Honestly, I’ve tried. I’ve really tried to dabble with Chinese medicines, but after almost four years of practicing medicine here in Beijing, I must admit that I am comfortable prescribing only a few. That could mean a couple things:
- I’m too lazy to research
- I’m too busy to research
- I’ve tried to research but can’t find convincing evidence
The answer, of course, is D: “all of the above”. But I refuse to give up, and I still love the idea of fusing the best of Western and Eastern medicines into my practice. So, here are my favorites:
Nin Jiom Syrup for cough – everyone likes this medicine (pictured above), as it tastes really good. That’s because it’s mostly pure honey with a lot of herbs thrown in. I like this syrup even better than the western-style Robitussin syrups mostly because they all work about the same — which means not very well. Since none really work well, you might as well avoid the many side effects from Robitussin-style syrups which often make people feel a bit loopy or too wired, due to the pseudoephedrine and allergy ingredients. I like to combine Nin Jiom with western medicines like Tylenol Cold pills or oxymetazoline nasal spray.
San Huang Pian （三黄片）for constipation – This formula has many uses, but I personally like this one for general constipation. People who are stuck can take 1-3 pills before bedtime for a couple nights to get results. I’m told you should only use this occasionally and not every day, and I only recommend this to healthy adults who would like to try an alternative to their usual constipation therapies. The best way to keep your bowels healthy and loose is always a proper diet and hydration, plus exercise.
Watermelon Frost Lozenges for sore throats – There are a lot of cough drops and sore throat lozenges out there, but many are simply pure candy and ineffective. Watermelon frost (xigua shuang han pian 西瓜霜含片） is an ancient remedy for the throat, and I’ve found these lozenges to provide fairly good relief for the typical sore throat and cough.
Xue Zhi Kang (血脂康 胶囊) for high cholesterol – as I’ve mentioned before, this patented formula from red yeast rice has fairly strong evidence to lower cholesterol. There’s a good reason for that — much of the natural ingredients are similar to the prescription lovastatin. I’ve tried this medicine with a couple low-risk patients and had good results, although one patient had the same muscle aches he experienced with Lipitor and other statins.
The Jury Is Still Out…
I’m still looking for hard evidence that the wildly popular common cold medicines ban lan gen ke li or gan mao qing re ke li actually work. I am still deciding on many other medicines, including yunnan baiyao, a famous powder good for bleeding and burns.
What Chinese medicines do you use? Please leave comments below; it’d be fun to spark a reader conversation about pros/cons and personal experiences.
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