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Common Chinese Herbal Formulas for Pain Due To Trauma

By Robert Chu, L.Ac.

Throughout my many years in my sports and martial arts, I have come across many trauma (known in Chinese as dit da, literally "fall and strike") prescriptions for herbal liniments, powders, plasters, and decoctions. Many Chinese are familiar with herbal liniments that are used for bruises, sprains, strains, fractures, and other trauma, due to a blow or fall. These formulas can all be used by weekend athletes and others who have to visit their sports medicine doctor. Beware of claims, "My secret formula is the best!" In the past, I stared with amazement and almost revered the brown, smelly liniment as I rubbed it into my bruises and training aches and pains.

After studying Chinese medicine and learning the fundamental principles, etiology of disease, methods of diagnosis, herbology, massage, acupuncture, moxibustion and cupping, I learned that a Chinese medicine practitioner must tailor treatments to the individual, and no set method is used to cure everyone or every injury. Indeed, one liniment I used regularly for bruises did heal my bruises in a few days, but always made me break out in a rash that lasted for two weeks! It always seemed to me that the cure was almost as bad as the injury or worse!

I later analyzed the prescription's individual ingredients and, through diagnosis, found my personal constitution had a lot of heat. Although the traditional formula has some very toxic and warm herbs in it, based on my constitution, these herbs were not for me. The result of having a warm constitution, living in a warm climate (Los Angeles), plus using warm herbs was inflammation, a rash.

Tradition or not, this prescription was not for me. Instead, I substituted the prepared versions of the above herbs and the effect was more agreeable for my individual constitution. Most experienced herbalists take a base formula and customize it for the individual. Thus, there is not one true, secret, ultimate trauma prescription! So beware of such claims.

Generally speaking, commercial forms of Chinese herbal trauma formulas like 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. Many Chinese would rather use these herbal formulas first for a minor injury. I would certainly advise readers to seek proper medical attention in case of serious injury.

Xiao Huo Luo Dan is taken as a pill, and generally 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." I usually refer to it as "Chinese Ben Gay." Avoid getting the oil on your face, as it can irritate the eyes.

Tian Qi Jiu is an herbal liniment for bruises. Usually, the person using it rubs it on topically into bruises or contusions.

Yunnan Bai Yao is a powder that stops bleeding immediately and is used when you have minor cuts or scrapes, or if you cut yourself shaving. During the Vietnam War, soldiers were given a supply of this powder for firearm wounds. It was so precious that soldiers referred to it as a "gold they wouldn't trade." Dramatically, this powder can stop bleeding instantly and promote healing with little to no scarring.

Finally, 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 sports injuries. It is also best to avoid on the face as it can irritate the eyes.

All of these commercial patents are available at your local Chinatown drug store or Chinese herbalist. If your goal is hard training, or you have sustained a more severe injury, it is better to visit a Chinese herbalist to create a formula based on your individual constitution, climate, and type of training or injury. Just because herbal formulas are natural, does not mean they are not dangerous medicine when used incorrectly. Many immuno-comprised individuals and pregnant women should avoid herbal trauma prescriptions as the herbs may be somewhat toxic or have affects regarding blood flow and may lead to miscarriage.

A good reference book for the majority of Chinese trauma herbs and their uses is Chinese Patent Herbal Formulas by Jake Fratkin (Shya Publications, 1985).

Robert Chu is a Licensed Acupuncturist/Chinese herbalist available for consultation in the Los Angeles area. You can e-mail him at chusauli@aol.com for martial arts and sports medicine-based training herbal formulas for trauma and pain. He can alsso be reached at:

Robert Chu, L.Ac.
Chusauli@aol.com
at Miller Family Chiropractic
212 East Foothill Blvd.
Arcadia, CA 91006
(626) 930-1355

 

 


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