What is Dit Da Jow and what does it have to do with HitBalm?
Given that my acupuncture practice is primarily focused on the treatment of pain and injuries, I certainly know my way around the various relief strategies that doctors of Chinese medicine employ. Cupping, needles, moxa, electrostim, gua sha/Graston technique...I’ve done them all, and I still do them all. Another tool in the arsenal I’ve used is a topical herbal liniment known as Dit Da Jow. This pungent brown liquid I keep in a spray bottle in both of my treatment rooms, and I’ve applied it to hundreds if not thousands of sprains, strains and contusions over the years--and it works.
Dit Da Jow loosely translates to ‘Hit Wine Medicine’, or ‘Hit Medicine’ for short. This type of formula was originally known as Die Da Jiu 跌打酒 ("Fall and Hit Wine") in Mandarin, but for some reason the Cantonese Dit Da Jow nomenclature stuck in the western world. Basically, Dit Da Jow recipes consist of anywhere from a few to several dozen herbs, steeped in alcohol for weeks, months or years (research has borne out that the longer a Jow soaks, the more anti-inflammatory compounds are found in it.) The history of Dit Da Jow is long, interesting and occasionally esoteric. There are thousands of different recipes for Dit Da Jow, most of which are considered to be "secret formulas" passed down through oral and written history of traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts.
Dit Da Jow is primarily used by martial artists to aid the healing of the injuries suffered in training, though doctors of Chinese medicine have found them helpful in the clinic as well.
The main healing function of Dit Da Jow, according to traditional Chinese medicine, is to unblock Qi stagnation and ‘blood stasis’. When one suffers a traumatic injury, Qi is blocked in the meridians causing pain and swelling, and blood circulation is impeded. Dit Da Jow opens up this blockage, allowing the Qi to flow freely and encouraging the injury to heal.
The first time I used a Dit Da Jow was in a martial arts/’monkey style’ yoga class a couple of friends from Chinese medical school invited me to, taught by a legendary martial artist/yogi named Paulie Zink (click here or here to have your mind blown). One of the exercises we performed was called ‘tapping’, which consisted of standing across from a partner and swinging the insides of our forearms into each others’ and colliding them like bats. It was excruciating. It was intended to strengthen our bones to be able to handle the forces of hand-to-hand combat and punching, but given that I wasn’t used to this sort of thing, my radius bones quickly became a bruised and battered mess. Paulie had us pause the exercise and handed us large, spouted bottles of brown, acrid smelling liquid, telling us to pour it liberally onto the areas that hurt and rub it in; I was curious about this stuff but frankly didn’t think it was going to do much. What was interesting to me at the time was how quickly it seemed the pain went away after applying it, which allowed me to continue tapping; we’d bash our arms into each other, then pause to apply the liniment, then bash them some more. This was my first experience with Dit Da Jow.
The Dit Da Jow I use in my acupuncture practice was inherited from a friend, mentor and naturally gifted herbalist named Frederick Obey, who opened the legendary Santa Monica-based store Herb King. It was a place that students and practitioners of herbal medicine went to spend time studying, discussing, and having fun with Chinese herbs, though we expanded our offerings to include high-quality, medical grade essential oils and western herbs as well. My foundation as an herbalist was laid at Herb King, and when the shop closed after the untimely passing of Frederick, it was his Dit Da Jow recipe, passed down from his kung fu master, that I inherited. The Jow that I use in my practice has been soaking in alcohol since 2006. This is the inspiration for HitBalm.
Before hemp balms, lotions and salves came to market, Chinese medicine practitioners have been using Dit Da Jow to great effect. While hemp extract on its own is a powerful and effective analgesic and anti-inflammatory compound, the combination of hemp extract with our proprietary cohort of Dit Da Jow herbs is what makes HitBalm unbeatable. Frankly, even if HitBalm didn’t have hemp extract in it, the Chinese Dit Da Jow herbs in HitBalm would make it potent; the hemp extract, however, supercharges it. Every time you use HitBalm, know that aside from the more recently-discovered benefit of hemp extract, there’s 2000 years of herbal wisdom packed into there as well. In addition to the quality of our base oils and plant essences, it’s one of the things that sets HitBalm apart: HitBalm has Qi.