6 Feb

Entering a Chinese pharmacy feels more like entering a witchcraft shop, even for a modern pharmacy. For most of us non-Chinese have a very clinical idea and relationship with our drugs. Little pills containing very specific doses of medicine and wrapped individually in plain packages; the long lists of guidelines and caveats that accompany each drugs, explain its uses and potential side effects. Even the off-the-counter drugs which are more aggressively marketed are just a pack of powder that we swallow without really knowing what are its constituents.

Those drugs do exist in Chinese pharmacies, but when you get in you are mostly drawn to all the funky stuff displayed around the shop and which you are not sure you can recognise or know at all. It looks like the primary resource is sold to you with barely any prior transformation. Dried mushrooms, ginseng’s thin roots, dried sea cucumbers (I think), and other things which can be roots but which really look like long dried worms. I don’t know what these things do to you and against which illnesses they are meant to cure you. However, I think there’s something quite amazing in being able to have access to the very product of pain relief or cure without the rest of the junk that we have to swallow knowing that it might affect something else in our body. True a single product can have both a desirable and undesirable effect, but the fact that it has not been subjected to so much transformation and has not been mixed with too many other products is quite interesting and perhaps altogether saner to the body. The problem with being used to totally clinical drugs is that I wonder if I would try some of it in its original format.

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