Dangers of Die Da Jiu

Cobra effect: occurs when an attempted solution worsens the problem

Warning: graphic images of an allergic reaction

Last November, I jammed my right thumb first thing in the morning during light sparring. I kept that hand out of commission and naturally proceeded to get my left thumb jammed 2 hours later.

Dr. Yang offered his Die Da Jiu (AKA Dit Da Jow 跌打酒), a trauma liniment used by martial artists since ancient times. He said to soak gauze pads with the liniment and wrap them around my thumbs overnight. I wrapped the top part of my left hand. The right thumb was more severely jammed and I applied the liniment on the palm. I let the Die Da Jiu do its work on Saturday night, uncovered it on Sunday, and then applied it again that night.

I had used the Jiu in the past without issues. However, this batch had a potency matured over 30 years, made from Dr. Yang’s days in Boston. I developed a severe reaction which Dr. Woodbine said looked like a second degree burn. Interestingly, my right hand was barely affected, probably because the skin on the palm is tougher.

  • Two days after applying the Die Da Jiu, my left hand looked like it had a slight allergic reaction so I rubbed eczema lotion over it.

  • Day 3: I applied Heel Traumeel S Ointment (arnica) over my hand to deal with a chronic wrist injury and left it wrapped for most of the day. Big mistake. The skin condition worsened and I applied calendula oil before going to bed to help relieve the itchiness.

  • Days 4-5: My skin resembled a reaction to poison oak and I continued to apply calendula oil 3-4 times daily. The affected area was clearly in the shape of the 2” x 2” gauze pad. Some of the blisters popped and began to ooze. I used Neosporin during the day and calendula oil in the evenings.

  • Day 6: The itchiness was occurring more frequently (a sign of healing) and the rash seemed to be moving through the stages. The evolution drew everyone’s morbid curiosity. We tried a different approach and soaked my hand in an epsom salt bath for 15 minutes. When I took it out, it improved by a lot, as if the salt sucked out the moisture. I was recommended to apply SilvaSorb Antimicrobial Wound Gel and wrapped my hand overnight.

  • Days 7-14: I soaked my hand in epsom salt for 20 minutes on most days and applied SilvaSorb, which can be left on for up to 3 days.

  • Day 17: I switched to an antiseptic cream called Savlon (a British brand recommended by a friend long before this happened) for the healing blisters.

  • Day 20: My hand was pretty much back to normal use.

  • 2 months later: Remnants of the burn are still visible, maybe permanently, but I don’t care.

If it happened again, I would start the epsom salt baths from the beginning to dry out the rash. The calendula oil did help relieve the itchiness and maybe I would keep applying it if my skin got too dry from the salt baths. Neosporin helped prevent infections from the popped blisters. I learned that silver has been used for thousands of years to promote wound healing and the SilvaSorb did an amazing job on my torn skin. (However, it’s not cheap.)

Lessons learned:

  • When trying anything new, first test a small area (for a short time) for allergic reactions.

  • Silver works really well in healing wounds.

  • Sometimes it’s better to heal the slow way.

Do you have any experiences with healing jammed thumbs, Die Da Jiu, silver, or the cobra effect?