I must first admit to my general ignorance about the details of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), but I do know it works and have relied on its low-impact holistic approach numerous times. In TCM, diagnosis is based on a holistic understanding of the inner kingdom of the human body.
In a metaphorical sense, the elements of TCM are like warriors or sages, invited into your kingdom to rid it of troublesome invaders. Recently my inner kingdom suffered just such an invasion, and it was surmised that perhaps my Spleen Qi was sinking and I had a deficiency of Kidney Yang. Imagine my surprise and I just thought I had the runs, but unfortunately I had used the last anti-diarrhea tablet long ago. I turned to TCM for relief.
Many expats have a supply chain of items which they believe are essential to their everyday survival. When traveling to China, tourists are urged to bring, along with an electrical converter, common toiletries such as cold and digestive medications, lip balm, sanitary napkins and over-the-counter medicines. But these supplies are quickly depleted if you are a long-term resident. Just how many packages of Imodium A-D and Tylenol can you squeeze into two suitcases when packing for a move to China?
Most people are unfortunately familiar with the affliction of travelers’ diarrhea, which goes by many names, depending upon the country recently visited. After an exhausting siege of my inner kingdom I coined the boiling guts affliction – the “Brown Emperor” due to its merciless domination of my every waking minute. The Brown Emperor has a small but crucial domain – the bowels and digestive tract, and when he is in residence you suffer mightily from his abdominal tyranny. When the Brown Emperor ascended, neither Pepto nor Kaopectate had I. The time had come to enlist the help of TCM.
To paraphrase Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, the time has come to talk of many things, of Five Elements, Yin-Yang and Inner Heat, cabbages and kings. The goal of Chinese Traditional Medicine is to restore balance to the human body. Just as the physical world is composed of land, sea and air, in TCM the human landscape is composed of Qi, Moisture and Blood. Qi is the animating force that flows through all things (defining Qi can take thousands of pages). Moisture protects and lubricates all tissue (water is wet). Blood is the basic foundation of bones, nerves, skin, muscles and internal organs (blood is thicker than water).
The medicine needs to be taken regularly, and just like in America, some medicines are taken with food and some before bed. I took the small packets of TCM twice a day and the effect lasted longer and longer each time until after three days, the symptoms disappeared and the problem was solved. Many medicines may have an unfamiliar or unpleasant flavor – sorry no bubblegum, cherry or grape. TCM also lives up to the old adage the worse it tastes the more potent it is.
In the end (pun intended), I discovered the path to good health begins with the mind. From now on at the first sign of the Brown Emperor, I will start the fight with my ever increasing supply of TCM. But I pray I do not develop a fever while in the countryside, as I have recently learned of a potent TCM “cure”. The older generation sometimes uses a tincture made with cockroach poop to bring down a fever. The mere threat of such a vile brew would be enough to cure me instantly of any complaints, although I admit I have a morbid desire to witness the collection process.