Saturday, December 5, 2009

Traditional Chinese Medicine in Beijing (Part 2)

My last post ended with a visit to a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Pharmacy (P). Right after I finished typing, I went into the kitchen to prepare my first batch of herbal remedy. See pile of herbs below:

This is where things get interesting. There are two parts to the treatment.

Part One:
Herb Boiling and Steam Inhalation.
As you can see in the picture, I need to boil the herbs and inhale the steam. Pretty straightforward. The steam is menthol scented and smells pretty nice. The whole apartment smells great. This didn't seem to do too much for my allergies though.

After about 10-15 minutes, I strain the herbs out and filter the liquid until any particulate matter is gone, let it sit over night and then proceed to part two.

Part Two:
Nasal Irrigation.
This is where things get really gross and really interesting. Nasal irrigation, for the un-initiated, is the process of drinking liquid in through your nose so that it rinses your sinus and nasal cavity. I've done this before, usually using a light saline solution and warm water.

In this case, the liquid is a brownish concoction made from roots, seeds, leaves and god knows what else.

As you can imagine, this was not particularly pleasant. Despite being smooth (no visible sediment) and painless to irrigate, immediately after irrigation - my sinuses BLEW UP. I felt like I was going to get a sinus infection within minutes. Sneezing, runny, stuffy - all the fun stuff at once.

The doctor had warned:
This could either be very good or very very bad. But either way it is good. You must keep doing it, even if it is bad.

This is hard to hear for someone used to western medicine. We are prescribed pills. We take the pills. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don't. It's usually a pretty painless process. Being asked to make a physical sacrifice for my wellness is something I'm not accustomed to - but happy to do.

Since that first irrigation, things have gotten much better. The irritation lasts much less each time and between irrigations I'm much clearer than I've ever been before!

I'm still sold on this stuff! I'll update the blog again when anything substantial changes. I'm really hoping I need "cupping" soon. I've had acupuncture in America (without much "success"), but am particularly interested in being cupped. Technically you can request cupping or go somewhere just to be cupped, but I'd much rather have it recommended as a part of my treatment.