East meets West: Warming Muscle Rub

Recently I came across a recipe from the Herbal Academy that intrigued me, Warming Ginger Cayenne Salve. I wondered if I could improve upon this analgesic recipe by combining it with additional herbs that have been used traditionally used in dit da jow’s.  Dit da jow is an analgesic liniment traditionally used by martial artists to stimulate circulation, reduce pain and swelling, and improve healing of injuries and wounds. Also known as  “hit medicine”, the main function of dit da jow, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is to unblock blood stagnation and blood stasis. The thought being that when one suffers a trauma type injury, qi is blocked in the meridians causing pain and swelling.

Starting with the Warming Ginger Cayenne Salve recipe as my starting point, I used a combination of arnica and St. John’s wort infused oils as my base.  In the initial recipe it suggested adding turmeric powder which I opted to not include due to its potential for staining.  In brainstorming other herbs to use,  I thought I would kick up the heat by adding dried ginger root, cinnamon bark, black pepper, mustard powder, Thai chilies and wasabi. To this combination I included TCM herbs* which I had pre-soaked in alcohol to help open up the cell walls to increase extraction in the oil. *specific for pain relief see below.

Angelica Pubescens (Chinese: Du Huo) is categorized as an Herb that Dispels Wind-Dampness. These herbs alleviate pain in the muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints and bones. Angelica pubescens expels cold and promotes Qi and Blood flow. It disperses cold and unblocks painful obstruction (bruises, swelling, etc). It can be used for chronic and acute problems.

Angelica Sinensis (Chinese: Dang Gui) is a commonly used herb in Chinese medicine. It’s main purpose is to tonify the blood. But it also invigorates and harmonizes the blood and disperses cold. It is an important herb for stopping pain due to blood stasis.

Psuedoginseng (Chinese: San qi or Tian Qi) belongs to the category of Herbs that Stop Bleeding. This herb stops bleeding without causing blood stagnation, transforms blood stagnation, reduces swelling and stops pain. Because it reduces swelling and alleviates pain this is the herb of choice for traumatic injuries and is used for swelling and pain due to falls, fractures, contusions, and sprains.

Persicae, Peach Kernals (Chinese: Tao Ren) belongs to the category of Herbs that Invigorate the Blood. It invigorates the Blood and is an important herb for dispelling stasis due to traumatic injury. It is used with Angelica sinensis for pain due to trauma.

RECIPE:

Warming Muscle Rub

  • 1 cup of arnica infused oil
  • 1 cup of St. John’s wort infused oil
  • 2 T. of cayenne pepper powder
  • 2 T. ginger root powder
  • 2 T. ground black pepper
  • 1 T. dried mustard powder
  • 1/4 c. of dried ginger root
  • 1/4 c. of cinnamon bark
  • 1 tsp. of Thai chilies
  • 1 T. wasabi paste
  • 1/4 cup of Angelica sinensis
  • 1/4 cup of Psuedoginseng
  • 1/4 cup of Persicae
  • 1/4 cup of Angelica pubescens
  • 1/2 cup of beeswax
  • 180 drops black pepper essential oil
  • 180 drops cinnamon essential oil
  • 180 drops wintergreen essential oil
  • 180 drops ginger essential oil

Day 1:  Combine Angelica sinensis, Psuedoginseng, Persicae, and Angelica pubescens with 1/2 cup of grain alcohol.  Toss to cover and let sit overnight.

Day 2:  Stain any remaining alcohol from herbs and combine the oil with all of the other herbs into a double boiler.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 2 hours. Leave in the double boiler and allow to sit overnight.

Day 3: Bring the double boiler (check the water) up to a simmer and let herbs/oil cook for another hour.  Uncover and cook for another hour to evaporate any remaining water or alcohol. Remove from the heat and strain.  (Note: I would not used powdered herbs in the future, in that they are difficult to strain).  After straining, add the infused oil back to the double boiler adding beeswax.  Bring the heat back up and stir until beeswax is dissolved.  Remove from the heat and cool slightly.  Add essential oils, stir again and pour into glass containers.

The results is an easily applied warming salve to be used for aches and pains.  I used it on my shoulders and knees after a long hike and the next day I woke up pain free. Avoid use on sensitive skin.

A Planetary Approach to Making Herbal Pain Relieving Patches

Picture1A few years ago I had the opportunity to go to China and study at Longhua Hospital Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  During our training we toured different departments at the hospital.  In the Traumatology department they had several crock pots full of herbal plasters or gaos which they painted on muslin.  They were unwilling to discuss the contents of the crock pots but this challenged me to devise my own methods for making medicated plasters.

In Chinese medicine, gaos are a suspensiIMG_1523on of ground herbs in a paste like medium that allows it to be spread on the skin. Sometimes this is a cream, salve or patch.  Patches are convenient I have had great success using them afor the temporary relief of minor aches and pains of muscles and joints.

This post is a documentation of the process that I used for making the patches including lessons learned.  To begin with, I had to figure out what type of medium to suspended the herbs in.  After a lot of rumination, I decided to use a oil and beeswax base, which I thought would be thick enough to be painted onto the muslin or in my case pre-made bandages.  When mixed properly, the beeswax also acts as a preservative, allowing the gao to keep for an extended period of time without spoiling.

For this experiment I started with myrrh and dragon’s blood resins.  After using a hammer to break up the large pieces into small grains, I covered the ground resins with organic, pharmaceutical grade 190-proof neutral corn, alcohol.  The use of alcohol for extraction is based on its ability to extract chemical constituents which are not water soluble.  I let this sit for one month, shaking daily.  When I started this process I was not sure what base I would eventually use but as stated above I settled on using a oil/beeswax medium.

At this point I had a alcohol tincture that needed to be to converted into oil. I used an Ayurvedic oil making process to do this conversion.  I strained the resins from the alcohol and combined the mixture with 16 parts water in a stainless steel saucepan.  I cooked this uncovered on low until the water  evaporated.  Comment:  I particularly like the process for making medicinal oils with this technique, which I believe provides a clarity that is not achieved through other methods.

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Before (alcohol/herb) and After (oil)

The next step in the process I added additional herbs to the oil mixture.  I chose to add Chi Shao and Tian San Qi, both herbs that are used internally and externally for addressing pain in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  This is where I made a mistake. I used IMG_5905herbs that had I had on hand that had already been processed and included a binder.  The binder congealed together turning into a glob ball.  Had I just used ground herbs then everything would have worked fine.

After starting over again, I ground the safflower and tian san qi, into powder and added it to the oil,  (covered) cooking over low heat overnight in the crook pot.  The next step in the process was to determine how much beeswax to add.  I used 1/3 cup of beeswax to 1/2 cup of oil, based on wanting it to be thick enough to be able to paint, but not thin enough to rub off on the skin.  This seemed like the perfect amount of beeswax.  After the beeswax melted I removed the herb/oil mixture from the heat, adding 1/2 tsp of menthol crystals, stirring until dissolved (do this in a well ventilated room).  To this I added 15 drops of ginger and black pepper essential oils.

IMG_5904Using a paint brush I applied the mixture to ready made bandages, applying several coats.  Hint:  I kept the mixture liqIMG_5907uid by keeping it on low heat until I was done.

The results are perfect.  I used one of the bandages on a sore wrist and it worked like a charm.  Painting the mixture on muslin would work as well, using gaze to hold the muslin in place.

There are any number of herbs that can be used topically, the following is a list of mainly Chinese herbs.

Er Cha

Black Catechu (Chinese: Er cha, Acacia catechu) belongs to the category of Substances for topical application. It moderates pain, stops bleeding due to external trauma

Da HuangChinese Rhubarb (Chinese: Da Huang, Rheum palmatum L ) belongs to the category of Downward Draining Herbs. These herbs are commonly used to stimulate or lubricate the gastrointestinal tract and facilitate the expulsion of stool. According to our East Earth Trade Winds herbalist Da Huang whose main purpose is to drain heat and purge accumulations also has the effect of invigorating the blood and dispelling blood stasis and it is used for blood stasis due to traumatic injury. It is used with Angelicae sinensis (dang gui), Semen Persicae (tao ren) and Carthami (hong hua) for blood stasis.

Pu Gong YingDandelion (Chinese: Pu gong Ying, Taraxaci Mongolici) belong to the herbal category Herbs that Clear Heat and Resolve Toxicity. This herb can disperse Qi stagnation and reduce swelling.

dragons_blood-product_1x-1403631315Dragon’s Blood (Chinese: Xue Jie; Botanical name: Sanguis Draconis) is a resinous secretion of the fruit of Daemonorops draco. Our East Earth Trade Winds herbalist says that it gets its name because of its resemblance to dried blood. It belongs to the category of Herbs that Circulate the Blood. It dispels blood stasis and alleviates pain and is used for symptoms related to injury from falls, fractures, bruises, and sprains. It is used with Olibanum and Myrrh for bruising, swelling, and pain from trauma. It can stop bleeding when applied topically to an external injury. It invigorates the blood, disperse stasis, and stops pain. Sanguis Draconis is often combined with Olibanum and Myrrh. All three of these herbs have similar functions but Sanguis Draconis is most able to promote the regeneration of tissue, help sores heal, and stop bleeding.

Gu Sui buDrynaria (Chinese: Gu sui bu, Drynaria roosii) is a Yang Tonifying Herb. It tonifies the Kidneys and strengthens bones. It promotes the mending of the sinews and bones and is used for traumatic injuries such as falls,fractures, contusions, and sprains. It is especially useful for ligament injuries and simple fractures.

long guFossilized bone (Botanical name: Os Draconis; Chinese: Long gu) belongs to the category of Substances that Calm the Spirit. It is used topically for chronic, non-healing sores and ulcers.

Zhi Zi

Gardenia (Chinese: Zhi zi, Gardeniae jasminoidis) belongs to the Category Herbs that Clear Heat and Drain Fire. It can reduce swelling and move blood stagnation due to trauma.

Jin yin huaHoneysuckle (Botanical name: Lonicera; Chinese: Jin yin hua) belongs to the category of Herbs that Clear Heat and Resolve Toxicity. It disperses heat, resolves toxicity, cools the blood, and stops bleeding. It can be used for hot painful sores and swellings.

saflowerSafflower (Botanical: Carthami; Chinese: Hong Hua) belongs to the category of Herbs that Circulate the Blood. It invigorates the blood, dispels stasis, and stops pain. Because it is light in weight it is said to have a rapid effect on the movement of blood and the transformation of stasis and stopping pain.

xu duanTeasel (Botanical name: Radix Dipsaci; Chinese: Xu duan) is a Yang Tonifying Herb. It tonifies the Liver and Kidneys, strengthens the sinews and bones and is used for sore and painful lower back and knees, and stiffness in the joints. Our East Earth Trade Winds herbalist says that it also promotes the movement of blood, alleviates pain, and reconnects the sinews and bones. It is often used for trauma especially for pain and swelling in the lower back and limbs from trauma.

Ru XiangFrankincense (Chinese: Ru Xiang, Resina Olibani) is a sap that comes from the Boswellia tree. This herb belongs to the category of  Herbs that Circulate Blood.  It is said to invigorate the blood, promote the movement of Qi, stop pain, and promote the healing and regeneration of damaged tissue. It is often used for traumatic pain due to blood stasis (e.g., bruising). Gummi Olibanum can also relax the tendons and reduce swelling.

Myrrh_Gum_Resin_OG_2019-04-16-product_1x-1555445293Myrrh (Chinese: Mo Yao) is a fragrant gum resin that also belongs to the belongs to the category of  Herbs that Circulate the Blood. It in said to break up blood stagnation to stop pain, reduce swelling, and generate flesh. It promotes healing. When used in conjunction with Olibanum both the Qi and Blood are addressed. Our East Earth Trade Winds Herbalist says that while Olibanum invigorates the blood, Myrrh disperses blood. Myrrh is said to be better for stagnation. Both of these herbs can stop pain, reduce swelling and promote regeneration of damaged tissue. For this reason the two herbs are often used together.

Du HuoAngelica Pubescens (Chinese: Du Huo) is categorized as an Herb that Dispels Wind-Dampness. These herbs alleviate pain in the muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints and bones. Angelica pubescens expels cold and promotes Qi and Blood flow. It disperses cold and unblocks painful obstruction (bruises, swelling, etc). It can be used for chronic and acute problems.

Chuan XiongLigustici Wallichi (Chinese: Chuan Xiong) belongs to the category of Herbs that Circulate the Blood. It warms and unblocks the blood vessels invigorating the blood, promoting the movement of qi, expelling wind, and stopping pain. It can be used for any blood stagnation pattern. It is often combined with Angelica Sinensis for pain and numbness from stagnant Qi blocking the Blood channels.

Tao RenPersicae, Peach Kernals (Chinese: Tao Ren) belongs to the category of Herbs that Invigorate the Blood. It invigorates the Blood and is an important herb for dispelling stasis due to traumatic injury. It is used with Angelica sinensis for pain due to trauma. It is also used with Carthami for invigorating the blood as both herbs promote the flow of blood and dispel stagnation.

Dang GuiAngelica Sinensis (Chinese: Dang Gui) is a commonly used herb in Chinese medicine. It’s main purpose is to tonify the blood. But it also invigorates and harmonizes the blood and disperses cold. It is an important herb for stopping pain due to blood stasis. It is commonly used for traumatic injury. It is combined with Olibanum and Myrrh for strains and fractures.

Pu HuangCattail Pollen Typhae (Chinese: Pu Huang) belongs to the subcategory of Herbs that Stop Bleeding. Pollen Typhae is the yellow colored pollen from cattail or bulrush. It is known to stop bleeding and is used for external bleeding associated with traumatic injury. It also invigorates the blood and dispels blood stasis. Using this herb can relieve pain from blood stagnation.

tian san qiPsuedoginseng (Chinese: San qi or Tian Qi) belongs to the category of Herbs that Stop Bleeding. This herb stops bleeding without causing blood stagnation, transforms blood stagnation, reduces swelling and stops pain. Because it reduces swelling and alleviates pain this is the herb of choice for traumatic injuries and is used for swelling and pain due to falls, fractures, contusions, and sprains. According to our East Earth Trade Winds Herbalist in Chinese medicine Blood stagnation causes pain and when the stagnation is removed then the blood can resume its normal circulation which helps eliminate pain and swelling.Other herbs:  African basil (Ocimum gratissimum L) herb oil, Cinnamon oil, fang feng root, Formosan sweet gum (Liquidambar formosana Hance) Resin, Fragrant angelica root extract, Greater galangal root extract, Ginger root extract, Huo xue dan [Glechoma longituba (Nakai) Kuprian] aerial part, Natural latex rubber, Nux vomica (Strychnos nux-vomica L) seed, Rosin, Safflower flower, Schizonepeta (Schizonepeta tenuifolia Briq.) flowering aerial part on a cotton pad.

Happy Medicine Making

Nettle Gomasio

I don’t know about you, but I love Gomasio.  Gomasio is a dry condiment traditionally made from toasted unhulled sesame seeds and salt.  It is often used as a toping sprinkled over rice.  In my case, I sprinkle it over just about everything that comes out of my kitchen.

Gomasio is typically made with tan or black sesame seeds. The seeds are toasted before being mixed with the salt. Occasionally the salt is also toasted. The ratio of sesame seeds to salt varies according to taste and diet, generally ranging between 5:1 (5 parts sesame seeds to 1 part salt) and 15:1.

Gomasio made it claim to fame in the US as part of the macrobiotic diet movement and is thought to be a healther alternative to ordinary salt. Generally, the gomasio used in macrobiotic cuisine contains less salt than traditional Japanese gomasio (a ratio of 18 parts sesame seeds to 1 part salt.

Interesting factoid: Gomasio is also used in Japaneese to describe a head of hair containing both white and black hair strands that intermingle, similar to the English idiom for hair that is salt and pepper.

In this version of Gomasio, I started with left over Nettle Chips.  If you haven’t had nettle chips, it is just a variation on the more popular Kale chips populating the grocery isle.

Nettle Gomasio

Suribachi

4 cups of Nettle chips

1/2 cup of pine nuts

1/2 cup of sesame seeds

1/4 cup of nutritional yeast

2 T. of kelp

1 T. of rosemary

2 T. of corriander seed

1/2-1 cup of Himalayan Pink salt

 

 

Step one: dry roast the sesame seeds by gently warming them in a pan over medium heat, tossing or stirring constantly, until brown, then move to a bowl.

Step two: combine the corriander seed and pine nuts in the same pan and dry roast until slightly brown, then combine in bowl with sesame seeds.

Step three: combine the remaining ingredients into the bowl and stir together until well mixed.

Step four:  place ingredients in food processor, suribachi or other type of grinder.  Process until done and store in glass jar.

Sprinkle on soups, pizza, rice, cooked vegetables and anything else you can think of that you would be using salt for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consumer Beware: The Rampant Under Dosing of Herbal Products

The world of herbal supplements is often confusing and making heads or infusiontails out of dosages, etc. takes time, research and a bit of math. Many folks buy herbs from their local health food stores, through the Internet or from alternative care providers. More often than not, they follow the instructions that appear on the bottle. I have analyzed many formulas that clients have brought to me and I am always struck by the fact that what they are taking is far below the recommended daily therapeutic dosage. As an herbalist, I contend that if folks are not seeing the intended effects it is either due to under dosing or not addressing the root cause of their condition. For the purposes of this article I am going to concentrate on the issue of under dosing and although I know that this topic is potentially controversial, it nonetheless needs to be examined.

I believe that under dosing is rampant due to the following: the true cost of taking herbs therapeutically, herbal profit margins and the risk adverse nature of supplement manufactures. To illustrate my point we will look at several forms of existing herbal products in relationship to recommended daily therapeutic dosages.

Let’s start by picking an herb. An average recommended dose of Vitex (Chaste Tree) berry is 3-6 grams a day of dried ground herb, as stated in several prominent books on herbalism. For this analysis I will use this as my baseline for establishing a daily therapeutic dose. When we look at using tinctures several leading tincturesbrands provide Vitex tinctured at a 1:5 ratio (a standard ratio that many manufactures use, I believe based on profit margins). This measurement is an herb to liquid ratio, meaning that 5 milliliters of liquid equals one gram of herb. If you want to take the therapeutic dose of 3 grams of Vitex a day, you would need to take 1 teaspoon of tincture, three times a day (1 tsp is approximately 5 milliliters). When we look at the cost of this dose, a standard 1-ounce tincture bottle would last two days (1 oz equals 6 teaspoons). At an average cost of $10 a day this would cost $40 a week. If you take the upper range of the recommended dose – 6 grams, you would need to double the amount of tincture equaling an ounce of tincture a day at $10 a day this would be approximately $70 per week.

Most tincture bottles provide recommendations based on a drop dosage. In the case of Vitex a review of several manufacturers suggest an average of 30 drops (30 drops equals approximately 1 ml although this depends on the viscosity) three times a day. There are several ways to look at this, but the simplest is to remember that 5 milliliters of a 1:5 ratio equals one gram of Vitex. If this amount is taken 3 times a day you would be taking 3 milliliters of Vitex or less than 1 gram of herb which is far below the low range of the 3-6 grams a day. Some herbalists would make the case that tinctures are a more concentrated form of herbal preparation due to their bio-availability of chemical constituents thereby lower dosages are appropriate. This might indeed be true and depends on your frame of reference. Either way it behooves us to take the time to do the research and math to figure out the actual dosage that you are taking or recommending.

When we look at the comparison of therapeutic dosage in relationship to herbal capsules under dosing becomes even more apparent. For examplecapsules many leading manufactures supply Vitex at 400 mg per capsule (400 mg equals .4 gram) with a recommend daily dose of 2 to 3 capsules a day. In doing the math this translates to consuming .8 gram of Vitex at 2 capsules a day and 1.2 gram of Vitex at 3 capsules a day, far below the recommended daily therapeutic dose. In fact to get to 3 grams you would have to consume 8 capsules a day and at 6 grams a day you would have to consume 16 capsules a day.

I have done similar analysis of Traditional Chinese Medicine, medicinal mushrooms and standardized herbal supplement formulas only to find that the dosages on the bottle fall far below therapeutic recommendations. So what is the answer?

  1. Invest in a comprehensive book on herbs that lists therapeutic dosages in grams for example Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra.
  2. Determine the therapeutic dose for a given herb.
  3. Read the information in the box (Supplement Facts panel). What is the recommended serving size? What is the suggested dosage?
  4. Do the math. Compare the supplements recommended daily dose to the therapeutic dose.
  5. Look for fluid extracts which are tinctured at 1:1 or 1:2 ratio or other concentrated forms of herbal preparations.