Liniments have a long historical background in traditional Chinese medicine, dating back to triage on ancient battlefields. Known as Dit da jao or “fall and strike wines,” these herbal formulations were closely guarded family recipes, the secret weapons of quick recovery.
WHAT IS A LINIMENT?
Liniments are an extract or infusion of herbs, usually in alcohol; hence, the name “wine” in Chinese. From the Chinese medicine perspective, alcohol invigorates the blood and qi and allows for better penetration into an injured area. Liniments are applied topically with the intention of reducing pain, swelling and inflammation, and to speed healing.
HOW HERBAL LINIMENTS WORK
Herbs have very distinct jobs and are categorized by physiological function, taste, temperature and body region influenced. A well-formulated liniment will combine several herbal elements based on these factors. Ideally, a liniment designed for tendon repair will contain homeostatic (stop bleeding), anti-inflammatory (cooling and inflammation reducing), blood stagnation (bruising) and qi moving herbal components.
Liniment therapy takes a multi-phased approach. Phase one is to stop any internal bleeding with homeostatic herbs like San qi (Radix pseudoginseng), thus lessening bruising and blood stagnation, which if left unresolved, slows healing.
The second phase of liniment therapy focuses on cooling tissues and reducing inflammation with cold, descending herbs like Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus compositae) and Da Huang (Rhizoma rhei). Much like an ice pack, cooling herbs reduce inflammation and allow improved blood circulation.
The third phase includes blood-moving herbs like Arnica (Arnica montana) and Dang gui wei (Radix Angelicae sinensis). Blood-moving herbs enhance the removal of tissue debris and stimulate microphage activity, allowing fresh blood into the injured area.
The result is less inflammation, reduced bruising, scarring and pain, and enhanced tendon healing.
Liniments can be safely applied alone, or diluted with water. I like to use a spray bottle to avoid spills and waste. Saturate the area and soak the hair well. Liniments can be applied several times per day.
• Soak paper towels and use under wrap
• Use mixed with massage oil for body work
• Use as a medium for plaster mixed with herbs and used as leg paint
• Dilute with water for a body wash after workout
Caution: avoid open wounds; some grey or thin skinned horses can develop a skin reaction. Caution with prolonged use under wraps. Rinse with soap and water regularly to prevent sticky build up. Liniments are not for internal consumption.
Most experts agree that once a tendon is injured, it may not fully recover to its pre-injury state. However, by utilizing all the tools available, both standard and complementary, we can help our horses reach their recovery potential.
Gloria Garland is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist and the author of the Equine Acupressure Therapeutics Workbook Series. She lives and rides in Oakhurst, California, near Yosemite National Park. Whole Horse Herbs™, her line of herbal formulas, was developed to bring complementary herbal supplements to the equine community. She teaches hands-on classes, empowering horse owners with accurate, useful information and equine health care tools. www.wholehorse.com, 559-683-4434