Thursday, June 14, 2007
Rub It In
There is a liniment from the Chinese apothecary called dit da jow. This is a vile-smelling, alcohol-based, Coca-Cola-colored concoction with bits of grit floating in it. It is applied to bruises, sometimes used as an antiseptic, though one is supposed to avoid putting it on cuts, and is designed to help injuries heal faster.
It is full of ground-up or burned herbs, and tends to get better with age. Ideally, one mixes up a batch of it, bottles it, and sticks it in the dark for several years before use.
In kung-fu circles, this is usually just called jow.
In silat circles, there is a similar ointment, Balur Tjimande, and while similar to jow, instead of being completely alcohol-based, has coconut oil added, which means it is solid at room temperature. It liquifies at about ninety-degrees F., so to use it from a bottle, one sticks in into a sink of hot water, or pops it into the microwave oven for twenty seconds or so.
The advantage of balur is that the oil allows for a more vigorous application.
The most potent of these balurs is supposedly made so by the addition to the herbs and ashes of a pinch of dust from Mas Kahir's tomb, Kahir being the man credited with the founding of the silat art Tjimande (also spelled "Cimande.")
In the case of bruises, one applies the balur and rubs it into the flesh with vigor -- "vigor" here meaning painful ...
I have used this several times in the last few years and it seems to work. Early on, I was skeptical as to its efficacy, having been trained a bit in western medicine. I figured that the main curative was the massage and not the liniment. So when I got what appeared to be two identical bruises on my forearms, I did an unscientific test of sorts:
One bruise got balur, applied thrice daily and massaged in. The other bruise got plain oil, applied and worked in likewise. I tried to use the same pressure and duration on both bruises.
The balur-treated contusion cleared up three days before the oiled one.
Hardly a double-blind, and no, I wasn't running a stop watch or checking with a pressure gauge, but it was good enough for me. I love the placebo-effect. If I only think I feel good? I'll take it.
I've decided to try using this on my right hand's tendonitis, so that I might more quickly resume climbing the rope and working my way to Tarzan status.
The best balurs I have come across were made by Mushtaq Ali al Ansari, a silat teacher of some renown, and by Dan Gambiera and his lovely spouse, using more or less the same recipe. These were done in small batches, and while I think Mushtaq has sold out his supply. Dan might still have a few bottles from his most recent brewing, and you can contact him here,
In case you are interested ...