Growing up in China I always got into fights with the neighborhood children. Sometimes it was over an argument over who has better grades, sometimes it was over whose lunch was better. No matter how the argument started, it would always end with a fist fight and tons of bruises.
Feeling bruised on my way home, I knew what was waiting for me: my mother would begin to tear up and tell me that if I fought again, I would be grounded forever. My father would ask me who won, and I would always tell him I won no matter what, just to make him proud. Then my grandmother would come to me with her treasure chest. It contained Traditional Chinese remedies including White Flower and Red Flower. She would rub them on my bruises for hours until the areas on my body would go numb from the constant friction to mask the pain. Today, as I am writing this article, I can still see her and smell the remedies, even though it has been 15 years since I used those remedies.
Both White Flower oil and Red Flower oil are made up of several strong aromatic herbs, and both are used for muscle pain, joint pain, and headaches. Place 5-10 drops on the painful area, and massage into skin. For headaches, you can apply the oil with a cotton ball on the temples and or the forehead, and rub it in for at least 10 minutes.
Sometimes White Flower and Red Flower oil are used interchangeably by people who have no background in TCM. Most times both can be used for pain management, however, as physicians and future physicians, we should dig a bit deeper and try to utilize our TCM knowledge to differentiate between the two remedies.
The most significant difference between the two oils is the active ingredients: White Flower oil is made from camphor, menthol, and peppermint oil. Red Flower oil is made from cinnamon leaf oil, Daemonorops Draco resin, and safflower oil. The ingredients in both oils are traditionally used as topical analgesics, however the ones in White Flower oil are cooling and the ones in Red Flower oil are warming.
For acute muscle, tendon, and ligament injuries where the injured area is red and swollen, it is more appropriate to use a cooling oil blend like White Flower oil. This also applies to headaches that are throbbing and excess in nature and accompanied by heat or excess pathologies such as liver fire rising (vertex headache with anger), or Qi and blood stagnation headaches that are full in sensation and located behind the eyes.
For late stage injury recovery, especially of tendon and ligament, where heat generation can speed up metabolism and tissue regeneration, red flower oil is more indicated. It is also used traditionally in China for warming up the joints and muscles before training to reduce risk of injury. For headaches that are caused by cold invasion where diaphoresis is encouraged and the exterior must be released, Red Flower oil is the right choice.
Reviewed by: Dr. Vance Inouye NMD