by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon

Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian (Lonicera & Forsythia Formula) is one of nearly 30 patent-replacement formulas in the Pine Mountain line prepared by ITM. So-called "patent" remedies from China are factory-prepared combinations of traditional Chinese medicine materials that are easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and believed to be highly effective based on their formulation principles. They stand in contrast to unique formulations designed by a physician in consultation with a patient. Those, which are an important aspect of TCM health care, are usually to be prepared as decoctions at home. Such formulations are not convenient (requiring home preparation and drinking a bad tasting brew), may be expensive (at least in the time and cost involved with a professional consultation, if not the large amount of herbal materials), and they are effective for the individual at that particular time, based on current symptoms and constitutional condition.

Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian is an example of a formulation, devised about 150 years ago, that is regarded as highly effective for treating certain acute disorders, mainly infection and inflammation. The dominant use is in treating influenza, marked by sore throat, congestion, feverish feeling, and aching in the muscles, though there are other applications. The basic formulation is specified in the Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China, and it is produced by dozens of factories. The most common imported item used in the U.S. is the Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian produced by the Tianjin factory. Tianjin is a seaside city near Beijing; the factory is famous for producing a large number of patents.

Unfortunately, the reputation of imported patents from China has been severely tarnished. Over the past several years, it has been reported that many of the patents are contaminated with heavy metals (mainly as the result of intentional additions of cinnabar, which contains mercury, and realgar, which contains arsenic, but also due to unintended inclusion of lead), have drugs (added intentionally to make the effect more powerful), are mislabeled (either as the result of errors or intentional obscuration of the ingredients to avoid copies or to avoid problems with import authorities), and are not fresh (overproduced and sitting in warehouses for years). Not all imported patents suffer from these problems; the Chinese government and several individual factories have taken serious steps to correct the actual and perceived failings of the manufacturing and finished products. However, it remains difficult for the consumer to differentiate among the imported items.

Some lines of patents have been devised recently to avoid these specific problems. An attempt is made to imitate the original patent as closely as possible in name, formulation, and format (type of pill, number of pills). Unfortunately, this effort is only partly successful. For example, the formulation that is produced is often copied from the label of the original patent, but the label of the product may well have been incorrect or incomplete, so that the copy is not really like the product it intends to replace. Products that were effective because of included drugs no longer contain the drugs and may no longer be particularly effective. The original format may be copied correctly, but that format may have been better suited for the market in China than for the international market where larger amounts of the herbs may need to be consumed.

The Pine Mountain line is not intended as patent copies, but as true patent replacements. That is, the uses remain the same, but the preparation has been modernized to address current concerns. Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian is a good example. It contains the essential ingredients of the Pharmacopoeia specified formulation, but is adjusted to include two herbs that are today very commonly used for the same application: isatis root and andrographis. To imitate the use of essential oils in the Chinese preparations, extracts of the two mints (schizonepeta and mentha) are used; these extracts have a high content of essential oils. The formula description, as appears in A Bag of Pearls, follows:

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Lonicera & Forsythia Formula

A popular remedy for influenza.

jinyinhua Lonicera 12%
lianqiao Forsythia 12%
niubangzi Arctium 12%
banlangen Isatis root 10%
chuanxinlian Andrographis (e) 10%
jiegeng Platycodon 10%
dandouchi Soja 10%
danzhuye Lophatherum 8%
bohe* Mentha 8%
jingjie Schizonepeta (e) 8%

*with mentha essential oil added





Yin Qiao San was developed 150 years ago as a treatment for epidemic heat ailments, and has become a popular remedy in tablet form for early stage influenza. This version is slightly modified by adding two herbs that are specific for sore throat and generally useful for viral infections, isatis root and andrographis. These herbs appear singly in patents for treatment of influenza.


influenza, sore throat due to infection, early stage common cold


Ilex 15 has the same function, but is useful for treating symptoms of muscular aching, headache, and digestive disturbance.

Forsythia 18 has the same function; it is used for treating infections of the skin, eyes, ears, and nose.

Isatis 6 inhibits infections, especially viral infections, but does not have herbs for alleviating symptoms, such as cough, thirst, or headache.



Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian dispels wind (mentha, schizonepeta) and cleans toxic heat (forsythia and lonicera); it also has herbs specific for scratchy, sore, or dry throat (arctium, soja, lophatherum). It is valuable as a treatment for the early stage of influenza and common cold. The Pine Mountain version is altered slightly, compared to the current patent versions, so that it is also suited to treating sore throat due to other causes (usually a bacterial infection) and for mid-stage of the ailment (when symptoms are obvious) because of its stronger anti-pathogenic action.

The tablets made in China, under the same name, are widely used throughout the world. The product from Tianjin is most widely distributed. There are no specific problems identified with this formulation, but the recent work with isatis and andrographis make the original formulation somewhat obsolete. Tianjin has also made a "superior strength" version that contained acetominophen, so it is important to check the label carefully.

ITM has posted articles on several key herbs in this formulation, including an article on the two anti-infection herbs lonicera and forsythia; the two mints, schizonepeta and mentha; and platycodon. In addition, there is an article about the patent and its origins in the prescription called Yin Qiao San. Following is a table summarizing the identity of the ingredients used.

Table 1. Herbs in Pine Mountain Yin Qiao Jie Du Pian.

Common Name Botanical Name Other Common Names Plant Part Pinyin; Pin Yin
Andrographis Andrographis paniculata king of bitters rhizome chuanxinlian, Chuan Xin Lian
Arctium Arctium lappa burdock seed niubangzi, Niu Bang Zi
Forsythia Forsythia suspensa weeping forsythia fruit lianqiao, Lian Qiao
Isatis root Isatis tinctoria dyer's woad root banlangen, Ban Lan Gen
Lonicera Lonicera japonica Japanese honeysuckle flower jinyinhua, Jin Yin Hua
Lophatherum Lophatherum gracile bamboo leaf leaf danzhuye, Dan Zhu Ye
Mentha Mentha arvensis field mint top bohe, Bo He
Platycodon Platycodon grandiflorum giant balloon flower root jiegeng, Jie Geng
Schizonepeta Schizonepeta tenuifolia Japanese catnip spike jing jie, Jing Jie
Soja Glycine max black soybean seed dandouchi, Dan Dou Chi