Herbal medicine Martial Arts

A historical component of martial arts: herbal medicine

After trying for a third time to be a runner (do your joints talk to you? ‘Cause my knees just piped up a disgruntled don’t you ever do that again!), I had to deal with the runner’s knee pain and inflammation. The pain varied and moved all around my patella, hurting when I moved, hurting when I didn’t move. Going down stairs or hills was especially precarious. To go to taekwondo class I put on pain-relieving Chinese herbal medicine patches.


On the third day of runner’s knee pain, when it wasn’t getting any better, when dull achiness was still there, I started to worry. Even though the pain wasn’t bad, sharp or stabbing, and would come and go, it always came back. Was this a new normal?


8 days after my last run (shut up, knees, I don’t need to hear it again I have almost no pain. I come up and down the stairs, I squat to clean a spill on the floor.  No creaks, no groans, no twinges. YES!




Because I got a lovely box of amazing herbal formulas from Evergreen Herbs. After two doses yesterday of “Knee and Ankle Acute”, and then beginning daily doses of “Knee and Ankle Chronic” my pain is 90% gone.


Crazy? My friend is the same–when her skin conditions start to flare, two doses of her herbal formula makes it better and fast.


This isn’t new–it’s ancient. The Asian martial arts have been dealing with injuries for centuries. These formulas and herbs go back that far. Those training in the martial arts knew they needed help with the energy it took to train rigorously plus the injuries that inevitably ensued. Here’s a quote from the book “The Warrior as Healer”


Traditionally, martial arts training had placed equal emphasis on developing combat skills and nurturing the spirit of the aspiring student. Unfortunately, the study of the healing arts, the practice of meditation, and the use of herbs– all parts of the development of the student–are noticeably absent in modern martial arts training.”


Not just dulling the feeling of pain, Traditional Chinese, Korean and Japanese herbal medicine go to the patterns that are causing the injury and pain, and the weaknesses that are underlying to allow the injuries to happen. They strive to completely heal the injury so there are no further issues.


Being an herbalist with jars and bottles and boxes in the cabinets of the guest bathroom that doubles as my personal herbal pharmacy, I had a few pain and injury formulas on-hand to help while I waited for the Evergreen formula to arrive:


  1. Mahanarayan oil is my standard for sore muscles after class, but it’s also good for joints as well. An Ayurvedic formula from India, it proves every traditional system had formulas for joint pain and injury.
  2. Herbal soft plasters applied topically and allowed to soak into the injured area. Spring Wind is my favorite brand. Soft plasters are, in my opinion, superior to a liniment or cream because those have to be applied frequently. A plaster is thick and gooey, and after you wrap it, it stays over the area for hours. Great to wear overnight.
  3. Hua Tou plasters for pain, because they contain not only herbs but also a small amount of aspirin. These are like large, rectangular band-aids the size of your palm, but you can cut them smaller to go over different areas.  I cut mine in strips to put on the sides of my patella, so it didn’t inhibit movement but was right over the painful area.


Books like “Tooth from the Tiger’s Mouth” and “The Warrior as Healer” both tell of the long relationship martial artists have with herbal medicine and other healing arts. Internal formulas were used as much by martial artists as topical formulas. Both books highlight these formulas, and the Evergreen Formulas I use are based on the principles of Chinese medicine and historical martial arts formulas.  Perhaps more martial artists will open up to this aspect of the martial arts.  If you believe in the other aspects of martial arts, why not at least try it?


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