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A Guide To Chinese Martial Arts Herbal Trauma

Part 1- Introduction and Categories of Herbal Medicines
By David Bock C.Ac. Dipl.Ac. Dipl.CH.
Editors Note: In this series of articles the author discuses Chinese Herbal remedies
useful for bruises, sprains, strains, fractures, bleeding and other trauma. They are useful
for martial artists, weekend athletes, or anyone who exercises. Remedies, however, are
not always available at your local drug store. Those interested should seek out a Chinese
drug store or Chinese herbalist. For readers convenience, will soon be
offering a variety of these remedies in our e-store.
Martial Arts and Herbal Medicine have worked hand in hand for a long time in what the
Chinese call shang ke, or trauma medicine. This is often referred to by the term Die Da,
which means fall and strike or contusion. When herbs were mixed into a formula to treat
trauma, they were generally referred to as Die da with the form of the medicine added to
the end. For example, Die da wan is known as a hit pill. If it is a wine or alcohol based
formula it would be called Die da jiu.
Throughout history most martial artists with herbal knowledge have made their own
secret formula to use on their students. Often these formulas are variations of older
formulas and just called die da yao, or fall and strike medicine. Depending on the
Romanization system used, these formulas are now known as dit dat jow, tieh ta yao, Dee
da jow, and any number of other spellings. In this guide I will not stick to one particular
style of Romanization but rather use the spelling the manufacturer has used to identify the
The important thing for the martial artist is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of
the various formulas. I will focus on the readily available topical formulas. Chinese
Herbal medicine is a vast topic that when properly applied is customized to the situation
at hand, with herbs selected based not only on the type of trauma but the nature of the
patient. In practice, usually a patient is treated with general formulas first and more
specific herbal treatments later. In other words: stop the bleeding, reduce the local pain,
and worry about healing later when there is the luxury to do so. If there is a skin reaction
to a formula, it may be because it is not matched well to the personal dynamics of the
patient, in which case an herbalist should be consulted or other comparable formulas tried
until a formula is found that does not cause a reaction.
Most of the die da formulas are interchangeable to some degree. They all treat pain and
most have herbs to help heal tissue. It is the particular mix of herbs and their percentages
that determines the specific characteristics of the medicine. Even well known

manufacturers publish very little information about the specific amounts of ingredients.
Many just list a few active ingredients and list many of the important herbs as
inactive. We can make some educated guesses at the use of a formula based on what
seems to be the predominant dynamics of the herbs in the mix. The common herbs in
these formulas can be grouped in several categories. Note that many of these herbs are
useful because they cover more than one category. However, I will only list the
predominant function.
Herbal Medicine Categories
The Aromatics: These are the stronger dispersant blood moving herbs that quickly
reduce pain. Pain in herbal medicine is technically the blockage of blood movement.
These strong herbs break up stasis to reduce pain but do not necessarily help heal tissue.
These herbs include Camphor (zhang nao), menthol and mint oils, Borneol (bing pian),
Carthamus (hong hua, safflower), turpentine (pine oil, song jie), Clove (ding xiang) and
Musk (she xiang). Methyl salicylate, which is a natural form of aspirin derived from tree
bark, moves energy strongly and in many ways also works like an aromatic.
Blood Movers: These are herbs that also move energy to reduce pain, but also have more
effect in regards to long-term tissue repair. Some blood movers are also the best herbs to
stop bleeding because they quickly spur the clotting response as part of the tissue repair
functions. The two most well known are the resins Frankincense (boswellia, olibanum, ru
xiang) and Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha,mo yao). Other important herbs include Peony
(bai shao), Angelica (dang gui), Dragon bone (long gu), and Dragons Blood (xue jie).
Herbs that also specifically stop bleeding are catechu (betal husk, da fu pi), charred cattail
(pu huang), Uncaria (cutch, er cha), and the most important one, Panax Notoginseng
(psuedoginseng, tien chi, san qi).
Hot Herbs: These herbs are hot or warming in nature. They also tend to have some pain
relieving or tissue repair properties. Many formulas mix warm and cold herbs together;
the question is which type is predominant in the formula. Warm and hot herbs are best on
old or re-injured tissue where there is no redness or swelling, and where it feels good to
add heat or tight bandages to the area. Quite often if there is a red skin reaction to a
topical formula, it is one of these herbs that is the likely culprit. Finding a cooler
formula may be the answer to skin irritation. The real hot herbs are the aconites (fu zi, wu
tou, wolfsbane and many other names), and the capsicums (chili, cayenne). Other
warm/hot herbs include asarum (wild ginger, xi xin), cassiae ( cinnamon, rou gui, gui zhi)
clove (ding xiang), drynaria (gu sui bu), fennel (foeniculum, xiao hui xiang), and ginger
(zingiberis, sheng jiang, gan jiang).
Cold Herbs: These herbs are best when there is redness, swelling, and the tissue feels
warm to the touch. I often use formulas that are heavy in these herbs in place of ice for
new trauma. I find I get much greater pain relief and quicker patient recovery. The
common herbs in this category are mints /wintergreen (menthol, bo he), dandelion (pu
gong yin), rhubarb (rheum, da huang), lonicera (honeysuckle, jin yin hua), polgonum

cuspidatum (hu zhang), scutellaria (huang qin, skullcap), tea tree oil, aloe vera (lu hui),
eucalyptus (an ye), and tumeric (zedoary, jiang huang).
Other common herbs are Licorice (gan cao), which is classically used to harmonize herbs
in a formula. Some herbs like ligusticum (chuan xiong), Lebedourillae (siler, fang feng),
turpentine (pine oil, song jie) and Angelica (bai zhi) protect the injured area while it
Many formulas are simply variations on a theme, and can be arranged in groups based on
their particular herbal strengths. In Part 2 of this article series I give my recommendations
grouped by injury type. Remember that they all reduce pain and help heal tissue, so in a
pinch, use what is available. There are some general safety precautions about topical herb
formulas. Unless the package says otherwise, it is not a good idea to apply heat or any
non-breathable covering (like plastic bandages) to an herbal topical formula applied to
the skin. Always read package cautions, and make sure a formula is safe on broken tissue
before a topical formula is used on an open wound. Do not apply any of these formulas to
the back or abdomen of a pregnant woman.

A Guide To Chinese Martial Arts Herbal Trauma

Part 2 Herbal Medicines Grouped By Type
By David Bock C.Ac. Dipl.Ac. Dipl.CH.
Editorss Note: This is the second in a series of article on Chinese martial arts related
herbal medicines. Part 1 introduced the topic. Also discussed are the four categories of
medicines: The Aromatics that quickly reduce pain but do not necessarily promote
healing; Blood Movers that reduce pain, but also have more effect in regards to long-term
tissue repair and/or stop bleeding; Hot Herbs which are hot or warming in nature, have
some pain relieving or tissue repair properties and are used for old or re-injured tissue
where there is no redness or swelling, and Cold Herbs used when there is redness,
swelling, and the tissue feels warm to the touch. Part 2 discusses Herbal Medicine
recommendations grouped by injury type.
Tissue Damage From Trauma, Strains, Tears, Contusions, and Bruises
Classic Die da formulas (Dit Dat Jow) are generally based on the ancient formulas Qi Li
San, or Die Da wan. They tend to be very good at tissue repair and healing burns,
stopping bleeding, reducing pain and swelling as well as long term wound care. Some can
be applied to an open wound. They vary in temperature, some hot, some cold, and
some neutral. Cool formulas are better in acute trauma where there is redness and
swelling. Hot formulas are better when there is no redness or swelling. Many of the secret

iron fist skin toughening formulas are variations of Die Da formulas. Note that some are
meant for immediate treatment after an injury and others are specific for long-term
recovery use, or for skin toughening (Training).
--Tieh Ta Yao Gin (Chu Kiang Brand) (Great on severe bruises)
--Tieh Ta Yao Gin (United Pharm.)
--Die Da Wan Hua (Jingxiutang Pharm.) (Good on burns)
--Wan Hua Oil (United Pharm) (Good for hard swellings, burns, necrotic wounds)
--Tien Qi Tieh Ta Yao Jiu (Five Photos Brand) (Can be used on open wounds)
--Wu yang Plaster for bruise (Better than ice on acute injuries)
--Yang Cheng Medicated Herbal Plaster (Similar to Wu Yang brand)
--Felursa Plaster For Bruise (Zhanjiang)
--Dragons Blood Liniment (Blue Poppy) (For swelling and pain when there is no
redness or heat.)
--Shaolin Dee Dat Jow (Blue Poppy) (For acute injury with redness and swelling)
--Hua Tos Eight Immortals Dit Da Jow (Oriental herb Co.) (For post trauma
--Iron Hand Liniment (East Earth) (Designed for training as well as injury)
--Iron Fist Liniment (Oriental Herb Co.) (Designed for training as well as injury)
--Hua Tos Eight Immortals Iron Palm (Oriental Herb Co.)
--Jade Goddess (Oriental Herb Co.) (Training formula, tissue repair, cooling)
--Imperial Pheonix (Oriental Herb Co.) (Training formula, hot)
--Tie Bi (Oriental Herb Co.) (Training formula, cooling)
--Die-Da Analgesic Essence (China National)
--Fastt Patch (Wei Labs) (Long term use plaster for healing injuries)
--Eighteen Budda Tit Da plaster
--Feng Liu Sing Tincture (Warm)
Bleeding, External and Internal, Severe Bruising
--Yunnan pai (bai) yao, ( Means White medicine from Yunnan province). This is THE
stop bleeding formula. There are others that are similar, however, but most people prefer
the original. Powder can be packed into deep cuts. It can also be taken internally for
possible internal bleeding (seek medical attention). Internally it is useful to control heavy
menstrual bleeding. The red pill that is often packaged with the formula is to be used
when there is severe trauma with the possibility of the patient going into shock. (Again,
seek medical attention).
--san qi powder, tien chi powder (Many suppliers).
Joint Strain or Sprain
These are variations of Die da formulas and are specific for white tissue, connective
tissue with low blood flow, bones, ligaments and tendons.
--Zheng Gu Shui (Yulin Drug) (Means heal bone water great on any joint pain
including carpel tunnel, overuse soreness and tennis elbow. Apply to feet before standing

for hours; it really helps.)

--Sprain Ointment (Blue Poppy)
--Ni Tian/Yee Tin Tong Oil
--Xi Shang Le Ding (Pham. Factory of TCM)
--Spring Wind Herbal Muscle and Joint rub (Spring Wind)
--Dr. Shirs Liniment (Spring Wind brand)
Over-worked Exhausted Muscles, General After Workout Soreness and Pain
These are common muscle rubs and tend to be oil based with a lot of menthol and
--Tiger balm white (Classic, great all around for sore muscles)
--Essential Balm (Similar to Tiger Balm)
--White Dragon Balm (Similar to Tiger Balm)
--White Flower oil (Cool For acute muscle strain or muscles that feel hot)
--Josephs Si Chi Pain relieving oil
--Eagle oil
--Wood lock oil
--Stop Pain (Blue Poppy)
--Mopiko (Indicated for pain as well as itch from insect bites and eczema)
--Yunnan Baiyao liniment
--Yunnan Baiyao Plasters
--King Care Original Formula
--King Care Sports Pain Formula
--Golden sunshine patches/spray Cream (Cool)
--Notoginseng Herbal Analgesic Liniment (Camphor free)
Old (cold) Injury Cches and Pains
No redness or swelling. Heat applied to the area feels good. This is especially true of old
injuries that have been over iced, or controlled through over the counter painkillers.
These are formulas with warm and hot herbs.
--Tiger Balm Red (Warm)
--Red Dragon Balm (Warm)
--Chili Plasters (Hot)
--Porous Capsicum Plaster (Hot)
--Po Sum On (Warm to neutral, good massage oil for sore muscles)
--Axe brand oil (Warm)
--Dr. Bobs Medicated oil (Blue Poppy) (Warm to neutral)
--Green Willow liniment (Blue Poppy) (Hot)
--E Mei Shan Plasters (Warm)
--Dragon Fire Liniment (Oriental Herb Co.) (Hot)
--Hua Tuo Plasters (Kwang Chow United) (Warm)
--Huo Tuo Plasters (Jingxiutang Pharm.) (Warm)

--Kwan Loong (Warm to neutral, also indicated for itching)

--Salonpas Plasters (Warm to neutral, focused on pain)
--Bao Zhen Gao/ Shang Yao Plasters (Warm)
--Zhitong Gao/ Shang Yao Plasters (Warm)
--Tokhuon Plasters (Warm)
--King Care Arthritis Pain Formula (Warm)
--Kou Pi Analgesic Plasters (Beijing Tung Jen Tang) (Warm)
--Kou Pi Analgesic Plasters (Tientsin Drug) (Warm)
--Xin Fang Shang Shi Bao Zhen Gao Plasters (Shanghai Med. Works) (Warm)
--Yun Xiang Jing liniment (Yulin) (Hot)
--Mao She Xiang San Xiong Dan Rheumatic oil (Kwangchow) (Warm)
--Musk Rheumatic oil (Guangdong Medicines) (Warm)
--Flower oil (Shanghai medicines) (Warm to neutral)
--Notoginseng Herbal Analgesic Liniment (Guangxi Med.) (Warm to neutral)
--Whitee Patch (Wei Labs) (Warm)
--ABC Plaster (Hot)
--Yun Xiang Jin (Warm)
Re-injured Joints or Other Tissue
No redness to tissue, possible water or swelling around the joint, dull achy pain. Most of
these are musk-based formulas; other camphor/menthol-based formulas can also do well.
--Musk plaster (Jingxiutang Pharm)
--Zheng Gu Shui (Yulin Drug)
--Kupico Plaster (Great Wall Brand)
--Shang Shi Bao Zhen Medicated Plaster (Shanghai Med. Works) (Warm)
--Anti-Rheumatic Plaster (Tientsin Drug)
--Musk Rheumatism-Expelling Plasters (Guilin Fourth Pharm.)
--Musk Anti-Contusion Plasters (Tianjin Drug)
--Musk Rheumatic oil (Guangdong Medicines) (Warm)
Red Painful Muscles & Joints Due To Chronic Injury, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Gout
--Three Angels Liniment (Blue Poppy) (Cool)
--White Tiger Liniment (Oriental Herb Co.) (Cool, for red muscle swelling)
Abrasions, Cuts, Gi Burn and Open Wounds
--Tieh ta yao jiu (Five Photos brand) (Great on Gi burn and abrasions)
--Yunnan Bai Yao powder (For bleeding open wounds)
--Compound Prescribed Watermelon Frost (Guilin) (For non-healing or infected
open wounds with redness and swelling)
--Wan Hua Oil (United Pharm) (For hard swellings, burns, necrotic wounds)
--Ching Wan Hung (Great Wall) (Best burn cream, heals tissue, can be applied to
open wounds to reduce scarring)

There are countless formulations available as well as secret formulas. These were the
products that I was able to get at least an ingredient list for. There are many good herbal
formulas for which I could not find any information. I tried to group formulas as best I
could, based on the information I have. I have used some of these formulas (not all) on
myself and on patients. Comments about the effectiveness of a particular formula are
based on my personal experience. There are many products listed that I believe are also
very good. I just havent had opportunity to use them.
Chinese Herbal Medicine Formula Chart (.PDF)
Recommended Reading:
Chinese Herbal Patent Medicines by Jake Fratkin
Shaolin Secret Formulas For The Treatment Of External Injury, Transmitted by Patriarch De Chan, Translated by Zhang Ting-liang, Bob Flaws
Chinese Medicinal Wines and Elixirs, by Bob Flaws
Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica by Dan Bensky, Andrew Gamble
Chinese Herbal Medicines Formulae