Topical Herbal Formulas for Pain
The following topical herbal formulas are all designed to treat acute and chronic injuries and pain, promoting healing from the outside in. They include Chinese herbal oils, liniments, salves, plasters, and compresses and I use them extensively in combination with traditional therapies like cupping and acupressure. If you have the type of condition that would benefit from topical formulas, or from any of the other additional treatments that I offer, I will include them in your acupuncture session at no extra charge. For example, Chinese herbal formulas can also help stop pain, helping you heal from the inside out, and dietary changes based on 5-element nutrition can help reduce inflammation and heal tissues. Acupuncture is the fundamental therapy upon which all of my treatments are built, but my toolbox also includes Chinese herbal medicine, 5-element nutrition, ba guan (cupping), tui na (Chinese medical massage), zhi ya (acupressure), chi nei tsang (internal organ massage), gua sha (massage with jade and horn tools), and topical herbal formulas for pain. Please click here for more information about my combination treatments.
In Chinese medicine, traumatic injuries disrupt the flow of chi and blood in the area, causing stagnation and accumulation, resulting in pain, swelling, bruising, and reduced range of motion. In all stages of injury, therefore, the main treatment principle is to restore the normal flow of chi and blood through the area. In the acute stage of an injury (1-7 days) it is also important to counteract inflammation by using cooling formulas. In the post-acute stage (1-3 weeks), the focus turns toward improving range of motion. Warm herbal soaks and compresses can now be applied, penetrating tissues to reduce spasms and release adhesions. The chronic stage (3 weeks or more) is characterized by stiffness and aching pain. If the connective tissues were strained or overstretched, they need to be strengthened. If there are remaining accumulations of stagnant chi and blood, they need to be addressed. If the circulation to the area remains impaired, the tissues may be cold to the touch or sensitive to cold so warming topicals are used.
- Shaolin Dee Dat Jow This alcohol-based liniment comes out of the martial arts lineage of Chinese herbal medicine and is used for acute injuries. It cools inflammation, moves chi and blood, dispels stasis, disperses swelling, clears heat, and stops pain. Because of its particular healing properties, it can also be applied to stings and bites.
- Dragon’s Blood Liniment This alcohol-based liniment is cool to neutral so it can be used in the acute or post-acute stage. It moves chi and blood, dispels stasis, disperses swelling, and stops pain. It is formulated especially for closed traumatic injuries with pronounced blood stasis, like bruising.
- Dr. Bob’s Medicated Oil Like a natural icy-hot, this oil-based liniment contains both peppermint and cinnamon. It is neutral to warm, so it is used in the post-acute and chronic stages. This formula moves qi and blood, cools and clears heat, and warms and frees the flow of the channels and vessels.
- Wood Lock Medicated Oil This is a warming oil-based liniment for post-acute and chronic stages that is also good for cupping. It is specially formulated to penetrate and unlock connective tissues like ligaments and tendons so it is the topical of choice for the IT band and areas where there are a lot of attachments, like the neck and lower back.
- Green Willow Liniment The most warming liniment I carry, this is best for chronic stages of injury. It moves chi and blood, warms the channels, stops pain, and dispels cold, damp, and stasis. It is particularly good for chronic, arthritic pain with blood stasis that is worse with cold and damp. It is also helpful for non-healing closed traumatic injuries.
- Wu Yang Medicated Plaster This is the most cooling plaster I carry and is best for the acute stage of injury. It is used for sprains, strains, and torn or pulled muscles where there is swelling, heat, and inflammation. It is also for chronic tendinitis that is worse with heat.
- Yunan Baiyao Plaster Because it is neutral, this plaster can be used for either stage one or stage two injuries, even if there are signs of inflammation. It is excellent at breaking up stagnant blood so it is the best all-around plaster for acute traumatic injuries, especially sprains with accumulations of blood and fluids.
- 701 Dieda Medicated Plaster Since it is warming, this plaster should not be used if there are any signs of inflammation. It breaks up accumulated blood, heals damaged tissues, and even treats bone spurs.
- Hua Tuo Pain Relief Patch This is the hottest plaster of the four and it is used exclusively for chronic stage injuries with residual stiffness, impaired circulation, and pain, especially if the tissues feel cold or the pain is worse with cold, damp weather.
Soaks and Compresses
- Post-Trauma Soak/Compress This warming formula for post-acute injuries moves qi and blood, resolves stasis, relieves pain, disinhibits joints, and dispels cold and damp. It is good for sinew damage where swelling has substantially decreased (usually five to seven days).
- Pain-Relieving Soak/Compress Another warming formula for post-acute injuries, this one moves chi and blood, stops pain, dispels damp, courses wind, and resolves stasis. It is used for sinew damage, closed fractures, and traumatic injuries with severe, persistent pain.
- Joint Injury Soak/Compress This formula for chronic injuries is even more warming and moves chi and blood, dispels wind and damp, relieves pain, quickens the connecting vessels, and dis-inhibits joints. It is especially for injuries with damage to the connective tissues and enduring joint pain.
- Sinew-Penetrating Soak/Compress As an energetically hot formula, this one dispels wind, cold, and damp, relieves pain, moves chi, and soothes sinews. It is specifically for chronic injuries with enduring pain of the soft tissue.