Alternative Medicines

“Good medicine is bitter to the taste.” – Chinese proverb

It’s often true that medicine tastes bitter; that’s why cold remedies come packaged with flavors. My friend recently told me about a product called Yin Chao Jr. that has no taste to it. She uses it for herself and on her children at the first sign of a cold. She swears that it works for her family, often helping them bypass the cold altogether, or at least reducing the duration of their sickness. By the way, this post is in no way an endorsement of Yin Chao Jr. (which I’ve never tried), but my conversation with my friend reminded me of all the non-conventional medicines that I took while growing up:

1. Red medicine water: This was a little bottle that contained a red liquid. When I got injured, the medicine would be applied on my cuts. Unfortunately, the students and teachers at school often became alarmed at the bright color, thinking that I was bleeding.

2. Hit medicine (dit da jow): We kept this bottle of miracle solution in our closet. It held this secret concoction of herbal ingredients that we’d slather on our bruises. It really did help reduce the swelling, and it was exciting to know that martial artists had used this type of solution for healing, too.

3. White flower oil: This is highly potent smelling oil. Apparently, it contains lavender, eucalyptus, wintergreen, peppermint, camphor, and menthol. It was often used for tummy aches in my house. Also, whenever we became stuffed up, we’d place a drop right beneath our nostrils to clear up our noses.

4. Loquat syrup (pei pa koa): This bottle of viscous syrup comes packaged in a distinctive red box with Chinese lettering. It’s not bitter at all, tasting overly sweet instead. This stuff is amazing as it coats the throat, making it less sore. Unfortunately, I find that it only works momentarily and lasts a few minutes before fading away.

5. Po chai pills: These BB-like brown balls come in a clear vial. Often you need to take 20-30 balls for it to be effective. I always found these hard to swallow, and they were my last resort when I was experiencing indigestion.

po chai pills

What atypical medicine have you tried?

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  1. That red medicine water was a staple in our medicine cabinet-I think it’s called Mercurochrome, probably don’t sell it anymore. It stung but we kids thought it was cool to have a ‘bleeding’ look on our elbows or legs. We also had a big jar of Vaporub (strong eucalyptus smell, but it works), and use it to this day. Now you have me thinking of the other remedies we used and have to go jot them down before I forget-maybe turn into a post, lol. Thanks for bringing up the memories.

    • jenniferjchow says

      Oh, thanks! I was wondering what the English name for that was. We also used VapoRub, too. Nowadays, they sell baby VapoRub, which is supposed to be safer for kids.

  2. My nephew’s sifu gave me this Chinese oil for muscle aches and leg cramps. I think it’s called woodlock?
    It has a strong smell but I swear it works wonders. You can feel it penetrating your skin and warming your muscles. I rather smell funny than be in pain. LOL!

    • jenniferjchow says

      We used to try to rub the oil in as early as possible for the smell to fade away. Even after showers, though, it lingered.

  3. I think I can remember a red medicine as a child. Reading it gave me a distant memory of it, lol. Thank you for sharing these remedies, I’ll have to search them for future use!

  4. I want to know more about the hit da jow, especially now that I’m about to start mountain biking again!:) Do you still use any of these treatments?

    • jenniferjchow says

      Hi, Lynnette! My family still has a bottle in their house, but I don’t have the ingredients to make it myself. I think the red medicine water got banned for high mercury content… The other ones I use very infrequently. Generally, I’ll stick to hot water/lemon or tea if I’m under the weather.

  5. Mom used to use Mentholatum on our feet when we had a cold. I loved it. But she’d also line our nostrils with it. when I had kids of my own, I thought this was standard, but am glad I read the label, which says never to use internally.

    That my mom did on my sister and I explains a lot.

    • jenniferjchow says

      Uh oh, my parents did that, too. I’ve heard that people stick Mentholatum on the feet and wrap it up with socks to prevent colds. Some of my friends really stick to this method, and others think it’s a myth.

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