Many people have heard of dit da jow (DDJ), the mystical topical medicine of the Orient that, when rubbed onto the skin, can heal and repair damage to the human body quickly and naturally. Lauded by martial artists from all over China for centuries before being introduced to the rest of the world, this natural plant based medicine contains pain relief and healing properties that became as legendary as the warriors who used it.
History of Dit Da Jow
Dit da jow1 (Chinese: 跌打酒) is loosely translated to "hit fall wine". Possibly originating in the religious temples scattered across ancient China, DDJ was a natural topical analgesic pain liniment based on medicinal properties of local flora.
In these early days of herbal medicine, trial and error were used to determine the efficacy of one herb over another. Successful use of a particular plant was recorded. This iterative process of herb selection led to better farming, cultivation, and extraction techniques which, in turn, led to more powerful herbs. As botanical knowledge grew, individual herbs were combined into formulas and tested for treatment of more complex medical conditions.
Soon afterwards, herbalists began cooking, dry frying, and trying other plant processing methods to extract the most active compounds out of the plants and further improve patient outcomes. These processing techniques were collectively known as pao zhi (Chinese: 炮制). Formulas became more complicated, more effective, and more popular. Herbal medicine exploded and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) began to take shape.
The Military Advantage of Dit Da Jow
As the jow formulas evolved and became more useful, they became more valuable. The creation of a powerful pain relieving formula that could help heal muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones was immediately useful on the battlefield. It could be the key advantage to winning a war and trouncing the enemy.
In those days, war was typically a battle of attrition and breaking down the enemy was a key strategy to a successful campaign. Just like all things wielding power, these healing recipes were sought out by fighters who wanted to exploit it for tactical advantage and on the flip side, the formulas were hidden by those who wanted to protect it from misuse.
The Myth About Dit Da Jow
The stories of warriors miraculously healing from using these herbal medicinals are not all true. Keeping with the military theme, legends abound with no shortage of humans practically rising from the dead to obliterate enemies and foes after hiding in a cave for a week slathered in jow. The lore was vivid, gripping, and memorable enough to withstand the test of time.
Not to be confused with true eye-popping health stories, myths needed to pervade the military landscape and really exaggerate the healing powers of dit da jow. This allowed for a psychological warfare to take place simultaneously, or even before any physical war began. The more wild the story of superhuman strength and prowess, the more feared the subject of the myth became. The feared always has an advantage over the fearful in the art of war.
The Truth About Dit Da Jow
As with many things throughout history, dit da jow comes with a fair share of folklore intermingled with facts. We've explored one of the reasons why the myths of dit da jow exist. Now, let's go in the entirely opposite direction until we hit the truth. Does dit da jow even work?
The short answer is yes.
A long time ago, all we had was empirical data or word of mouth, to verify a formula's efficacy. For some, time-tested empirical data is enough proof that dit da jow works. Others require a little more unbiased evidence through a more rigorous exercising of the scientific method.
The scientific method tries to provide a structure to analyze something objectively. Here, the theory is to prove that dit da jow is effective when used topically. Modern testing confirms that some dit da jow formulas contain active compounds to reduce pain, increase circulation, and accelerate healing and recovery. Testing has also shown certain herbal ingredients do become potent from the traditional boiling, soaking, etc., processes handed down over the centuries. It has also been scientifically proven that when herbs soak longer in a decoction, they make a more concentrated (and possibly, more effective) hit fall liniment.
The Confusion About Dit Da Jow
There is still some misconception about the effectiveness of dit da jow, and almost all of it falls into one of two groups: lack of knowledge or lack of testing.
Note that we are not claiming all DDJ in existence was effective in speeding up the healing process. We are also not claiming that all of the herbs in every jow formula can be clinically proven to be effective. Some recipes had no significant benefit to healing. Some recipes still aren't fully understood as to what exactly is making them effective in healing! Science is always growing, learning, and understanding.
We are saying that there is modern scientific test data to support many of the historical DDJ claims of providing pain relief & enhancing healing mechanisms of the body. Certain active compounds in some dit da jow formulations match the empirical testing done over the centuries! It is proof that empirical data has enough value to lead us through times where there are many unknowns.
Let's use bo he, or mint leaf, (Chinese: 薄荷; Latin: piperita mentha), as an example of an herb used in some dit da jow formulas such as Battle Balm. Mint is a fairly common pain relieving plant ingredient for dit da jow and modern over-the-counter topical analgesics.
Why do people still think dit da jow is snake oil? The disbeliever of DDJ states that it is "folk medicine", usually in a derogatory way, or that there aren't clinical studies that prove dit da jow works. Sure, in it's infancy, herbal medicine was empirically driven. They couldn't scientifically test it. But, all medicine was empirically driven centuries ago because modern scientific test equipment did not exist hundreds of years ago! It was only recently that there was a way to prove that menthol, found in mint leaf, was a TRPM8 receptor stimulator, antibacterial, and GABA receptor modulator for pain.
Should we discount the validity of ancient medicine because we were only recently able to run a clinical test that comes to the same conclusion that some herbalist proved experimentally a thousand years ago? I think not. The idea that empirical data cannot hold true because it hasn't been proven in a controlled environment yet is akin to believing that gravity did not exist before it could be tested in a vacuum. Herbal testing continues to mature and as it does, we refine the medicine in lockstep.
The truth about dit da jow is that it works. It has worked for thousands of years and it will continue to provide a safe, natural, and effective way to help the body heal from injury and trauma.
What is Dit Da Jow?
Dit da jow is a topical formula based on herbs, and sometimes animal or insect constituents to relieve musculoskeletal pain, facilitate healing of the injured location, and/or prevent infection. It is traditionally a liniment formula, which uses water and alcohol as a base from which the bioactive components of the ingredients are extracted, or decocted over time. The liniment can be anywhere from a yellow to a deep reddish brown depending on the herbs used.
Dit da jow existed in a time when access to ice was either impossible, or extremely difficult. Medicines had to be prepared fresh, or made in such a way that would retain potency and strength. High alcohol content were one way to provide antibacterial properties as well as preserve the jow almost indefinitely. It is one reason why alcohol was an excellent format to prepare the herbs.
History tells us that long term storage of these herbal remedies in glass, or clay containers were one way to improve the effectiveness of the formula. Another method of increasing potency was to agitate the container periodically. This can move, or break up ingredients which provides more surface area for the water and alcohol to make contact with. Scientific analysis tells us that in long term storage, it is possible that more of the bioactive ingredients can be extracted from the plant matrix, though how much, is a separate question with many variables.
With modern technology, jows can be formulated quickly and still hold the same, if not more bioactive compounds than the age-old methods of herbal preparation. Commercial dit da jow products are readily available and are sold worldwide. Also, DDJ is now found in other formats, such as creams, balms, oil, etc., that can suit the user's needs more appropriately.
What is Dit Da Jow Used For?
To generalize, dit da jow is a topical herbal remedy applied locally to improve the outcome of trauma, or injury to the body; it is to help facilitate and speed the healing process from physical trauma.
It's easy to imagine that DDJ was popular in ancient China with fighters and warriors. Many of the regional martial arts families began to incorporate these medicinals to help them train harder and recover faster. Arts, such as, Shaolin kung fu, wing chun, hung gar, tai chi, white crane, would even modify formulas based on the type of striking and combat they would use most often. Some of these martial practitioners continue to reproduce and use these timeworn recipes to this day.
The core aspects of DDJ are to reduce bruising, swelling, spasm, and pain. The Chinese knew that by increasing circulation, they could address all of the problems associated with injury and trauma. There's an old saying used in traditional Chinese medicine from an ancient medical text called the Huang di Nei Jing:
"If there is free flow, there is no pain; if there is pain, there is no free flow."
Since the human body's physiological processes are similar to those of thousands of years ago, this statement still holds true. Fundamentally, proper circulation of the body's fluids are the foundation to our natural ability to heal.
Soft tissue tears (torn muscle, torn tendon, torn ligament)
Joint pain (from arthritis, structural damage, or musculoskeletal dysfunction)
Some other uses for dit da jow include:
Body conditioning (impact training, iron palm, steel curtain, etc.)
DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)
As DDJ has continued its evolution, there are now many versions, some of which are for general use, while others are for specific use, i.e. bone healing. Also, DDJ can be categorized into acute injury formulas and chronic injury formulas. The plethora of formulations out there can be confusing, but general dit da jow formulas will probably cover most conditions that the user may need assistance with.
How Battle Balm is an Evolution of Dit Da Jow
Battle Balm is steeped in historical Chinese herbal medicine. Battle Balm is a dit da jow and we use many of the same beneficial herbs as that of the traditional DDJ! A fun fact is that the name "Battle" in Battle Balm pays homage to the roots of our formula's heritage. Battle Balm uses common herbs from traditional Chinese medicine to reduce swelling, improve circulation, and boost healing. Our legendary formula includes traditional Chinese herbal medicinals plus powerful plants from other regions of the world. In this way, Battle Balm takes the best natural ingredients from all over the planet.
Also, thanks to modern technology, we do not have to wait months, or years to improve the effectiveness of our herbal formulas. There are numerous methods available for us to extract the powerful molecular compounds from the entire plant. Battle Balm's extraction methods and processes, although secret, are second to none.
Dit da jow can be messy. The alcohol based herbal liniments can drip, leak, splash, and permanently mark many kinds of fabric. There are many people that will not use DDJ for fear of ruined clothing. The refusal to use a product renders even the best DDJ formula ineffective. Battle Balm is created in a balm format that can be easily applied and transported. It is made with all natural ingredients and will wash out of most clothing under normal product use. Therefore, users can apply Battle Balm multiple times a day and reap the benefits.
Alcohol, in general, has antiseptic properties. Traditional dit da jows can apply these properties to help reduce the chance of infection on the applied area. Other forms of DDJ can also have antibacterial and antifungal properties depending on the formulation. Nowadays, we can even test DDJ products for their ability to kill microbes. It's safe to say that Battle Balm does kill common skin microbes like staph and strep in laboratory testing, per USP51 specification.
In the old days, plants were farmed and grown with equal parts sunshine, soil, and water. Now, with so many plants grown in laboratories, controlled environments, or those that have been grown with pesticides or other harmful substitutes, it is more and more difficult to find truly organic products. That being said, Battle Balm is more like a partnership with organic growers of our herbal ingredients. We know the value of clean, natural plants. With Battle Balm's focus on supporting farmers who use sustainable, healthy cultivation practices, we know that they will provide us with healthy, naturally powerful ingredients for our product line. It's a win-win partnership for sustaining people, plants, and planet now, and for future generations.
The use of dit da jow has spread from the martial arts community outwards. This has introduced professional sports athletes, as well as people from all activity levels, to the power of traditional herbal medicine. Plus, humans are always looking for cleaner, more natural ways of helping the body repair, heal, and thrive.
Consumers now have greater access to dit da jows than ever before. Many historical recipes have surfaced and have been shared in hopes that we can grow and advance herbology. We, at Battle Balm, have shared our recipe, so that users may benefit from the knowledge we have gained over the years. We also share our ingredients so that users can look for any possible allergies or contraindications when combined with their other medications.
Dit da jow is a powerful way for Eastern medicine to share its value in a form that doesn't conflict with Western medicine, but complements it. If there is a way to use natural remedies to address ailments, then it should be considered first.