Bitter Potions and a Temporary Herbivore

I’m quite proud of the fact that I managed to go on a full vegetarian diet for the past one week.
Oh, it’s not because of Wesak Day that I decided to become a temporary herbivore. I don’t think I am the type to follow trends – I know of people who fulfill a strict vegetarian diet due to religious reasons but I am not one of them.
It was my Chinese sinseh. I was down with the flu after my KL trip and it wasn’t fun at all to be sniffling, coughing and feeling achy breaky all over. I don’t have much faith in doctors generally – I’ve seen enough GPs to be a GP myself. What would they give me but some paracetamol, antibiotics and cough syrup?
This time, I decided to see the Chinese sinseh in Sungai Dua, about five minutes away from where I live. He is old but hale and is very popular with the Chinese folks of all sizes and ages! He sits in his shop (which is incidentally a Chinese medical shop called Sen Seng) and sees patients all day long. Yes, there is a queue of people.
All he does is feel my pulse on both wrists, checks my tongue and asks some simple questions about how I feel, if I had a productive cough etc. I felt a bit embarrassed initially as our conversation could be heard by everyone in the shop (there is no partition nor curtain… it is all very public!). I was thinking, lucky I have the flu. What if I had something really gross?
After that, the sinseh started jotting something down in his book. It was in Chinese so I really didn’t know what it was all about. I later asked him and he said it was Wind Heat (fong re). This also meant that I had to go on a strict vegetables-only diet. No beverages, no meat except lean pork, no sugary stuff, no dairy products, no herbal teas. My eyes widened as his list of what not to eat seemed to grow longer as he spoke! It was practically my whole list of everyday foods!
He also gave me 12 packets of olive-coloured powder, to be mixed with warm water and drunk at 4 hour intervals. I have drunk bitter potions as a child (I remembered the most potent of them all being this icky yellow powder called Siamese Medicine Powder) but the sinseh’s medicine was really awful! I’d make faces – ok, ok – I cringed each time I gulped down the potion. (Have you seen how Calvin, that little boy wonder in the comic Calvin and Hobbes, makes funny, gross faces sometimes? Yes, that’s how I made faces too when I ingested the potion!)
But I am also the disciplined sort. If it takes bitter potion to cure me of my flu, then so be it. Let the bitter potions work their magic. That, and eating nothing but plain white bread (no kaya, no butter, no cheese, horrors) and rice with greens. And water. That’s all I took for the whole week I was on medication.
Of course, everyone asked me why I resorted to seeing a sinseh. Seeing a regular doctor would cure me faster.
Hmmph, I snorted. I want my medicine to heal me from within, not suppress the symptoms. I have faith in Chinese medicine because it balances the body’s yin and yang from within. I feel better because the medicine works gradually to heal. Like the stubborn Cantonese that I am, I believe that TCM (traditional chinese medicine) heals without weakening the body.
But being a temporary herbivore has given me many new insights. I discovered new vegetarian eateries and yummy meat-less food. Will blog about that later.

5 thoughts on “Bitter Potions and a Temporary Herbivore”

  1. Hi Keat: Yeah, mucho better now. Realised that vegetarian diet is not bad actually. Lots of good, yummy dishes to choose from. Also realised perhaps I had too many toxins in my body from eating too much… sigh.

  2. i’m with you with sinseh, me no like modern docs. i visited a sin seh day before. did acupuncture! yeah… the wind… it’s always the wind! i had mine for ages and it kinda hardened and numb my shoulders! so he had to punctured it out! hehe! and to top it all, i can’t eat beans(legumes) and white vegies and ‘cooling stuff’.. (arrghh! no McDonalds ice cream!!!) my goodness, i’m already a vegetarian… more vegies to be eliminated from my diet? *sob* from a skinny papan to become a flat paper soon! 😛

  3. Hi Alison: Yeah, there is something utterly comforting about visiting a sinseh. No clinics for me. I believe in chinese medicine (although it’s slow in effect) because I need to treat the body as a whole, not just zap the problem. The problem area is usually a manifestation of problems of another area.TCM may be a bit slow but that’s better than stuffing my body with antibiotics.

  4. I wouldn’t mind becoming vegetarian but my wife has to eat some meat. Can’t find many places in Penang to eat a good salad (although there are plenty of Chinese vegetarian stores about) so would be grateful for some ideas. At the moment, only really go for Pintail (Penang Road) for a decent salad.


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