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chinese herbal medicine taichung taiwan cheng hsing zhong yao fong Cheng Hsing Zhong Yao Fong

A fragrant essence of ginseng rises above the other distinct smells in the local market near Taichung's train station, leading devoted customers and curious newcomers alike to the shop of Mr. Lin Hsing-gang. Upon entering Lin's tidy, well-stocked and meticulously organized herbal medicine shop, a customer can't help but be in awe of the colorful and abundant selection of natural roots, nuts, bark and herbs which aid in prevention or cure of a wide number of ailments. Lin and his wife, Chon Chi-chong, enhance the colorful atmosphere by extending a warm greeting to all who enter their shop.
No stranger to the business of selling herbal remedies, Lin's interest in this field began early on, at the time he graduated from primary school. Overall, he said he has about 30 years experience. After giving a brief tour of the shop, he graciously poured some tea, opened a book about the size of Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, and began to describe some of his medicines.
Usually, several herbs are used in combination. They are boiled or ground into a powder form. In pure, uncooked or processed form, the flavor of each was a distinct as its shape and purpose. Ginseng, which is used alone or mixed with other herbs, has a strong scent and a bit of a sharp bite to its flavor. Often taken in powder form, it aids stomach ailments and the functioning of the respiratory and circulatory systems. Zhuen, a tree bark, is used to relieve back pain and speed back injury recovery. Logically, it tastes like, well, tree bark. It is used also to lower blood pressure, build up calcium supply and stabilize a pregnancy.
The list of natural remedies is both extensive and varied. For someone with eye problems, Huang Chi is one potential remedy. Hong Da is a mix of herbs used to help a scratchy throat and to strengthen the gums. Pang Da Hai (meaning fat big ocean) is often taken before giving a speech. When asked what to do for a common flu bug (gan mao) Lin said several herbs are mixed together to create a preventative medication. A common cold remedy is shin yi san powder. For the heart and kidneys and to build men's strength there is the ever popular dong chong shia tsao. Huang chi serves a similar purpose but also keeps the spine strong, helps female organs and keeps hips in line. Dan guei tzao yao san in a powdered form is used to increase blood cell production and assist with urinary tract infections. And, if you need a little help in the cerebral department, try the nong gen, which is supposed to help filter extra blood to the brain to promote mental stability, allowing people to gain wisdom, Lin added with a smile.
In their raw state, these herbs may taste a bit chalky, crunchy or bitter, especially to a western palate. But some of them are cooked in combination with meat and some seasonings to provide a nutritious and flavorful meal. One recipe that even a novice might want to try is hung tza, a red nut, cooked with chicken and dried chrysanthemum flower. In its natural state, the nut is somewhat chewy with the texture of dried prune.
In the mood for a refreshing summer drink? Try the ever popular luo han guo nut, which is cooked, water added and then kept in the refrigerator on ice. The nut is green and hollow, about the size of a lime with a slightly crunchy texture and tart flavor.
As Lin shared his insight and samples, his wife diligently measured mixtures of herbs for customers. Great care has gone in to making their business a success. Neatly packaged products line the walls and add color to the store.
Upon leaving, I was presented with samples of ground herbs that would help with an eye problem I have, weight loss, and even one to assure that I do not age too quickly ... of course, I began taking this one immediately. For this westerner, with a very minimal knowledge of the intricacies of Chinese herbal medicine, Lin's shop was an educational and memorable experience. Cheng Hsing Shop can be found at No. 4, Lane 370, Sec. 3, Fu Hsing Rd., Taichung City.

Article resources: Many thanks to Jim Hou of Taichung for introducing Mr. Lin and for verbal and written translation throughout the research, interview and writing process. Internet articles at www.gmt2000.it.

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