There are many interesting and useful curatives available in Chinese pharmacies. Living here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I have good access to these and can find many products that are not easily available elsewhere. To simplify things, I have chosen these products for those who are interested.
Currently I carry Zheng Gu Shui, a Chinese herbal liniment, that is excellent for recovering from bumps and bruises. This is a well known low cost formula available in Chinatown herbal pharmacies. I sell 100cc bottles for $6; 30cc bottles for $3.50 (not including shipping).
Another useful liniment I have used recently is Po Sum On, which has several essential oils such as peppermint, cinnamon and tea tree oil listed in the ingredients. This blend can be added to other liniments to enhance their effect. $8
I am also hoping to carry an Iron Palm formula in the near future. This is one that has actually been taken back to China and verified as an authentic Shaolin herbal formula. I first used it in 1999 and have been pleased with the results, not only for toughening the hands but as a general tonic for the feet as well.
Here is some information about essential oils, also commonly referred to as aromatherapy. If you’ve ever been curious about herbs but, like me, didn’t know where to start, oils are pure, concentrated extracts, already prepared and ready for use.
There are literally hundreds of commercially available oils, having a wide range of effects from fighting colds and infections to aiding healing from injury and stress, depending on the particular oil or blend. Most oils are anti-bacterial; some are also anti-fungal, and a few have proven anti-viral qualities.
Any bookstore will have literature on aromatherapy, giving the qualities and uses of each particular oil. These will generally describe the primary chemical constituents of each one and whether they are tonifying, sedative, or adaptogenic (sedating or tonifying according to one’s internal condition). One of my favorite reference books is “Essential Aromatherapy” by Susan Worwood, but there are many similar books on this subject.
Essential oils have a history as old as ancient Egypt and India, yet as current as the latest medical expeditions to the tropics in search of new botanical cures, often discovered in folk medicine. “Holy oils” such as frankincense, myrrh, hyssop and galbanum, are mentioned prominently in the Bible.
Oils were popular into the early 20th century, only fading from use as antibiotics became available. In WWII the Australian military issued Tea Tree oil to every soldier and sailor fighting in the tropics to prevent even minor scratches from becoming septic. So vital was this to the war effort, those involved in harvesting and production of the oil were exempt from military service! After the war, lavender came to the rescue in European veterans’ hospitals, saving many wounded men from dying of gangrene when supplies of antibiotics ran out. In fact, some doctors claimed the survival rate with lavender was better than with penicillin!
Some oils have been shown in clinical studies to outperform popular antibiotics, especially now that many bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to over-use by modern medicine. While their use in the U.S. is limited, they are much more widely accepted in Europe and other parts of the world.
I first learned of essential oils around 1996 from an Iron Palm expert. These guys are well versed in Chinese herbs to tonify their body and energy for breaking, so when he said these were the most amazing products he’d ever seen, I had to take a look. I’ve used them since for many things, and consider them an indispensable part of my home medicine chest, using them for family, friends, students and pets, and many have been convinced of their usefulness.
Look around and you will find “herbal essences” in many common and popular products. Food and beverages have “natural flavors”. Commercial oils, common in cosmetics and food marketing, are mass produced with high heat, pressure and extract-enhancing petrochemicals. These account for 95% of worldwide oil production.
Preserving healing benefits requires low heat and pressure to avoid fracturing the herbal molecular structure, and the best oils use no additives to increase production. Aromatherapy products are now found in many mainstream outlets, including grocery and department stores, but quality may vary . It is best to use only pure high-quality oils which are not mixed with other chemicals or emulsifiers.
Oils quickly spread through the body via blood and nerve pathways, some even penetrating the brain blood barrier. They are often applied topically and are rapidly absorbed through the skin. Other applications include inhalation; scent alone can quickly cause changes in the body’s production and balance of hormones through the limbic system. Those marked as “GRAS” (generally regarded as safe) may even be used orally. One drop of lemongrass, for instance, can give a large pot of curry a Southeast Asian flavor.
Oils may stimulate and support the functions of the immune system, and some may be effectively used in diffusers to kill airborne bacteria in the home. Hospitals in Europe have used essential oils to combat stubborn bacteria that thrive in that environment, even using them to sterilize medical equipment cabinets.
I buy my products from one of the largest and most respected suppliers in North America, Young Living Essential Oils. They guarantee the purity of their oils, and I strongly recommend them for this reason. If you have an interest in or questions about these oils, please feel free to contact me. If you would like to try them, you can sign up with YLEO and purchase oils directly from them, using my distributor number (#21190). There is NO obligation to become a distributor yourself, though if you decide at any time you would like to do so, you can upgrade your account easily and pick up any downline of people who have enrolled through you.
Oils that may be of particular interest to martial artists would be the blends PānAway and Valor.
For general interest, I recommend starting with the “Essential 7” kit, which contains 7 different oils, including PānAway. This blend includes helichrysum, an herb used by the Knights Templars for treating battle injuries during the Crusades. Other oils in the kit are lavender (a “universal” oil with wide application), lemon (a disinfectant and stimulant), peppermint (antibacterial, digestive and a stimulant), plus other blends like Purification (great for housecleaning), Joy (perfume-like, uplifting), Peace and Calming (works great on hyper dogs, kids and stressed out adults).
Valor (not in the “Essential 7”) is based on research dating back to the Roman gladiators, and may be of value for massage and joint pain.
* None of these statements are intended to diagnose any condition or injury. Results may vary. If you have a serious injury or persistent pain, you should consult a physician.