The longer I train the more I realize the importance of wellness.

Of course, wellness may be the least glamorous part of training. After all, eating vegetables and legumes doesn’t make for an exciting youtube clip.

Luckily I get to hang around a bunch of experienced practitioners who tell stories from time to time of their tough training. Personally, I’ve been an uke since age 11 and am becoming more acutely aware of how repeated impact affects the body.

It’s because of these realizations that I recently read The Okinawa Program, a book describing the Okinawan way of life and how the Ryukyuans became the longest lived people on the planet. And fortunately, thanks to the good people at YMAA, I was able to follow up that research with Western Herbs: For Martial Artists and Contact Athletes.

western herbs

Western Herbs is a unique addition to my library.

The Okinawa Program deftly lays out the lifestyle and diet of the Okinawans. Most other books regarding traditional Chinese medicine, including The Bubishi, discuss herbal concoctions that you will most likely never encounter. Western Herbs, on the other hand, takes that same pharmacological approach and applies it to vegetation and growth readily available in western countries.

Have you ever wondered how Aloe Vera works, and how to utilize it’s full effects? Did you know the capsaicin in peppers (when prepared properly) can help relieve back pain and arthritis?

This is stuff that doesn’t require a shady trip down back alleys in Chinatown. The best part is that this book grades each herbal claim via a 5 leaf system. Zero leaves means the claim of effect is completely unsubstantiated, while five leaves means you are good to go and can rely on the results.

The author, Susan Lynn Peterson, is a trained martial artist as well as researcher (she has a real P.H.D., not the weird “professorship” some martial artists prescribe themselves). Her approach is non-mystical with no heavy-handed desire to prove that eastern healing methods are the exclusive answer to all health problems. She mixes east and west in an approachable and fact-friendly way.

The book is broken up into digestible pieces that teach you…

  • how to utilize herbs from a novice perspective.
  • how to create various kinds of tinctures and concoctions.
  • how to handle each of the most important herbs.
  • how to assess your needs and safely begin herbal treatment.
  • how to not make yourself dead by doing something stupid.

There’s no question I won’t be able absorb all this book has to offer in one sitting. That’s why I intend to keep it nearby as a resource to access as I slowly increase my ability to understand and improve my own wellness.