Herbal Ice: A Hiker’s Best Friend

Herbal Ice San Huang San on Hiking Trip

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is a treasure trove of natural remedies that offer solutions to everyday health concerns. One remedy is Herbal Ice, also known as San Huang San. This TCM formulation is a hiking essential, offering rapid relief from a variety of red, irritated, or itchy skin that often plagues outdoor enthusiasts. With its cooling properties and ease of application, Herbal Ice is swiftly becoming a must-have item in any hiker’s backpack.

The Product

Herbal Ice is a topical application based on the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) formula known as “San Huang San” or “Three Yellows.”  (Huang meaning yellow). This formula is named after its three key ingredients: Rhei Radix et Rhizoma (Da huang), Scutellariae Radix (Huang qin), and Phellodendri Cortex (Huang bai). These herbs are very cold in nature and perfect for soothing hot, red, irritated skin.

The Three Yellows formula was initially created as a trauma remedy for bruises, providing a more natural and holistic alternative to traditional ice packs. Yet, its applications have been found to extend much further than just bruising. From our personal experiences and feedback from our hiking community, we’ve found that it’s particularly effective for other skin irritations such as sunburn, chaffing, bug bites, and stings.

The Story

As an avid hiker and a practicing acupuncturist, I always advocate for holistic health practices, even when on the trails. During a recent family adventure to Yosemite National Park, our journey encapsulated the true spirit of hiking – breathtaking beauty, physical exertion, and the inevitable skin issues from the elements. The trail that stood out the most was our expedition from the Mist Trail, up to Nevada Falls, and back via the John Muir Trail. This adventure not only tested our resilience but also showcased the incredible versatility of Herbal Ice, a natural remedy from my acupuncture arsenal.

We started our journey at Happy Isles, marking the beginning of the iconic Mist Trail. Our youngest, a five-year-old, was buzzing with excitement. However, the excitement was cut short when he tripped and skidded his knee while running down a slope. The red, angry scrape was instantly soothed with a dab of Herbal Ice and a Band-Aid, and our little trooper was ready to take on the trail again.

The ascent to the Vernal Fall was an exhilarating experience. The trail was steep, and as we neared the fall, we were greeted with a fine mist, adding a slick sheen to the granite steps. We got wet, but the sight of the majestic waterfall was worth every step. At the top, we paused for a snack, taking in the awe-inspiring views. But we soon noticed our damp clothes were causing some chafing issues. Once again, Herbal Ice came to our rescue, soothing the reddened skin with its cooling effect.

Next, we started the second leg of our hike up to Nevada Falls. The incline was challenging, but seeing the cascading falls up close was a sight to behold. As we rested, the reality of our sun-exposed trail hit us, the sunburn on the backs of our legs was starting to sting, and bug bites were adding to our discomfort.

The descent via the John Muir trail was a change of pace. This trail was more exposed, providing stunning vistas of Nevada Fall and Liberty Cap but also exposed us to the elements. Our tired legs and the growing collection of bug bites started to take a toll on us and the kids as they started to complain. However, a quick application of Herbal Ice soothed the sunburn and bug bites, allowing us to fully enjoy our descent through the forested trail.

By the time we reached Yosemite Valley, completing our full-circle 6.5-mile journey, we were tired but fulfilled. The trials we faced, from a scraped knee to chafing, sunburn, and bug bites, were expertly tackled with Herbal Ice. It was a testament to this natural remedy’s versatility, proving to be a hiker’s best friend.

So, whether you’re an experienced hiker, an outdoor enthusiast, or someone dealing with red, irritated skin, consider Herbal Ice. Not only does it offer quick relief for acute injuries, but it’s also a fantastic remedy for sunburn and bug bites. Always be prepared for your adventures, and never forget your Herbal Ice – it truly is a hiker’s best friend!

The Ingredients

Let’s take a closer look at the three key ingredients that make up San Huang San:
Rhei Radix et Rhizoma (da huang),
Scutellariae Radix (huang qin),
Phellodendri Cortex (huang bai).

1. Rhei Radix et Rhizoma (da huang)

Da Huang is widely recognized in TCM for its potent heat-clearing and detoxifying properties. It’s frequently used to treat high fever, delirium, constipation, and abdominal pain]. When applied topically, as in Herbal Ice, da huang can clear heat and reduce inflammation in the affected area. This makes it particularly effective for sunburns and bug bites.

2. Scutellariae Radix (huang qin):

Scutellaria, also known as skullcaps, is a group of around 350 plant species native to Europe, the United States, and East Asia. They’ve been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to promote various health benefits. Over 295 compounds, including flavonoids and diterpenes, have been identified in these plants.

Modern research has confirmed Scutellaria’s broad range of medicinal effects. These include anti-tumor, liver-protective, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Its active components have also shown potential in combating serious diseases such as cancer, hepatitis, and HIV-1.

Researchers have been studying the chemical compounds of Scutellaria since the late 19th century. Some of the main flavonoids in these plants—like baicalin and baicalein,—have demonstrated significant anti-cancer, anti-HIV, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anticonvulsant effects. Ongoing research continues to unveil more about the potential of Scutellaria in healthcare and drug development.

Huang Qin in traditional Chinese medicine is known for its heat-clearing, dampness-drying, toxin-resolving, and hemostasis-promoting properties. It’s often used to treat high fever, cough, nausea, and irritability. In the context of Herbal Ice, Huang qin’s heat-clearing properties reduce swelling and inflammation, providing relief from skin irritations like chafing.


3. Phellodendri Cortex (huang bai):

Phellodendri Cortex (PC), also known as “Huang bai” in Chinese and “Obaku” in Japanese, is a medicinal plant native to Asia. Notably, it’s recognized as one of the 50 fundamental herbs in Chinese herbalism. This plant, whose dried bark is used medicinally, comes in two main species, containing similar beneficial constituents and interchangeable in clinical applications.

The PC plant has been traditionally used to treat a wide array of diseases, such as meningitis, cirrhosis, and pneumonia. Currently, it’s known for its extensive health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anticancer, and antioxidant effects, among others.

One of PC’s key compounds is alkaloids, specifically berberine, and jatrorrhizine, which are proven to be effective against some types of tumors, infections, and neurological diseases. Research is ongoing to further understand the full range of benefits PC can offer, including its potential impact on atopic dermatitis.


It is good to know that while Herbal Ice can provide immediate relief from pain, inflammation, and swelling, it’s not intended for long-term use. Once the initial inflammation, heat, and swelling have significantly reduced, the application should be stopped.

The wisdom of TCM has much to offer in terms of natural, effective remedies for many common ailments. By understanding the properties of these herbs, we can better appreciate their potential benefits and use them more effectively in our daily lives.

Is Herbal Ice For You?

Remember, Herbal Ice isn’t just for hikers. Anyone experiencing red, irritated skin can benefit from this traditional Chinese remedy. It’s a testament to the wisdom of ancient Chinese medicine and its relevance in our modern world.

Always be prepared on your adventures, and never forget your Herbal Ice – it truly is a hiker’s best friend!

Herbal Ice is safe for most people when used as directed. However, as with any topical product, some people may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions. If you notice any adverse effects, discontinue use and consult with a healthcare provider.

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About the Author

Author Willard Sheppy Exporing the Coast

Willard Sheppy is a writer and healthcare practitioner who seamlessly melds scientific knowledge with practical applications in engaging and authoritative articles. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Oregon State University and a Master’s in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the distinguished Oregon College of Oriental Medicine.

In his work, Willard skillfully combines his extensive educational background in scientific research with his practical experience as a healthcare practitioner. Willard balances his life with martial arts and cherished family adventures. As a father of three, he often leads his family on camping and hiking trips along the breathtaking Oregon coast.

Connect with Willard on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/valleyhealthclinic or learn more about his services at valleyhealthclinic.com. Embark on this journey towards holistic health with Willard!