Updated: Dec 15, 2022
by Mark Parzynski, DAOM, L.Ac.
Shiunko or Purple Cloud Ointment, was developed in Japan during the Edo Period (1603-1868) for the treatment of skin disorders. In Kanpo (Japanese herbal medicine), shiunko is still a popular skincare remedy. It is used topically for eczema, psoriasis, fungal infections, scars, chapped skin, burns, frostbite, bedsores, skin ulcers, hemorrhoids, and much more. Shiunko should not be taken internally and is used topically as directed by a licensed healthcare professional.
Modern acupuncturists commonly use shiunko when applying direct moxibustion cones to a patient. If used for this purpose, a little shiunko goes a long way. It is important to use only enough ointment to adhere the cone to the patient and no more. Shiunko has a high oil content and should not be used as a heat barrier between the skin and the burning moxa. Too much shiunko can retain heat even when the moxa cone is removed, increasing the likelihood of burns.
Shiunko can also be used with a copper gua sha tool for the treatment of scars. The actions of gua sha will open the couli and drive the shiunko past the dermal layer. The thermally conductive properties of copper and the healing properties of shiunko make it an ideal combination for the treatment of scars. Stay tuned for a detailed article on the use of gua sha in scar therapy.
Most store-bought versions of shiunko are not therapeutically potent enough to treat skin conditions and often have the wrong consistency for moxibustion applications. They can be too waxy and dry or, conversely, too greasy and sticky. Perfect shiunko should have a smooth, fluffy texture with a potent but pleasant smell.
Luckily, making your own shiunko is not difficult or expensive. Shiunko ointment is relatively shelf-stable and can last a long time when stored in an airtight container and kept in a cool dark place. Listed below is a simple but effective base formula for shiunko. It can be used as-is or modified depending on your needs and skill level as an herbalist.
1 liter of sesame oil (not toasted)
100 grams Dang Gui (Radix Angelicae Sinensis)
100 grams Zi Cao Gen (Lithospermum)
380 grams of beeswax
25 grams of lard (leaving this out will result in a greasy feeling balm)
Heat the sesame oil, Dang Gui, and Zi Cao Gen in a slow cooker for 4 hours.
Remove from heat and mix in the beeswax and lard until melted.
Strain mixture through cheesecloth and let cool until warm, but not hot.
Use an electric mixer and whip air into the warm mixture. Optional - If a mixer is unavailable, you may use a whisk to whip by hand until smooth.
Allow to cool and use.
Check out this related article: Basic Direct Moxibustion Technique; Okyu
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Copyright 2021 Mark Parzynski