There’s so many herbs, each with multiple actions; so many formulas, so many uses. Are any of them volatile? Can they work against each other? What happens when you want to be using an internal and external formula at the same time?
Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. A lot of people dismiss Traditional Chinese Medicine as complicated sorcery, but at its root it’s really quite simple. If you can understand hot versus cold or “too much” versus “too little” then you can understand TCM. Most of what you see is the interplay of simple polar opposites.
Today, we’re going to look at a particular pair of polar opposites that are frequently at work for high contact athletes who are constantly changing and challenging their bodies, and then use it to answer a lot of these questions about combining formulas.
Do You have an Excess, A Deficiency, or Both?
One key opposing pair you need to know about is the difference between Excess and Deficiency. You have an Excess when you have too much of something building up, and you have a Deficiency when you have too little of a nutrient you need.
When you see inflammatory swelling and bruising around an injury, those are forms of excess. When you have low energy or cold extremities from poor circulation, those are types of deficiencies.
If you have a deficiency, you need a tonic. If you have an excess, you need something with clearing properties. Spring Wine is a perfect example of a very strong Tonic, while most any dit da wan or dit da jow are good examples of clearing formulas.
You’ll notice that most tonics are internal formulas (wines, teas, tinctures, etc), and most clearing formulas are external formulas (liniments, plasters, etc).
There are exceptions. For example, most iron palm jows contain a couple of tonic herbs for strengthening bone and sinew, and there are a number of effective clearing formulas that can be taken internally. As a general rule, though, you can break things down this way:
- If all you need is a tonic to address a deficiency, you should probably search for an internal formula.
- If you need a clearing formula to reduce an excess, you can use both internal and external formulas, but you’re likely to great the best effects from an external formula.
Simple enough … but what happens if you have an excess in one part of your body and a deficiency in another? How do you address them both? Are there any dangers in combining internal and external formulas?
Combining External and Internal Formulas
Internal and external formulas of many kinds go great with one another. Generally, there’s nothing to worry about. These are herbs, not synthetic drugs.
While there are some specific cases where you shouldn’t match internal and external, it has more to do with your training regimen and goals and how your body responds to that training.
For your external liniment, it’s as simple as determining your goal:
- Is it more for bruising, or is it more of a conditioning-style iron palm jow?
- Do you need more pain-relief or more anti-inflammatory action, or both?
- Do you need mild or very strong clearing action?
For your internal liniment, keep the following in mind while choosing and using:
- The stronger your external liniment, and the more active and strenuous your daily training is, the more you will want to steer your internal liniment towards a tonic.
- The more prone you are to injury, or if you are new to training and tend to get bruised or injured more easily (up to a point), the more you will want to steer your internal liniment towards a clearing dit da wan.
It’s not one or the other. You can experience a bit of both. You just have to decide which one you experience MORE of.
Cycling On and Off
One great piece of advice that will keep you safe over the long run is to take strategic breaks. It’s possible to get too much of a good thing.
Too much of a tonic can cause an Excess in the body, often referred to as cloying; while too much of a clearing formula over time can cause deficiency. The stronger the formula, the quicker this will take place and may manifest in a myriad of ways.
To be safe, follow these two principles:
- If you’re using a tonic, every 4-8 weeks you should take a couple weeks off from the tonic. You can either take nothing internally, or use a light moving and clearing formula instead.
- Every couple of months, put away the clearing dit da wan and boost your system with a tonic, or just taking a break from internal supplementation entirely.
Listen to what your body is saying to you and give it the proper herbs, as a result, any problems will most often resolve themselves.
Is There a Formula That Does Both?
Yes, but they’re rare. Balanced formulas like this can be particularly difficult to design and integrate into a strong single synergistic solution.
There are a number of formula pairs that were created in tandem and were meant to be taken together. One of the more common examples is the Bak Mei "Dim Mak" dit da jow / dit da wan, which Plum Dragon had translated directly from Chinese characters back in 2008 and has been filled for interested parties ever since.
PlumDragon has several of these types of formulas (you can find in them in our full formula listing, quite a few are special order only and aren’t listed in our online store.) However, when we look at these, it becomes apparent that they were devised in certain regions, for certain purposes and paradigms. They don’t always fit the uses of each individual. Modification can be difficult and time consuming for just a single individual.
Solution: The Comprehensive Iron Palm Tonic
We’ve met this challenge for you by creating the Comprehensive Iron Palm tonic in collaboration with Dr. Neeley of Neeley Acupuncture. It’s composed of 26 select herbal ingredients, carefully combining a balance of tonifying and clearing elements capable of reducing pain and inflammation and bruising while strengthening bone and sinew at the same time.
If you’re doing Iron Palm or any kind of powerful tissue conditioning or athletic training, you owe it to yourself to try it out!
Feel Free to Experiment On Your Own
Feel free to experiment with internal and external formulas. You’re not going to wake up bleeding from your eyes or with your skin sloughing off. If an internal formula is safe for you, then using it alongside am external jow is fine.
If you’d like to start off easy, then try some of our pre-arranged pairs or give the Comprehensive a try before branching out on your own. Either way, listen to your body, adjust accordingly, and have fun!