Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Chinese Herbs for your first aid kit and medicine cabinet

As an herbalist I get a lot of questions about what herbs I take for various conditions, what I have around the house for emergencies, and what I travel with. We're not all blessed with a complete herbal pharmacy in the house or access to raw herbs growing in the backyard. So I thought I would write about my "go to" formulas and patents.

Without question the number one formula everyone should have around the house and in their travel kit is Yunnan Bai Yao. This legendary Chinese formula stops bleeding, and inhibits inflammation. It is said members of the Chinese army all carry vials in their first aid kits. The formula is a family secret and remains so to this day. It comes in several versions - capsule, powder, and spray. I personally like the powder for healing wounds. This powdered version also comes with a little pill in the cap to stop internal bleeding. Yunnan Bai Yao is also popular for use on pets, so much so that people often use it for pets that are stricken with cancer.

The second formula that I consider essential is Curing Pills or Po Chai Pills. These little round pills come in either pouches or small vials, and can relieve indigestion, and excessive stomach acid. I have used them to combat the effects of overeating, nausea, hangovers, food poisoning, and even at the beginning of a cold or flu when my stomach doesn't quite feel right.

One of my favorites when I have a cough or feel a sore throat coming on is San She Dan Chuan Bei Ye. This liquid comes in little vials with a straw and at one point contained snake bile!! It tastes sweet, soothes the throat, and calms cough. Typically I'll take something like Loquat and Fritillary Syrup every four hours, and in between doses add the San She Dan vials. The loquat syrup is known as Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa, and also tastes very sweet with a bit of menthol. I typically mix a tablespoon into a cup of green tea when I feel a cold coming on, or when I'm trying to get rid of a lingering cough.

When it comes to muscle soreness, and recovery there are a vast array of products. I generally approach healing muscles with a  pre-workout formula, and a post workout formula. For the pre-workout I always turn to Zheng Gu Shui. It's both cooling and warm, and immediately begins to loosen stiff or painful muscles, while bringing blood flow to the tendons and ligaments. For post-workout I use a variety of dit dar jow, or die da jiu (Mandarin-pinyin). For generations dit dar jow was primarily made by kung fu practitioners and instructors, and was hard to find if you weren't in the know. Today there are many commercial variations. I always have Herbal Science Die Da Yao Jiu on hand, but I also have used X-Jow, and some custom formulas. There are two great resources online for dit dar jow as well, Plum Dragon herbs, and Dale Dugas. Both offer pre-aged formulas, and raw herbs and supplies for you to make your own if you so choose.

When I travel, I take along small packets of everything mentioned above, but I also have a bit of a pre-travel ritual as well. I start about two weeks before taking Dragon Herb's Supreme Protector. All of the ingredients (Reishi, Astragalus, Schizandra, and Cordyceps) help to build the immune system, and aid the adaptability of the body to handle stress. The day I get on the plane, and for the duration of the trip, I switch to another Dragon Herbs formula known as Perilla Clear (Perilla, Ashwaganda, Cordyceps, and Reishi). This formula continues to strengthen the immune system but also helps relieve any phlegm or cough that may be caught on the plane. Perilla (zi su zi in pinyin) is also known to moisten the intestines which can help regulate travel related constipation. Perilla Clear is one of the most adaptogenic formulas you could take, so I also suggested this formula during seasonal change, time change or geography change, and periods of increased stress. It's especially helpful for anyone who suffers from seasonal allergies.

For burns I really like Ching Wan Hung, a traditional patent with dang gui (a blood invigorator), and mo yao (myrrh) which heals flesh. This topical ointment will not only heal burns faster, but can also minimize scarring.

There are many more, but this short list can help you begin to build your own home Chinese herbal pharmacy...