Guest Blog Post - Traditional Herbs for MMA/BJJ

Saturday, December 22, 2007

We were lucky enough to have a guest post by Josh of Plumdragon Herbs. As you'll recall, Josh helped me out last time I sustained some rather serious Grappling injuries. I've asked him to put together a very simple primer on eastern medicine alternatives to common BJJ and grappling sports injuries. Wow, did he deliver, so without further delay I give you..."Traditional Herbs for the Modern Fighter".

Traditional Herbs for the Modern Fighter

In modern day, martial artists engaging in intense training are aided by a myriad of advantages from the warriors of old. An entirely new era has evolved, whereby a trainer must be familiar enough with their athlete to recommend a customized regimen of supplements. However, while modern times have greatly enhanced supplements for the serious athlete or martial artist, they have almost entirely neglected the area of traumatology, and instead use cortisone shots, archaic ice treatment, and acts such as surgery to solve problems that unfortunately, can (and usually do) cause as much harm as good.

At first glance, herbalism seems an old and outdated form of therapy. But looking through the magnifying glass, we see that herbalism has grown and evolved over the centuries as well, and it is the job of each individual who works with herbs to do their part by continuing to research, verify, create, and most of all in todays world, dispel theories and ideas that are bogus.


Just as each type of food or drink you eat effects your body in a certain way, so do various herbs. If you eat too much greasy food, you may feel tired because of the wet heavy property of grease and fat; if you drink alcohol, you might feel a buzz due to the sweet invigorating properties of ethanol; and fortunately, if you apply certain herbs to an injury, it can help the healing process. There are a few different herbs and herbal recipes that can significantly aid the martial artist or athlete, both with injury prevention as well as healing injury at a drastically improved rate.

I often hear people exclaim, “But Josh! Why not just go to GNC and buy a bottle of each vitamin, mineral, etc and take a bunch of pills?” In America, we have a terribly unhealthy habit of taking our food products, separating it into the simplest parts, and putting it all back together in separate pieces. When we do this, we lose the synergy that the food we make produces as it grows; we lose all the thousands of supporting compounds; and the well-balanced diet that we’ve been evolving to live off of for millions of years is henceforth destroyed. Vitamin supplements are fantastic (especially if your diet sucks), but they will never beat a natural, well-balanced, non-processed diet. Fortunately, herbs fall into this category. So while kids prefer processed white bread, we adults know better!


Your body operates and regenerates at its maximum potential when it has an abundance of the proper nutrients for the task. Just as high quality protein is necessary for muscle development, or glucosamine to maintain good joint health, there are a number of plants that house thousands of important ingredients for overall body health. “Tonic” formulas such as Dang Gui Four and Four Gentlemans Herbs offer a well-rounded battery of compounds necessary for peak performance.

Four Gentlemen's HerbsOrder Four Gentleman's Herbs @ Plumdragon Herbs

These simple recipes, usually made into teas and taken internally, are loaded with vitamins and anti-oxidants and tons of other good stuff that helps to keep your energy high throughout the year, and keep your body operating the way it was intended.

Traditionally, these recipes were only indulged on once every couple of months. This is a good time frame to go by. However, listening to your body is the best way to determine whether that time frame is correct or not. And if you feel you need a general energy boost but don’t have these around at the time, dont hesitate to take a small teaspoon of honey every other day. Honey is absolutely chock-full of good stuff, and aside from being a good energy tonic, its among the best healthiest substances on the planet!


Its so common today for people to ice an injury that you will get funny looks if you tell people its not a very good idea. People grew up with so much acceptance of ice that nobody ever took the time to question it and examine if it was really a good idea or not. Lets do so now. Ice has the following advantages:
  • It is FREE.
  • It lowers inflammation.
  • It can help reduce pain.
However, ice is actually real bad news. Lets take a look at the disadvantages of using ice:

  • Low Temperature: Ice causes the entire injury to become very cold. This causes fluids to become more viscous, causing sinew to not glide properly. Furthermore, in an injury, a priority is to move out waste such as blood, from the site of the injury. Icing causes all this waste to become hard and stagnant, drastically slowing the healing process.
  • Lack of Blood Flow: Due to the low temperatures obtained, there is very little blood flow to the injury. Blood flow is the single most important aspect of healing an injury, to supply oxygen and important nutrients to cells so that they can perform their job.
  • Future Problems: Repeated use of ice on a specific area over time can cause tightness and sensitivity later in life due to the severely stagnating nature of icing.
  • Skin Damage: With over-icing, skin damage can result.

Those advocating ice will claim that ice is better than nothing. While this is probably not true, I wouldn’t leave you hanging without offering a far superior alternative to ice. Its not free, but almost…

San Huang San, or Three Yellow Powder, is a simple combination of three ground herbs that are mixed with water or oil and applied topically to a swollen injury. The herbs have a cooling nature which helps to reduce the swelling and inflammation, but they also have herbs which increase local blood circulation to help heal the injury. The result is night and day.

San Huang SanOrder Three Yellow Powder @ Plumdragon Herbs

Anyone can make a basic version of Three Yellow Powder. All the herbs for a basic version can be obtained from PlumDragon Herbs for only about $1/ounce. We also sell 6 ounce bags of the herbs preweighed. This amount of herb will last you a very long time. The basic recipe:

* Rhubarb Root (Da Huang)
* Scutellaria (Huang Qin)
* Phellodendron Bark (Huang Bai)

Use equal parts of each herb. Mix ground herbs with water, green tea, egg whites, or a carrier oil. Use just enough liquid to turn the herbs into a thick paste. Apply to your injury as soon as possible. Cover with a small piece of saran wrap, and wrap loosely with an ace bandage or similar wrapping bandage. Leave in place for up to 2 hours. Remove and observe change in inflammation. Exclaim out loud, “Ill never use ice again!”


The single most common injury in Mixed Martial Arts competition is bleeding. Wounds or cuts that bleed comprise over 50% of the injuries today. There is one simple herbal based formula that can stop cuts and lacerations from bleeding and has even been successfully tested in laboratory settings for its ability to stop internal bleeding. Yunnan Baiyao is a proprietary formula used to stop bleeding of all kinds.

Yunnan Baiyao

Order Yunnan Baiyao @ Plumdragon Herbs

It is cheap, and it is markedly effective. This is a product that should be in every family’s home first aid kit, and at the side of the mats in every martial arts school in the world.

PlumDragon Herbs sells this product at just above cost because we feel its important to have, and hope that by offering the lowest price that we encourage others to buy it.


We don’t usually look at bruising as a big deal other than a bit of minimal pain; instead we generally shrug them off as a temporary battle mark. However, repeated bruising of an area on the body can lead to problems later on, as simple as muscle/joint tightness, or as serious as blood clots that break off and travel towards the heart.

Fortunately, there are many many different types of herbs that can be applied topically to remove the swelling and pain of minor and serious bruises, as well as drastically increase the natural healing rate of the body. We sell bruise liniments called “dit da jow” at PlumDragon that have herbs which help to stop bleeding, reduce inflammation, and increase the circulation in the area so that cells have a larger blood supply to repair damaged tissue. The result is a much quicker recovery.

Using these types of liniments are easy to apply and cost-effective for the consumer.


In the world of grappling, the more common injuries are not from blunt trauma, but come from the punishment on tendons and joints when training to bring your submissions to the tap countless times, or accidentally pulling something a bit too far when rolling or competing. There are a number of herbal combinations that are well researched for their ability to relax, heal, and strengthen sinew and bone, and fight off achy arthritic joint pain and stretched damaged tendons. Many of these herbs are the natural source of many of the medicines on the market, but the herbs exist in their natural synergistic state which allows them to be effective without causing side effects.

PlumDragon Herbs sells a couple of different recipes that are relevant to the grappler who puts daily strain on the joints, or who has an injury such as a strain or sprain. The JKD dit da jow has healing functionality for bruises but works much more deeply than a basic bruise liniment and for that reason is often used by grapplers who work on a good deal of submission work.

JKD Dit Da JowOrder JKD Dit Da Jow @ Plumdragon Herbs

This particular liniment is used and endorsed by a number of martial artists and training facilities, including the Jeet Kune Do group in the Southern US, which has direct lineage with Dan Inosanto and Larry Hartsell; as such, approximately 1/2 of the curriculum of grappling on the mats.

Using products like this is part of the conditioning process and are often times referred to as “Training Liniments”. Just as a Thai boxer hits the bag to condition their shins and then applies Thai Oil (some serious MMA school however use dit da jow), the grappler should build a habit of applying liniment such as JKD jow to any tendons or joints that were especially stressed, directly after training sessions. This will allow these areas of the body to maintain a fantastic conditioning later in life and allow the grappler to push himself a bit farther in submissions without being forced to tap out. Of course, it will always be the other guy that has to tap out, right?

A popular item that is commonly used in tandem with JKD jow in grappling is the Flexibility Pack.

Flexibility Herbs
Order the Flexibility Pack @ Plumdragon Herbs

This simple recipe is used in Yoga circles to enhance flexibility and is composed of herbs that warm the joints, relax the tendons, and give a small increase in cardiovascular blood flow. When used in conjunction with a rigorous and CONSISTENT stretching routine, many people notice a significant improvement in flexibility over the course of 2-4 weeks.


There are a number of fantastical claims in the world today, and there is no shortage of this in the realm of martial arts, where it is perhaps the most prominent. With that in mind...

The herbal products above *will* help you with injuries and in your training. But they are not wonder cures. They promote the basic functions of the body just like any other training aid or supplement but in many ways are superior to many of the other products available today for injury; they are also much less expensive.

When you choose an herbal product, do so with an open but questioning and analytical mind. Also realize that there are limits and it is unrealistic to expect unnatural results. Most importantly, nobody can tell you what the effect of a given substance on your body is, better than you! So don’t be afraid to try something for your self and test the results for in your training. Try something at different times (before or after a workout, morning or night), use different application methods. Be creative and enjoy the experience of learning more about your body and the use of herbs to better your training!

Happy training to everyone in the New Year!


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