Horny goat weed, pubic hair and other Chinese cures for what ails you

Chinese drugstore (Thinkstock photo)




 
With Chinese New Year just around the corner, my Asian heritage obliges me to stock up on tikoy, red lanterns and fire crackers.
 
What better place to shop for these paraphernalia than in Chinatown?
 
As I walked along the narrow streets of Binondo, I chanced upon a store with a long line of customers. Thinking that it was a succulent dumpling or a steaming siopao waiting at the end of the line, I joined in the crowd. I was very much surprised that it was a Chinese drugstore that was drawing such a crowd.
 
Older than Western medicine
The old man behind the counter was selling all sorts of leaves, barks, nuts, insects, dried sea creatures and parts of animals that you wouldn’t even dream of eating.
 
Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM dates back to more than 2,000 years ago. In fact, the first documented therapeutic use of medicinal herbs was recorded in 14th century BC. This was way before Western medicine even knew what antibiotics and infections were.
 
Many people still believe that Eastern Medicine has a role in treating diseases especially when they have given up on modern science.
 
TCM not only includes herbal concoctions but also acupuncture, acupressure, massage (tui na), exercise (qigong) and dietary therapy.
 

Plant-based medicines
Below is a list of only a few of over 100,000 remedies used by TCM for common ailments:
 
  • Camellia tea – aches and pains, indigestion, depression, detoxification, long life
  • Chinese cucumber – anti-tumor, fever, cough, abscess, menstrual disorder, jaundice
  • Chrysanthemum – headache, fever, dizziness, dry eyes
  • Cang er zi fruit – sinusitis, lung abnormalities
  • Sheng Ban Xia plant – cough with phlegm
  • Croton seed – gastrointestinal abnormalities, convulsions, skin lesions
  • Huai Shan Yao root – heals lungs, spleen and kidneys, diabetes
  • Ginger – indigestion, diarrhea, nausea, arthritis, colds and flu, headache and menstrual cramps, morning sickness and vomiting due to chemotherapy
  • Gingko Biloba – asthma
  • Ginseng – fatigue, anti-stress, asthma, anti-cancer, long-life, mental alertness, improve immune system
  • Goji berry – anti-oxidant, cardiovascular disease, glaucoma
  • Yin Yang Huo (horny goat weed) – aphrodisiac
  • Bai He bulb – cough, sore throat, wheezing
  • Bai Duo Kou fruit – anorexia, chest pain, vomiting
  • Lei Gong Teng Vine – arthritis
  • Tian Hua Fen Root – diabetes, fever, dehydration
  • Ma Quan Zi seed – respiratory illness, anemia
  • Qing Hao (wormwood) – fever, headache, dizziness
  • Linh Chi (mushroom) – minimize effects of chemotherapy, anti-cancer
 

More exotic remedies
Next are the interesting but not so appetizing treatments:
 
  • Human placenta – infertility, impotence, asthma, insomnia
  • Licorice in human feces – oral sores
  • Human penis – bleeding disorders
  • Human pubic hair – snakebites, difficult labor, urinary disorders
  • Deer penis – muscle and bone injuries, male impotence
  • Squirrel feces – irregular menstruation, dysmenorrhea, stomach ache, chest pain
  • Rhinoceros horn – fever
  • Tiger penis and eyes – impotence
  • Snake oil – joint pains
  • Gecko (locally known as tuko) – asthma, impotence, cough and colds
  • Seahorse – asthma, atherosclerosis, incontinence, impotence, thyroid disease, skin diseases, broken bones, heart disease, aids in childbirth
  • Centipede – seizures, tetanus, convulsions, skin lesions, pain
  • Hornet’s nest – ringworm, skin diseases
  • Leech – menstrual disorders, abdominal and chest pain, constipation
  • Scorpion – osteoporosis, gum disease, arthritis
 
Buyer beware
Many of these decoctions have not gone through standardized testing. In spite of its longer history, a lot of these potions may even cause toxicity and death when taken in the wrong dose.
 
The next time you decide to try traditional Chinese medicine, be careful what you swallow. It might have been a walking, breathing living creature a few minutes ago.

***

Dr. Diana Sarmiento is a mother of three, part-time doctor, and a full-time wife and mother.  The topics closest to her heart are women's health, parenting, and any new information that she can get her hands on.  Read more on her personal blog, Filipina M.D. 

Slideshow: Chinese New Year, Filipino-style





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