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Yunnan Baiyao rebounds after rough start to 2013

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One of Yunnan province's most famous brands has had a bit of a tumultuous 2013. Pharmaceutical giant Yunnan Baiyao Group faced product recalls and a much-publicized lawsuit to begin the year. Despite such setbacks and the accompanying bad publicity, a recently released third-quarter report shows the company has posted record earnings.

In the first nine months of the year Yunnan Baiyao (云南白药) reported total sales of 11 billion yuan (US$1.8 billion). Net profits reached 1.8 billion yuan (US$300 million), up nearly 60 percent from the same three quarters of 2012. Analysts for the conglomerate are now predicting 2013 revenue could reach 2.5 billion yuan (US$410 million), making it one of the wealthiest companies in the province.

A brief summary included in the quarterly report credits an enlarged product line and increased sales overseas for its substantial gains. Yunnan Baiyao, once only a producer of traditional Chinese medicines, has recently moved into the hygiene and cosmetics markets. The company now has a reported 10 percent share of the mainland Chinese toothpaste market and it expects that number to grow by another five percent over the next three years.

Sales and earnings of this magnitude were most likely not on the minds of company executives when 2013 began. In January, the Sichuan Food and Drug Administration announced a province-wide recall of medicinal pills and capsules produced by Yunnan Baiyao.

Flowers of the poisonous herb wolf's bane, which is reportedly used in Yunnan Baiyao in tiny, non-toxic amounts.
Flowers of the poisonous herb wolf's bane, which is reportedly used in Yunnan Baiyao in tiny, non-toxic amounts.

National media dubbed the situation "Quality Gate" (质量门) in reference to issues with packaging that led to the recall. Hong Kong and Macau also temporarily banned imports of the medicine but they have since been reinstituted. After news of improper packaging surfaced, the company's stock value dropped ten percent in less than two weeks — equivalent to losses of 230 million yuan (US$38 million).

Shortly after the scandal in Sichuan, a man in Liaoning filed a lawsuit claiming pills produced by the company were improperly labeled and contained possibly poisonous ingredients including Aconitine. The company conceded limited levels of the toxin are present in its products but exist in such miniscule amounts — 3.5 parts per million — as to pose no danger to users.

Yunnan Baiyao was invented in 1902 by herbalist Qu Huanzhang (曲焕章) as a powder for use in the treatment of injuries and as a blood coagulant. The ingredients of Yunnan Baiyao had been a closely guarded trade secret, much like the confidential recipe for Coca-Cola, until three years ago. In 2010 both Amazon.com and the United States Food and Drug Administration published a list of the eight purported active ingredients found in the medicine Beijing has classified a "national level confidential product."

Today it can be bought in pill, aerosol and tincture formulations and is recommended by producers for treatment of everything from colds and flus to use in 'trauma' situations. It is now also being used in the aforementioned toothpaste as well as facial cleansers and skin-whitening products.

Top image: CNWest
Bottom image: Wikipedia

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Have scientific tests ever been done on this stuff (i.e., by other than company personnel) - not just on what's in it, but on what it can/does or cannot/doesn't do? I'm not suggesting it's bunk or anything like that, I'd just like to know.

Personally, I've tried the aerosols on three different occasions for three different muscle-related ills and it's had no discernable effect at all....

Same here Ocean, the alcohol has an immediate numbing effect but little else. Still my Chinese family swears by it...

Friend was given aerosol last year for bad bruise on leg and had allergic reaction to it. Ended up with bad rash and open sores. Doctor gave him something which was no help. Cleared up with hydrocortisone cream i gave him.

what i know its more effective with sprains or pulled muscles. last time i got a sprain on my hand. when i sprayed it. slowly my hand has some areas wherein it was the most damaged or sprained change colors where i saw either some reddish on some parts and black blue color on others.

Hello. My question is this. My wife had an accident. Pain in the back and a damaged nerve of the scapula. She has inflamed much of the back and arm pain. We have gone to several specialists but are temporary remedies and not notice an improvement. In several forums Yunnan Baiyao speak. I want to know how I can use to help my wife with nerve pain and back. If I buy the patches or pills. What is the best way to use it?

The aerosol,patches, and pills are i've had no luck with. But with the powder on open wounds i noticed that it clotted, and scabbed faster than usual.

Actually there are quite a few scientists in Kunming who only study the effects of TCM. Baiyao (and most TCM) have active ingredients that actually cause the effect, and a few fillers that have been added over the years that are either inert (as far as tests show) or merely serve some physical function (taste, binding, etc.). Not sure about Baiyao itself, but quite a few other products the company makes are well established and clinically showen to be quite effective complements to typical western-style medical treatments. Some of that may be due to the placebo effect, but testing the chemical compounds on cell-lines has shown some positive effects as well.

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