The Martial Artist's Herbal Medicine Chest
by Robert Chu, L. Ac.
During the practice of the martial arts, you become familiar with pain, especially if you practice for application. To alleviate the pain, there are many good, commercially available, patent herbal medicines to use. Often, they are available as powders, pills, or liquid. Some are plasters, some are pastes that you will have to mix. As a practitioner of acupuncture and herbs, and a martial artist, I have used a great variety of products to alleviate pain, stop swelling, and promote faster healing. In this article, I hope to share some readily available products that can enhance your training, as well as reduce your down time when you a nursing an injury. In no way have I exhausted the full scope of herbal products that are commercially available.
Some of the most common products include Huo Lou Yu (invigorate collaterals oil), Xiong Dan die Da wan (Bear Gallbladder fall or strike pill), Jin Gu Die Da wan (Tendons and bone fall or strike pills), Gou Pi Gao (Dog skin plaster), die Da Jiu (fall strike wine), Shen tong Zhu Yu wan (Whole body pain stops stasis pills), Fang Feng Tong Sheng Wan (Ledebouriella Sagely Unblocks Pills), Yan Hu Suo Zhi Tong Pian (Corydalis Stop Pain Pills), Xiao Huo Luo Dan (small invigorate collaterals pill), Bai hua Yu (white flower oil), Tian Qi Jiu (First Aid Antiseptic), Yunnan Bai Yao (Yunnan White Powder), and Zheng Gu Shui (Correct the bone liniment) are safe and effective for most everyday injuries. In case of serious injury, it is better to seek proper medical attention. I will also caution the reader to avoid self-medication and consult a licensed practitioner of Chinese medicine before using any of these or other medicinal herbal products.
Huo Luo Yu is the popular Wong To Yick Wood Lock Medicated Oil, available in most Chinese grocery stores and pharmacies.. The product smells like Chinese Ben Gay, but alleviates muscle soreness, stiffness, and rheumatism. The product is oily, and is a brownish green liquid that makes you smell like a senior citizen, but it's worth it! It works very quickly and relieves pain almost as soon as you rub it in.
Xiong Dan Die Da Wan is available in most Chinatowns. I don't believe that the product really contains much bear gallbladder, as it is illegal, rare and expensive. The pill is a waxy ball, meant to be broken and taken with hot water and chased by warm liquor like whisky or brandy. I personally used this product when I received trauma to my sternum (a punch from a fight). This product worked overnight - relieving my chest pain, and restoring my easy breathing.
Jin Gu Die Da Wan is what I use in my clinic. For people who do motor bike racing or rock climbing, this product quickly heals the swelling from a hard fall (which may indicate hairline fractures of the bone). This product is a pill, and personally, I stock the Mayway brand and Guang Ci Tang brand in my clinic. Typically 8 - 10 pills are taken with warm water, and can be chased with wine or other alcohol to enhance the effect.
Gou Pi Gao is not really made out of the skin of a dog, but it is a very effective plaster to heal fractures or pain. The herbal plasters come on a plastic base, and these are put into a steamer and attached to the afflicted site while warm. Be sure to take the plaster off at night, as the plaster can cause skin irritation due to cutting off oxygen. The plaster will also stain clothing and smells, so don't be surprised if everyone wants to avoid you while you are using it. Of course, products like Salon Pas or Tiger Bone Musk Plaster or Yunnan Bai Yao plaster are also good alternatives, but my not be as strong. An alternative is to use Die Da Zhi Tong Gao (Fall/Strike Stop Pain Plaster) which is commonly available.
Die Da Jiu is common but varies depending on the martial arts school and herbalist. There are many variations of the liquid, often customized for different types of injuries. I would recommend a type of Die Da Jiu geared for the system you practice. For example, Hung Gar uses a particular liniment, as does Northern Shaolin or Praying Mantis. Wing Chun also has their own formula. I will say that people who say their formula is best may be exaggerating. What is it best for? When one understands herbs, modification of a standard formula for a particular ailment is more important than a fixed recipe.
Shen Tong Zhu Yu Wan is one of my favorite formulas for chronic all over pain. One of the special formulas from the book Yi Lin Gai Cuo (Correcting the errors of the medical world), this formula serves to move the blood. One can also use variations of Zhu Yu Tang to treat hepatitis, headache, back pain, chest pain, abdominal pain, lower abdominal pain, and also treat menstrual problems. It is best to consult a licensed acupuncturist/herbalist for advice before taking this prescription.
Fang Feng Tong Sheng Wan is an excellent herbal pill preparation to take especially when you have been exposed to a cold damp condition after working out hard. During hard training, many martial artists neglect to change into warm dry clothes, and an exposure to cold damp conditions can lead to a rheumatism. These pills will easily stop the pain, and serve to unblock the channels and collaterals.
Yan Hu Suo Zhi Tong Pian is an excellent patent formula to stop pain. Yan Hu Suo is an important herb to use in the treatment of pain, and this formula will stop headaches, and other body aches.
Xiao Huo Luo Dan is used for backaches, muscle strains, and broken bones. This is available prepackaged with directions for use. Like all herbal medicines, it is best to use as directed on the package.
Bai Hua Yu is a fragrant analgesic oil, used for stiff muscles and strains as a result of over doing it. Avoid getting the oil on your face, as it can irritate the eyes. It can also revive an unconscious opponent when used like a smelling salt.
Tian Qi Jiu is an herbal liniment for bruises. The bottle typically
says it is an "antiseptic", but I would avoid using it in any
cuts or scrapes due to the alcohol content, unless you like to writhe
on the floor in pain. Usually, it is rubbed topically onto bruises or
contusions. Be sure to wash your hands after applying.
Zheng Gu Shui is a fine liniment for minor bruises, strains and minor fractures to the fingers or toes. It also helps stop the pain that may occur due to minor trauma. Since it is quite fragrant and contains camphor, it is best to avoid use near the eyes. Zheng Gu Shui is now available in a spray bottle and makes a great carry around item.
These products are commercially available at your local Chinatown or Chinese herbalist. Please be sure to read the precautions before using these products and also avoid self-medication by advising with your acupuncturist or herbalist.
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