Bruises and Bleeding

When I first trained in Chinese Herbal Medicine 12 years ago, I chose a company in Manchester headed by a Professor of Chinese Medicine, Shulan Tang. Shulan is from a family of Chinese doctors and, following a childhood of Cultural Revolution, did the usual full training of 7 years combined conventional and Chinese medicine.

Chinese Herbal Medicine at that time was quite unregulated in the UK and both the ingredients and the packaging looked very different from the high end cosmetic style pills that are seen today.

I had a few favourites whilst I was training, one of which was a product for cuts and bruises.

It was a white powder made from 4 dried and ground Chinese herbs. It came in a tiny, hand blown glass bottle, plugged with a cork, sealed with bees wax and wound with string to further secure the cork. The bottle itself came in a little cardboard matchbox, padded with cotton wool and enclosing a minute leaflet. The leaflet explained that the powder was especially useful for gun shot wounds; the bottle should be easily available so that the powder could be carefully poured into the bullet hole as soon as possible. Embedded in the underside of the cork was a single, little, white pill to help stop internal bleeding.

Modern Chinese Herbal treatment uses the same principals of treatment, just packages, choses and sources herbs in a way that better suits the modern world.

There are a whole range of herbs and acupuncture points which deal with bruising and bleeding. (It might seem quite ironic to think of acupuncture as an intervention to deal with bruising and bleeding! Actually, even though I might use one thousand acupuncture needles per week, I rarely see blood, and perhaps only one of those needles might cause a little bruise.)

In Chinese Medicine the causes of bleeding might not be obvious. There are, of course the usual causes; nose bleeds, injuries and so on, but the type of bleeding has a distinct form. For example a nose bleed might be gushing or slight; the blood might be bright red or thick and purple.

Spleen Qi deficiency (where, as always Spleen doesn’t relate at all to an anatomical spleen) can result in blood leaking out of blood vessels, while Heat in the blood could cause heavy, more persistent bleeding.

A lot of topical Chinese ointments and creams combine a whole range of herbs for injuries from bumps and falls.

I like to make my own ointments. My favourite base oil is an infusion of marigold (calendula) flowers in safflower oil. Now’s the best time to make this. The best flowers are the open ones, rather than the more decorative pom pom like heads. If you can, pick them fresh on a warm day when the flowers are fully open. If you can’t find any to pick then you can buy them dried from a herbal supplier like Baldwin’s.

Squash as many flowers as will fit into a sterilised, glass jar. Fill the jar with oil, making sure that the oil covers the flowers, then leave the jar on a sunny windowsill for a couple of weeks to infuse. You can strain the flowers off then and the oil should keep for a year or so in a cool place.

This is my favourite anti inflammatory base oil which can be used on its own, or combined with a whole range of other things, depending on what you are treating.

Happy marigold picking!

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