TAIWAN > TAICHUNG > ARTICLES
MAGAZINE, MAY 1999. VOL. 6 ISSUE 5
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.
More on Chinese
Herbal Medicine - The Eastern Way of Healing