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Gareth is an Australian who has lived in JiangSu, SuZhou (Heaven on Earth) for a few years - he is a keen observer of the Chinese people, Chinese culture and the changes that are occurring in China at break-neck speed. He can often be found on his a nightly 'perch' in front of his bar in the famous Bar Street in Suzhou, talking to the locals in his bad Mandarin, teaching the 'flower-selling girls' English, eating street food and smiling at the local chengguan (neighbourhood police). Gareth also has several other businesses in China around Business and English training. His experiences have been varied and interesting and his years in China have taught him to be wary of promises but excited about prospects, not a bad situation to be in!
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Perils of China: Medical Attention    

By Garreth Humphris
2755 Views | 3 Comments | 8/25/2013 3:49:07 PM

I was talking to my sister on VOIP the other day (she has lived in Hong Kong for 6 years) and I commented that I was feeling a bit of a headache coming on! She shot me back the only medical advice that you seem to get in China with any certainty, “drink more water, take more rest!”. You can be guaranteed that any ailment you may suffer from with have the first point of cure being those two things!

Be it broken leg, finger amputation, lumpy lung or heart failure, the first cure to try (at least for a few days) is ’drink water’... I even think they might recommend it if you suffered from a drowning incident!

Interestingly enough, in the case of my existing ailment, it would probably be true! It has been hot weather in China and I had run out of bottled water and my local ’high quality' electric kettle had somehow shorted out the only time I have ever wanted to use it, and the gas cooktop was sputtering into submission as well! So, rather than risk drinking the tap water, I went to bed without! Morning was slaked throat and headache!

The doctors in China also seem to like creating new diseases - Fatty Liver is a particularly difficult one - most foreigners are told they have a liver that is ’fattier than normal’, the issue is we don't know what ’normal’ is... is it the liver of a 5ft4 wiry Shandong farmer or an international standard? Nobody seems to know but our medical checks for immigration issued in China inadvertently say ’fatty liver'! It is written on medical records and will probably be cause of death if that were to happen! What are the consequences of this predicament? Well, nobody seems to be able to tell you nor do they have a remedy!

Apparently it is a known condition - they not just making it up! Maybe in the Western world, obesity masks it! I gather there are about 50 possible causes from the barrage of assumptions the doctor made about me...
’give up alcohol'...I haven't had a serious drink in 5 years
’too much milk'... Only a dollop in my coffee
’too much meat ... Vegetarian
’too much coffee' ... One cup every second day!
’too much tv' ... Can't watch it in China
’too much sex’ ... Categorically deny that charge!
’not enough water’... Impossible, I am drinking it for every other ailment under the sun!

So nature or nurture, every foreigner has fatty liver, for better or worse!

Of course, Chinese medicine does have some exceptional cures as well - I have almost setup an international drug ring smuggling little packets of herbs and tonics and poultices to friends and family. My favourite is one called 'Dog Skin Medicine' which smells like a good Indian Curry and is a yellowy brown powder mixed with honey and alcohol (or urine or duck blood) into a paste and applied liberally on any part of the body that is swollen, engorged or enlarged due to twist, sprain or strain! Wrapped lightly in paper and a towel and left overnight, the medicine bites deep into the skin and joint and then moves the blood trapped there to other places, reducing the swelling and the pain! One time, I twisted my ankle so badly that I couldn't wear my shoes or wiggle my toes and this stuff fixed it in a day.

Like most good stories in China, it’s origins are unknown but everyone you speak to is adamant that they know the truth - So it either gets it’s name from its appearance as it is applied... The poultice is a little sticky and often creates the appearance of a dog with it's hackles raised...or, to work effectively, it was applied to your skin and then you wrap yourself in the skin of a dog! Given the second story was told to me by my blind masseuse who practises Traditional Chinese Medicine he learned from his grandfather and who keeps a secret book of recipes (written in code) that he has his assistant read to him as he makes medicines in another room...as well as a jar of flattened dried lizards on sticks on his desk as ’gifts’ for sick patrons, the whole ’skin of dog’ story appeals to me in a rather perverted way!

Anyway, these little packets of magic have wended their way to Australia and the US and UK. Not sure where my grandmother found the duck blood but she is a pretty enterprising sort, still hopping around by herself at 94 years old!

So, next time you are in China, make sure you visit a Traditional Chinese Medicine Dispensary - even just to look at all the unlikely things that can be dried and powdered.

A word of warning for budding medical test subjects - only try things that go on the skin... but don't put anything in your mouth! At best they taste of bitter dirt... at worst you'll get dried lizard claws gripping your throat - from the inside!

And how do you fix that problem... drink more water!


Notes: Traditional Chinese Medical Practitioners are highly experience professionals with much experience - seek their advice before trying any traditional medicines or cures.

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(Showing 1 to 3 of 3) 1
#2013-08-25 19:56:20 by melcyan @melcyan

You didn't mention if a spider crossed your path at night time. That would have explained everything!

#2013-08-25 21:33:51 by mary0624 @mary0624

Very interesting article. 

I have suffered from the cold these days, my American friend told me also: drink more water! And, eat Vitamine C. :)

I really understand the difficulties that foreign people to see the doctor in China. I read some Chinese people feel difficult to see the doctor in western countries either, they ask for help from the domestic at last. We have difference in body type, big difference in medicine history and culture. Maybe you do not feel that in common sick, but you will feel that finally.

You are right, a Traditional Chinese Medicine Dispensary is amazing even in my eyes. I never know if all those unlikely things’ powder would work, but some of them I have used seem work well.

Good luck in China!

#2013-09-01 11:32:58 by crystalshoe @crystalshoe

Traditional chinese acupressure is not for the weak.To keep do it in difference time may be good helpful for you.

Anyway it remind we understand that we all have difference outlooking. height. family background and also sometimes aches from our body difference place since we all have difference past experience accumulation.

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