning strength, vitality, and strong immune function, making it especially useful for long-term use by elderly or weakened patients.

Du Huo Ji Sheng Wan is a very popular formula, with a well-deserved reputation for bringing relief to chronic pain due to cold and dampness. Manufacturer: Min Kang Pharmaceutical Manufactory

Dosage: 6 pills, three times a day

Those who suffer from sciatica will be especially interested in the Chinese herbal medicine described in the next section. Read on to learn about Chinese sciatica pills.

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Traditional Chinese Sciatica Pills

Traditional Chinese Sciatica Pills are often combined with traditional Chinese acupuncture treatments to provide full relief from sciatica's painful symptoms.


Sciatic pain


Stimulates blood circulation, relieves pain


These pills effectively treat sciatica, a painful condition that follows the course of the sciatic nerve. Typically, the pain is caused by compression of a nerve by a protruding disk; often, the pain travels through the buttocks and down the back of the leg. In addition to Sciatica Pills, acupuncture is often very effective in treating this condition.

Some cases of sciatic pain respond to one acupuncture treatment and a short course of herbal therapy, while others are exceptionally resistant to recovery. The outcome depends on a number of factors: the overall health of the person, the severity of the injury causing the sciatic pain, and the ability of the person to rest and allow healing to occur. Sciatica Pills work especially well when combined with Du Huo Ji Sheng Wan. Manufacturer: Hongxing Pharmaceutical Manufactory

Dosage: 10 pills, three times a day. Take for 15 days.

Next, learn about a traditional Chinese medicine that combats menstrual pain, muscle spasms, and more.

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Traditional Chinese Pain Relievers

Traditional Chinese Pain Relievers eliminate discomfort by invigorating the blood and relaxing muscle spasms. They are a popular herbal treatment for menstrual pain.

Chinese name: Yan Hu Suo Zhi Tong Pian (yahn hoo swaw jih tuhng pyen)

Also known as: Corydalis Stop Pain Tablets


Pain that is due to qi and blood stagnation, menstrual pain, abdominal pain, pain from injuries


Invigorates blood, relieves pain, relaxes muscle spasms


This formula comes in two varieties; one is an herbal extract, the other is a pharmaceutical extract. The label shows a subtle difference: the pharmaceutical extract is called Yan Hu Su, while the herbal extract is called Yan Hu Suo. The herbal extract also lists Angelica root as an ingredient.

While the pharmaceutical extract is stronger, it is essentially a drug, so choose the natural herbal extract. This remedy helps relieve pain of menstrual discomfort, liver or gallbladder problems, angina, muscle spasms, or injuries. It can have a tranquilizing effect, making it useful for treating insomnia due to pain. Because it can cause drowsiness in some people, it should not be used when driving.

The active ingredient in this formula is Corydalis tuber (yan hu suo), a powerful sedative and analgesic. Its pain-relieving effect is considered to be about one percent that of opium. Manufacturer: Chongqing

Dosage: 4 pills, three times a day

Continue to the next section to discover a Chinese medicine that has been touted as a miracle for its remarkable ability to stop pain and bleeding.

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Traditional Chinese White Medicine from Yunnan

Traditional Chinese White Medicine from Yunnan is an extremely powerful herbal medicine that can stop both internal and external bleeding, as well as relieve severe pain.

Chinese name: Yunnan Pai Yao (yuhnahn pie yow)

Also known as: White Medicine from Yunnan


External and internal bleeding from a variety of causes


Controls bleeding and bruising, reduces swelling, relieves pain


This patent medicine is one of the miracles of Chinese herbal medicine: Its ability to stop bleeding and reduce swelling and pain are legendary. During the war in Vietnam, dead Vietcong soldiers were often found with a small vial of Yunnan Pai Yao hanging around their necks. They sprinkled it on gunshot wounds to stop the bleeding while they waited to be evacuated for medical treatment.

Its effects are so powerful, it can stop bleeding from stomach ulcers or cancer, hemophilia, and severe injuries. In case of excessive blood loss, a small red pill is included with each package to prevent the person from going into shock. The red pill should not be taken unless severe loss of blood has occurred and the person is losing consciousness. Of course, these are all serious conditions requiring immediate medical care.

In addition to its usefulness in life-threatening conditions, Yunnan Pai Yao is remarkable in its ability to stop swelling and pain due to sports injuries and accidents.

Although the exact formulation of this patent is considered a family secret, it is almost 100 percent Panax pseudoginseng (san qi). This herb is a close relative to Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium). However, san qi is used primarily for injuries, while the others are used to build vitality and immunity.

In more than 50 years of scientific study, Panax pseudoginseng has been shown to have significant benefits. It can decrease clotting time for blood, a significant benefit to people with clotting disorders.

Yunnan Pai Yao can also be used topically to stop bleeding. Wash the injured area thoroughly with water and apply the patent directly to the injury. Apply pressure, then bandage the area. For deeper wounds, squeeze the cut together before pouring on the powder and hold it shut for a few minutes. It is important to see a doctor immediately afterward in case the cut requires stitches. Manufacturer: Yunnan Pai Yao ­Factory

Dosage: 1 to 2 capsules, three or four times a day

So far, we've looked at Chinese pain relief medications in pill form. Next, read about pain-relieving plasters -- dressings with herbal formulations that are applied directly to the skin.

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Traditional Chinese 701 and Hua Tuo Plasters

Traditional Chinese 701 and Hua Tuo Plasters are dressings that have been treated with aromatic healing herbs. Applied directly to the body, they relieve pain due to injuries or muscle tension by stimulating circulation.

Chinese name: Hua Tuo (hwah twaw) Plasters

Also known as: 701 Plasters


Pain from sprains, traumatic injuries, or muscular tension


Stimulates circulation, relieves pain


Packaged as four adhesive squares, 701 Plasters are coated with highly aromatic herbs that assist in blood circulation and pain relief. To use, peel off the plastic backing sheet and place the plaster over the sore area. Within a few minutes, you will feel warmth in the area, which disappears a short time later.

The pain-relieving effects last about 24 hours, after which you peel off the plaster and discard it. It is best to wait a few hours before applying another plaster, since some people can experience mild irritation from them.

These patches are very effective for soreness due to muscle strains or injuries; however, never apply them over skin that is broken. When using them to treat muscle tightness, especially in the upper back and shoulders where people typically store tension, it is important to apply them bilaterally, even if only one side is sore. If the patch is applied to one side only, it is very common for the pain to move to the opposite side!

From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, this phenomenon is easily explained. Pain that comes and goes, such as muscle tension, is considered a condition of wind. By its nature, wind comes and goes unpredictably; it also can appear in different places without warning. Since the nature of the plaster is to disperse wind, it is important to ensure it does not have any place to reappear.

Hua Tuo plasters are nearly the same as 701 Plasters; the only real difference is they stick more tenaciously to the skin. For this reason, they are more appropriate for areas that flex, such as joints. Because 701 Plasters don't stick quite as well, they are ideal for hair-covered areas; removing them causes very little pain from hair pulled by the adhesive.

Manufacturer: Guangzhou Medicines & Health Products

Anyone who has experienced a burn knows that it is quite painful -- in some cases, excruciating. In the next section, learn about a Chinese burn relief cream that makes a great addition to a first-aid kit.

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Traditional Chinese Burn Cream

Add Traditional Chinese Burn Cream to your first-aid kit for quick, effective relief of painful first- and second-degree burns.

Chinese name: Ching Wan Hung, Jing Wan Hong (ching wahn huhng)

Also known as: Capital Absolute Red


Burns of all kinds


Clears heat, relieves pain, promotes healing


Without a doubt, this miracle cream has a welcome place in any first-aid kit. Its ability to heal burns quickly is almost beyond belief. It can be applied to first and second degree burns as long as there is no infection. As soon as the ointment comes in contact with the skin, the pain begins to recede. In China, it is used for burns caused by hot water or steam, chemicals, radiation, and sunburn.

Apply the cream, then cover the burn with a dressing, which you should change daily. For simple first degree burns, no dressing is necessary. Be aware that this salve stains clothing.

Manufacturer: Tianjin

Traditional Chinese medicine has a specific formulation for broken bones and the pain associated with them. For details on this herbal medicine, go to the next section.

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Traditional Chinese Bone-Setting Liquid

Traditional Chinese Bone-Setting Liquid is a liniment formulated to relieve the pain of -- and help heal -- broken bones. Read the description and caution below for details on its use.

Chinese name: Zheng Gu Shui (juhng goo shway)

Also known as: Setting Bone Liquid



Traumatic injuries, bruises, sprains


Relieves blood stagnation, promotes healing, stops pain


This highly effective liniment can be used for all sorts of injuries; however, its specialty is to reduce pain and promote healing of broken bones. If the skin is not broken, it can be applied topically to the area of injury to relieve pain until the bone is set at the hospital. For sprains and sports injuries, it can be applied at any time. Similar effective liniments are Po Sum On Medicated Oil and Tieh Ta Yao Gin. If the skin is broken or burned at the site of the injury, use Wan Hua Oil, which is safe to apply in these conditions.

Caution: Do not use on open wounds. Some people experience a skin reaction from liniments; discontinue use immediately if a reaction develops. Avoid exposing the treated area to sun to avoid irritation. Wash hands thoroughly after applying. This patent is for external use only. Keep tightly closed and out of reach of children. Do not use Zheng Gu Shui near an open flame as it is flammable. This liniment stains clothing.

Manufacturer: Yulin Drug Manu­factory

There are many different types of pain, and many different types of pain relief. The traditional Chinese pain relief medicines described in this article contain natural, herbal ingredients whose effectiveness has been time-proven. Use this information to research a suitable treatment for your pain.

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Bill Schoenbart is licensed in both herbal medicine and acupuncture and has an M.A. in Chinese medicine. He is editor of The Way of Chinese Herbs and Biomagnetic and Herbal Therapy.

Ellen Shefi is a licensed massage technician, licensed acupuncturist, and registered dietician. She is a member of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the American Herb Association, and the Oregon Acupuncture Association.