Zi yun Gao, Zi Cao Gao, or "Purple Cloud cream" is a topical skin cream that is based on traditional Chinese herbal formula. The main ingredient is "Zi Cao" (purple leaf). This herb gives the cream a special purple red color. Zi Yun Gao is popular in Japan and China where people believe the healing power of Zi Cao. Many manufacturers make their own version of this cream. The packages are different but the functions are similar: to detox, clear heat, stop itching, nourish the dryness and heal wound or burns.
Zi Yun Gao's ingredients
The ingredients of Zi Yun Gao usually includes Zi Cao, Dang Gui, Sesame oil, and Beewax. The most basic one will include Zi Cao and Sesame oil. Many topical Chinese medicines use sesame oil traditionally, but modern version might substitute sesame oil with other oils because of the smell. Other herbs can be added to enhance the function of Zi Cao and Dang Gui.
Zi Cao (Lithospermum or Arnebia Root)
The function of Zi Cao (or Zi Cao Gen) is to clear heat, cool blood, and reduce toxicity. It clears "damp heat" in the skin. The "Damp heat" and "blood toxicity" in Chinese medicine can manifest in skin disorders such as eczema, carbuncles, boils, burns, chicken pox and so on. The skin usually looks dark red or purple (heat).
Dang Gui (Angelica sinensis root)
Dang Gui is the number one herb to tonify blood and promote blood circulation. It also helps generate flesh and expel pus. Together with Zi Cao, it speeds up the recovering process of skin lesion.
Gan Cao (Licorice root)
Sometimes, Gan Cao is added to the formula. It harmonizes other herbs, and is very good at reducing toxicity.
When to use it?
Zi Cao Gao is a versatile ointment that treats skin irritation, inflammation, burn, fungus, ulcer, eczema, bug bites, diaper rash and many more. It helps skin regeneration and speeds up the excretion of toxins. After cleaning and drying the affected area, apply the cream several times a day. It does look red purple on skin, but the color will be less noticeable after rubbing to the skin.
Where to buy it
It is not very easy to find Zi Cao Gao in the US. The best place to look is traditional Chinese medicine stores at Chinatown. I got mine from "Shun Tian Tang" brand, a big Taiwanese "Chinese herbal medicine" manufacturer. Many herbal clinics or small companies make their own in smaller batches. Some are available online (Amazon, Etsy, Ebay). Make sure it is fresh for effectiveness.
How to make your own Zi Yun Gao at home
It is not hard to make herbal cream at home. Make sure all tools are clean and ingredients are the best quality. Here is a basic procedure to make your own Zi Yun Gao at home.
Soak Dang Gui in a large jar of sesame oil for a few days if you can. Or you can skip this step and just cook the Dang Gui in sesame oil (use medium low heat) until brown color. Strain out the Dang Gui, add Zi Cao and cook until all purple color. Drain the Zi Cao, add melted pure Beewax and cook more. Stir until creamy consistency. Pour into jars and let cool. Store in cool, dark place.
Everyone has a different way of making Zi Yun Gao. Cook everything in a slow cooker over low heat for several days makes the most sense to me. It slowly infuse the herb in oil and wax but not overcook it.
Disclaimer: all Chinese herbs are regarded as nutritional food product and not evaluated by FDA in the US. Please consult with your doctor first if you have any concerns.
The purple red color of the Zi Yun Gao might stain your light color clothing. Be careful when applying the cream.
Avoid applying the cream directly on any open wound or oozing lesion to prevent irritation.
Other than that, It is a handy household medicine for minor skin problems. Nice to keep a natural herbal product around for the whole family. Have you tried Zi Yun Gao before? Please leave a comment below.