Traditional Chinese Medicine

30 08 2011

TCM in HefeiAfter several days of “Western” medicine prescribed by the doctor that gave me the  diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, I went again with 潘蕾 to the Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM), 中医 (zhōng yī), hospital in Hefei.

This is, like post offices, banks, etc., one of those places where you need a Chinese speaker in order to interact with the doctors there. And even with a reasonable good translator like her, many of the concepts and things these doctors talk about are not easy at all to translate into English.

It was a long time I wanted to visit again such a hospital. I went once in Beijing but there I did only acupuncture and cupping. This time I was more curious about the medicine part. In the center of Hefei, extremely close to the last stop of bus 901, there is a TCM hospital. If you don’t know it is there, you would walk pass it, without notice anything special.

But once you step in, I think it’s the incredible mix of different smells that capture you at once. Hospitals always smell of disinfectant. And disease. And old people. Generally an awful mix! The traditional hospital smell is a mix of herbs, spices, and other typical scents one can find usually in a grocery shop!

TCM in HefeiWhen you enter the 2 story building, first thing one must pay for the visit (5 or 10 RMB, depending how famous is the doctor) and get a blue book (0.50 RMB) where the doctor after the visit will write the mix of herbs/stuff your medicine is composed off. Both times I went there I got a 5 RMB doctor, not for saving money (!) but because in the weekends usually the more expert ones (10 RMB) do not work. Anyway, unless you really know a doctor or a famous one, it does not really matter.. but after a short explanation of your problem, the staff downstairs can direct you to doctors of the proper are of expertise (for me it was internal medicine).

Then you go upstairs where all the doctor examination rooms are located (and I think there is also an acupuncture room) and there.. you have the strange experiences to share the room with several other people, inside just out of curiosity.. As I said earlier, strange feeling talking with a doctor about your private problems with strangers attentively listening..

no privacy at the doctor!Passed the first strange feeling about that, given anyway I was not doing the talking or answering the doctor, but 潘蕾 was in charge, it was time for the exam. The doctor asks a few questions. In my case I showed him the knee and foot. He barely touched the area where I was feeling the most of pain. Then he lets your arm resting on a small pillow and he places three fingers on the wrist area, as a Western doctor would do for “listening” to the heart beat. He does the same for both arms, listening, carefully, feeling.. Not talking.. And that’s it.. this is the exam. After the time in listening/feeling he maybe asks a couple of more questions, but also says a few things about what it is better for me (like keeping joints warm, protected, but also doing movement) and then he starts writing the mix of ingredients that will be your medicine.

TCM in HefeiAnd that is also an amazing part: the doctor starts writing ingredients, then stop a little while and writes the amount of each ingredient, then starts again and add more. Repeating the process 2-3 times until satisfied. I think the little number indicates grams of content. Then, it is done and you go downstairs where you pay for the medicine (very different prices: can be less than 100 RB to much much more than that!!) and then you give the ingredient list to the people in charge for mixing your medicine.

TCM in HefeiThe people in charge for the preparation get the list of ingredients and then move around the long table, among the drawers and boxes of raw material (herbs and animal parts) choosing and weighting what they need and filling a large box. At the end, the mix carefully all the ingredients and then they split the medicine in 7 bags. If there are special ingredients, they have special bags (usually the special ingredients need a different way of cooking: it is all explained on the bag.. in Chinese of course!). When 6 bags are ready, the box with the content of the 7th bag passes to a special controller, that checks, among the ingredient list, that everything is in the medicine mixture.

Each bag is worth a double portion that it is usually taken in the evening and morning. You get a week worth of medicine.

Traditional Chinese medicine

first time

TCM in Hefei

second time, with dried bugs

Once at home, the preparation of the medicine is equally special: you need a ceramic pot, not metal! This is extremely important to not waste the healing effect of the medicine, or worse! Then the procedure usually require soaking the content of one bag in water for 30 minutes, then start boiling and when the water boils, set the lid, decrease the fire and keep simmering for 30 minutes more. The pot I got has a filter on the spout opening that stops all the herbs and let the liquid only go through. Usually the amount of water left after cooking the herb is enough for 2 full mugs (in the link it says to cook it once more with new water.. different method!).

And then it’s time to drink the medicine.. and all the poetry and fascinating feelings about something so special as this traditional medicine suddenly disappears! The medicine is one of the most disgusting thing I have ever drunk in my life!!!! 🙂

Even Chinese people say to add water and often mothers add sugar for children, and I did that too the first time. It is not only bitter, it is usually just disgusting!

On the other hand, I read that the taste becomes more acceptable with use and if the mix is actually good for the body: this second time in fact I managed to drink it without tricks and until the last drop.. I cannot say I liked it though!

Just have a closer look to my last medicine mix: as you can see there were some interesting dried bugs as well!! Nothing so colorful as Deer Penis or Flying squirrel feces.. I think, because I am actually not sure..

Bugs in my medicine!

bugs in my last medicine!



2 responses

30 08 2014
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Traditional Chinese Medicine | Dreaming of… Asia


6 09 2014


Traditional Chinese Medicine | Dreaming of… Asia


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