Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, March 10 – Another new experience with Traditional Chinese Medicine. It’s probably been about six months now that I’ve been dealing with pain in my right thigh and hip from bursitis. I decided to see (with a friends help) if the pharmacist could recommend any TCM remedies. He suggested two things, one was a normal pill form, which came with a 2 ½ day supply. The other was the interesting one! In the box were six little plastic containers, filled with dough type balls. The containers even had fancy little Chinese looking designs on them! I had to scrape off the wax that held the ball closed, then work to pop it open. Inside was the ball of medicine wrapped in wax paper. The pharmacist said I could just break pieces off and eat them, but that it didn’t taste very good, so he suggested that I break little pieces off and roll them into balls and swallow them like a pill (which I did). I did taste it also, and it wasn’t as bad as I expected, but didn’t taste good either! I did this twice a day, so the box was only a 3 day supply. Both medicines together cost 15rmb or $2.20usd. Now, did they work? Not miraculously! But, the day after I started them, I really over did the walking, and I’m not sure anything could have helped! So, I need to buy more to give them an honest try!
Life in China 2017: A Picture a Day, March 3 – Today we tried Monkey Head mushrooms by recommendation of my Chinese teacher. They can go by a lot of other names, but the Chinese name “hóu tóu gū 猴头菇” literally translates to “monkey head mushroom.” These are usually found in the dried mushroom section of the Chinese supermarket, and sometimes, if you are in China, you can find them fresh. As you can see by the picture, they look kind of “furry.” They are also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, for many different benefits! My teacher suggested we try them in soup, so we did, but, I must admit, I wasn’t crazy about them! They had an unusual taste to them, somewhat bitter. Because they are dried, you are supposed to reconstitute them. I thought that since they were going to cook in the soup for a couple of hours that I didn’t need to … wrong! I read afterwards that soaking them, even overnight, can remove the bitterness. The texture was interesting, they were like sponges, holding a large amount of the soup broth. If you decide to stir fry them, be sure to squeeze all of the water from soaking out! We’ll try that next time! We looked at recipes and saw that they can be combined with numerous things, and are often used as a meat substitute. We made our soup with black silkie chicken, celtuce, carrots, some dried daylily buds, and the mushrooms.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 10 – Longans are another popular fruit in south Asia. They are similar to lychees, which I wrote about back in July, but aren’t nearly as messy, and I think have a sweeter taste. They are called “long yan” in Chinese, which is literally “dragon eye.” You can probably see in the pictures how the translucent white flesh, with the dark seed in the center, can be compared to a dragon eye. The thin outer covering can easily be removed by first squeezing it on the side so it splits open, then peeling it off. When you purchase the fresh fruit, they are often still on the branches because they supposedly stay fresher that way. They can be eaten raw, cooked, often in soups or desserts, and dried. I like to use dried ones in fruit tea. They are also popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine, where they have quite a list of healing properties! www.myownchinesebrocade.com
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, December 7 – Living in the USA, I only ever knew gingko as either the tree with the unique fan shaped leaves that turned such a pretty yellow in the fall, or the health supplement known to help with memory problems. Once moving to China, my first introduction to gingko seeds or gingko nuts, in Chinese called “white-fruits” 白果 (bai guo) or “silver apricots” 銀杏 , was as a dessert in a Chiuchow/Teochew cuisine restaurant; it was delicious and I ate way too much! Gingko nuts have hard shells, are yellow or green inside, and are toxic to eat without cooking (because of something called MPN). Even after cooking, you should limit the amount you eat to approximately 8 per day (Nobody told me this the first time I had them! But, luckily, I was fine!). Quite a bit of information says that children should avoid them altogether, or eat about half of the adult amount. If you have a gingko tree near you and decide to harvest your own, be careful because the pulp can irritate your skin. We buy them in the supermarket shelled and vacuum packed, I’m honestly not sure if they are cooked or not, but we always cook ours in some way before eating them, usually in stir-fries. I’m surprised that the package has no information at all about the “safe” way to consume them! They usually have a slightly sweet taste, but sometimes can be slightly bitter, and they are kind of soft and chewy. The Chinese use them mainly in rice porridge, sweet soups and other desserts. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, they are good for the lungs, kidneys, anti-aging, and are considered an aphrodisiac.
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, October 14 – I think I’ve said before that I really like many of the Traditional Chinese Medicine products… it’s basically natural medicine, which I’m all for. (Yes, I do know there are needs for modern Western medicine too!) Anyhow, I unfortunately have trouble with my knees, but for years now I have used these Chinese medicine patches or “plasters.” When I know I need to climb (like when we visited the rice terraces!), using these does wonders! I’ve been having more problems with arthritis in my thumb joints lately, so today I went to see the local pharmacist. I hadn’t realized that I could buy these pain patches in very small size! The pharmacist not only showed me what I needed, he proceeded to put the patches on my thumbs and tape them down good so they would stay! (I was kind of sweaty :-( we had been walking and it is still in the upper 80’s here) What service :-) So, if you have aches or pains, I highly recommend these! There are different types of the “tong” (pain) “gao” (paste/plaster) patches. They come stuck to both sides of a paper, and you have to be careful peeling them off so they don’t stick to themselves (or you won’t get them undone!). If you have really sensitive skin, you might have problems, and they have a pretty strong herbal medicine smell for the first couple hours. My favorite kind for my knees are the green package, the blue package are the little ones on my thumbs, and the big package are for your back. You can buy these online in the USA, but they are about 10 times the cost of in China! If any US friends want to try them, let me know and I can bring some home in November! Here’s an article with a little more info: http://www.theworldofchinese.com/2013/10/time-to-get-patched-up/
Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, July 2 – I’ve been having some sinus troubles so went to the pharmacy. We communicated to the pharmacist that I had sinus pain, and the first thing he offered, since you can buy antibiotics without prescriptions, was Amoxicillin. I really didn’t want to go that route quite yet, so asked for some Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM. I ended up buying some “biyuanshu koufuye,” or “nasal sinusitis relief liquid.” When I buy TCM, I always look the pinyin name up on the internet to make sure I know what I am taking! This product has: magnolia, gardenia, Astragalus, skullcap, lovage root, Bupleurum (a Chinese herb), wild ginger, mint, Clematis vine, Poria (fungus), Angelica, and bellflower. There are 6 small vials in the package, instructions are to drink one vial three times a day. One package cost 18rmb or about $3usd. The picture should tell you how it tastes! YUK!!! I’ve only had 2 doses so far, so can’t say yet if it works either!
I have a whole assortment of “tea” that I enjoy in China! “Old” ginger tea is considered not just a drink, but a Traditional Chinese Medicine Remedy. “Old,” or mature, ginger, with the light brown skin, is the type you probably see most often in stores. Young ginger is much lighter colored on the outside and doesn’t need peeled. Ginger is recommended for nourishing the blood, improving circulation, improving digestion, reducing nausea (including motion sickness), reducing inflammation, and as a pain reliever.
You can make your own tea at home or, in China (and probably Asian stores elsewhere), buy packets ready mixed with other beneficial ingredients. In the packets, it is generally mixed with black tea and dark brown sugar. The box on the bottom of the picture also has Luohanguo (see Jan 9 pic of day).
Ginger, red dates and brown sugar tea is sold especially for women to drink during their monthly cycle and post partum. The ginger helps with cramping, and the ginger and red dates are both good for blood circulation, and red dates are high in calcium and iron. Goji berries are also often mixed in.
Old ginger increases body temperature, so is especially good if you are cold (winter, poor circulation, etc). Young ginger decreases body temperature, so is good when you are hot (summer, fevers, etc).
Those with high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, or in menopause, are advised to reduce or avoid use of ginger. It is a blood thinner so doesn’t mix with certain medications. It’s probably best to read up on precautions before using more than a few slices a day!