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Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks


Yunnan Paiyao (Baiyao) Pre-Surgery? Part II
by Brian Benjamin Carter

Hello there:

Just thought I would let you know where some women's interest in the Chinese herb yunnan pai yao may have come from. There is a very popular book written by Christiane Northrup called, Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, that expressly states that this herb has been used successfully before and after surgery. She even recommends dosages. I was planning on taking it myself until reading your article. Hope this gives you some direction on how to stop misinformation.



Thanks for the heads up. I wonder what her definition of "successfully" is.

Supposedly Yunnan Baiyao (YNBY) - which is an herb formula, not just a single herb - can reduce inflammation AND stop bleeding (most anti-inflammatory drugs can cause bleeding).

  • But has that been validated scientifically?
  • Is stopping bleeding a good idea during surgery?
  • And could YNBY negatively interact with anesthetics or other drugs administered during surgery?

I couldn't find any studies on MedLine... so I asked some experienced Chinese medicine physicians what they thought about using yunnan paiyao before surgery.

From Robert Chu, L.Ac., SAMRA Professor & Traumatologist:

YNBY falls under the general heading of Chinese Medical Traumatology. Robert Chu, L.Ac., a martial artist of 30 years traditional Chinese Medical traumatologist, says, "You're supposed to take it when you get hurt. You're going to bleed during surgery... let the surgeons deal with that."

From Bob Damone, L.Ac., PCOM Professor and Chair of the Department of Clinical Practice:

"About Yunnan Bai Yao- it HAS been used that way for a long time, BUT, nowadays I am not recommending it anymore. In fact, I am routinely telling patients they should stop their herbs for 2-3 weeks before surgery.There have been some unusual cases of unexplained bleeding that docs are wondering about herb interactions on- particularly ginseng (has been shown to have anticoag effects), but also Vitamin E. Who knows, but I usually play it safe myself."

From Francis Butler, L.Ac.:

Francis Butler, L.Ac., whom the luminary Philippe Sionneau calls "the best western practitioner of Chinese Medicine" he knows, says: "I think that the first thing to do here is to define the types of surgery that you are referring to. Ortho surgery with the patient only under a local has quite a different potential for problems than does surgery under a general."

About the idea of using YNBY pre-surgery because it's been used successfully, Butler comments, "What a bad criteria for deciding whether or not to use something! People have been using Ma Huang successfully for years for weight loss. Does that mean it's a good idea? The first thing is to decide if there is a significant theoretical risk to the patient's health."

In regards to my assessment that it's not worth the risk, he agrees. "Any one who is up on their modern Chinese research will know that the concomitant use of herbs that deal with blood stasis and drugs like blood thinners is potentially dangerous. In my opinion, you are correct, stopping the use of all supplements (herbal and otherwise) five days before the surgery is prudent. How soon to restart depends on the kind of operation. I have treated many patients with this kind of methodology and have always had good results. I would be hard pressed to believe that doing treatment right up until the surgery would produce better results. The minuscule theoretical benefit does not out weigh the not insignificant risk. Do you remember the first rule? Do no harm."


There you have it from the experts... it's ill-advised to take yunnan baiyao before surgery.

It's possible that having an uncommon substance in your body could cause unforseen complications which could confuse the surgeon (if it causes a surgical situation they are not used to). What if a drug administered during the surgery were to interact with the YNBY? There's not enough information about this to warrant this risk.

So the questions are:

  • Do you want to take your chances?
  • Is it worth it?
  • If you want to do that, you probably won't tell your surgeon for fear he would disagree. Do you want to lie to your surgeon and bypass their expertise?

I'd say don't take it and, as a general rule, communicate honestly with all your medical caretakers.

All the best,

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