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  Beijing Scene


Beijing Scene, Volume 6, Issue 4, November 5 - 11

Chinese Medicine: Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Zhongyao 中药 (Chinese herbal medicine) is well known throughout the
world--and in many places it's actually taken seriously! While Xiyao 西药
(Western medicine) focuses on treating symptoms, Chinese medicine goes after the root of the problem, seeking to regulate the delicate vital balances in
the body by compensating for certain deficiencies with elements found in
daziran 大自然 (Mother Nature).

If all that sounds a lot more complicated than simply popping a Quaalude, fear not! The Comrade, ever solicitous of his waiguopengyou 外国朋友 (foreign friends ), is here to describe and prescribe some time-tested traditional Chinese medicinal remedies for many common maobing 毛病 (ailments).

One thing you can count on in China (besides an abacus) is laduzi 拉肚子 (diarrhea). Sooner or later, even those of us with Great Leap Forward-forged cast-iron stomachs that can (and have!) digested bowls of sawdust eventually wind up with it. As if having to spend bantian 半天 (half a day) sitting on the toilet isn't bad enough, you also have to listen to all your friends and relatives give you advice on how to rectify your sodden condition. It's enough to make your touteng 头疼 (head ache).

A sure-fire cure for even the most persistent laduzi 拉肚子 is to simply soak some yangmei 杨梅 (sour plums) in baijiu 白酒 (Chinese white lightning) for a few months and ganbei 干杯 (cheers)! And don't forget: there's no drinking age in China, so be sure to use this remedy on your children, too!

If bianbi 便秘 (constipation) is your problem, 5000 years of history and tradition dictates that a bar of soap up your butt is the cure. The Comrade's personal panacea and prescription for pleasure is, of course, erguotou 二锅头 (Beijing backyard moonshine). That's why he always carries a flask of it in one pocket and a jar of cu 醋 (vinegar) in the other. Wanyi 万一 (just in case) the Comrade gets drunk, a couple of swigs of vinegar are just what the daifu 大夫 (doctor) ordered to sober right up! (Speaking of vinegar, wash with it every day to keep your face looking white and beautiful).

For a sore throat, just wet the tip of a kuaizi 筷子 (chopstick), dab it in salt, and touch it to your uvula (that little thing that hangs down in the back of your throat). If you don't outu 呕吐 (vomit), this is a guaranteed cure.

For relief from fashao 发烧 (fever), try the following therapy: have someone rub a spoon vigorously up and down your back until your spine is nearly exposed. The excruciating pain will cause you to sweat until the fever breaks!

For simple chronic yaosuanbeitong 腰酸背痛 (backaches), try baguanzi 拔罐子, a process by which someone smears black grease all over your back, lights a fire in a medicated glass jar and then slaps the burning contraption down onto your flesh, open-mouth side facing down. After the fire burns out they yank the jar off and it makes a popping sound like when you pull a plunger out of a toilet bowl. The bizarre procedure leaves your back looking like a giant pepperoni pizza, but hey, don't argue with success. It's good for the flu too.

Other antics include dianxue 点穴, or pushing on pressure points to cure illness or paralysis and even improve eyesight. While the above curative methods are practically mianfei 免费 (cost-free), there are many Chinese herbal medicines that come with a hefty price tag.

Renshen 人参, or Ginseng, sells for up to ?500 per gram. That's more expensive than baifen 白粉 (cocaine)! While Ginseng is basically an all-around bupin 补品 (restorative substance), one of its vital uses is to prolong the life of someone on their deathbed just long enough to give their relatives a chance to get to the hospital to gaobie 告别 (say goodbye).

There are also many other buyao 补药 and natural 'cures' to be found in the animal world. And the general rule for Chinese medicine is: the closer the shengwu 生物 (living creature) is to miejue 灭绝 (extinction), the more diseases it can cure when ground up, boiled and ingested!

To help heal a burn and prevent or heal a scar, try eating gezi 鸽子 (pigeon). Guibie 龟鳖 (turtle) is also known for its curative powers, as is the "dried oviduct fat of a Chinese forest frog." To boost vitality and keep up your overall resistance to illness, ground-up lujiao 鹿角 (deer antlers) are tops, as are shark bone powder, snake powder pills, dog kidney capsules and cow penis. Huguoyao 虎骨药膏 (tiger bone medicated patches) work great for sore muscles and joints. And then there's shedan 蛇胆 (snake gall bladder) to improve your eyesight.

During a recent visit to his neighborhood yaodian 药店 (drug store), the Comrade picked up some medicaments that, from the descriptions on the labels, sounded too good to be true. The box of a certain product made from bear guts reads, "functions and indications: clearing away the heart fire, reducing fever, calming the liver, improving the eyesight and relieving apasm. It is suitable for treating aterioclerotic, hypertension, angina pectoris, coronary heart disease and arrhythmia. Acute and chronic hepatitis, icterhepatitis and liver cirrhosis, cholecystitis, cholelithiasis, (among other things, various kinds of epilepsy), preventing and controlling attacks, affection after delivery, infantile, diabetes, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, epidemic hemorragic conjunctivitis and nebula, hemorrhoid, injury, anti-fatigue and recovering physical strength." But what good is it, really, if it can't raise the dead?

The label on a bag of caterpillar fungus boasts, "it can build up the health and also has the special curative effect in treatment for asthma, tuberculosis and many other diseases.?According to the label on a package containing the reproductive organs of a deer, its contents have the medicinal properties necessary to treat "back or knee pain accompanied by cold sensation, limited movement of the joints, spermatorrhea, dizziness and tinnitis."

If all this sounds a little extraordinary to you, that's because it is. Chinese medicine, like the Chinese language and holding chopsticks, is too complicated and mysterious for you round-eyes to possibly comprehend - but don't let that discourage you from trying!

A fun game: After boiling your pot of Chinese medicinal herbs, toss the gunk into the street for taren 他人 (someone else) to step on and subsequently get the illness which the medicine was intended to cure!


Previous Stories...

Surviving Chinese Weddings

The Dating Game

One Party, Two Systems

Shop till you Drop

What's in A Name

Making friends with Chinese people

Chinese Zodiac Part II

Chinese Zodiac Part I

Everyday Items in Chinese People's Homes

Blood Type

Judging a book by its cover

Losing Weight

Money is everything

The Comrade's final exam

Wining and dinning out

Pekinese in beijing

Using Your Electric Brain

Traditional Holidays

Little Emporer Syndrome

Henpecked Husbands

To Own Real Estate is Glorious