There is an old Japanese proverb that says good medicine tastes bad in the mouth. That could also be applied to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
I’ve tried so many concoctions that my friends have suggested I try out for a T.V. spot on the reality show Fear Factor. But more on the concoctions later.
TCM is tailor-made to meet the needs of its patients. One size does not fit all. A practitioner must give precise measurements of each ingredient so that the patient can get the most benefit.
TCM is also very time-consuming. Depending on the illness it can take a pharmacist anywhere from fifteen minutes to three hours to fulfill a prescription. Once it is filled a patient has to soak the ingredients in a clay pot for an hour before boiling it. After it is boiled it has to be cooled before it can be consumed.
That can be a daunting task. Chinese believe that TCM works best when it is consumed undiluted. However, I grew up on that Mary Poppins song A Spoonful of Sugar.
So far I’ve consumed powdered deer horn and snake bile. But my favorite concoction – note the sarcasm – included the exoskeletons of beetles. Since I also believe that humor is the best medicine I called that brew “beetle juice” just to amuse myself.
The smells of these concoctions are over overwhelming and nauseous, let alone unappetizing. It is enough to make my stomach churn. But if I want my skin condition to improve I have to put the medicine down. So, despite my Chinese friends’ advice not to mix my medicine with a bit of sugar I do it because it is the only way I can get it down. And for added measure I say the following prayer before consuming this nauseous brew:
Lord, I’ll put it down if you keep it down.
And that is just the boiled medicine.
I’ve also tried TCM as a cream. Although I don’t have to drink it and pray that God will keep it in my stomach, the stench for my sulfur-based cream smelled like I just emerged from a volcano. I had to rub the stuff on my arms and legs and let it dry before taking a shower. I tried to administer this medicine when no one was around because my apartment would smell like rotten eggs.
So why go through all this? Why did I decide to try alternative medicine? Because it’s better than what my dermatologists were recommending. Besides the creams and cortisones they also recommended Methotrexate and Embrel. According to my last dermatologist I had a 70% chance of seeing my skin clear up with Methotrexate. But the side affect was that the pill could damage my liver.
Embrel was the alternative. This is the one Phil Nikkelson endorses on T.V. It is an injection and it has to be administered by my dermatologist once a week. My chances of my skin improving was 80%. The possible side effect? It could affect my reproductive system. In other words I may not be able to have children if I took this drug.
Great. Which of the lesser of two evils do I choose?
I took the third choice. I chose my own path. At least TCM is natural, despite the fact that a snake or a deer had to sacrifice its life for my sake. Trying a drug as dangerous a Methotrexate just doesn’t make any sense. My skin improves but I’m not around to enjoy my new birthday suit because I’m dead. What kind of zero-sum-gain is that?
That, to me, doesn’t make any sense.