"Traditional Chinese Medicine has been around for thousands of years," says Dr. Regina Talavera, an anesthesiologist who studied traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) at the Ateneo.
"It’s a health system that works and, although it has a holistic approach, there is a science behind all this."
From culinary herbs to fruits and vegetables, traditional Chinese medicine uses items at home as great alternatives for curing common ailments.
But how do we use common household items as alternative medicine? Dr. Talavera shares five Chinese remedies that you can easily do at home when you get a headache, fever, and other common illnesses.
Better quality of life
After completing her residency training and graduating Doctor of Medicine in Anesthesiology, Dr. Talavera trained in occupational medicine, palliative care, and traditional Chinese medicine.
She studied the latter for three years, focusing on acupuncture, moxibustion, and nutritional Chinese medicine at the Ateneo De Manila University.
In the past year, she expanded her knowledge of TCM by undergoing an eight-month training in Taiwan. She’s currently a TCM lecturer at Ateneo and the College of Medicine at the Chinese General Hospital.
Asked why she took up TCM, Dr. Talavera looks back at her roots as an anesthesiologist.
“As an anesthesiologist, I was looking for other ways to help treat my patients who are in pain because their pain medications helped with their pain, but not much with their quality of life,” she shares.
“I discovered acupuncture and Chinese medicine. In the beginning. I thought it was only good for pain, but I later learned that there are so many uses and it could be combined with Western medicine to have a very good outcome.”
A holistic approach
For Dr. Talavera, TCM follows a more holistic approach compared to Western medicine’s analytical process. She explains how the former strengthens a person’s qi, vital energy that moves freely within the body.
“The goal of TCM is to correct, maintain, and ensure the proper flow of qi and its balance throughout the body, thus preventing the different conditions causing the disease. TCM emphasizes on prevention of disease, maintaining balance and moderation in everyday life, living a healthy lifestyle and habits, good nutrition as well as a sound emotion, a proper and healthy frame of mind, and a strong spirit,” she explains.
So, what do we need to know before doing Chinese remedies at home?
“It is safe, provided that these remedies are used for specific patterns of the disease to benefit the patient. Our bodies have a distinct, internal environment requiring a unique approach. Every treatment is different and tailor-made for every patient. It is best to consult a TCM-trained doctor prior to taking these home remedies,” advises Dr. Talavera.
Cure from the kitchen
Dr. Talavera surprises us with the items that can be used to cure oneself of common sickness. She suggests preparing culinary herbs, fruits and vegetables.
First on her list is sweet basil, a tender, aromatic plant with a spicy odor and flavor used primarily for pesto sauce.
“Use sweet basil leaves as a seasoning to substitute parsley in your dish to cure that headache that comes with the common cold,” she says. “Also, you can cook basil leaves with ginger and green onions with your fish or meat to combat menstrual pain.”
Fresh ginger, on the other hand, can be a cure for cough and colds by simply boiling four grams of it with eight dried orange peels in water. For fever and colds, seven grams of fresh ginger should be boiled with brown sugar. After boiling each, you can simply drink it like tea as your medicine.
Third is strawberry which, surprisingly, can ease a long-standing dry, hacking cough.
“Steam 60 grams fresh strawberries with 30 grams of rock sugar. Put them in a container, cool, then you may eat it three times a day,” Dr. Talavera suggests.
Starfruit, also known as balimbing, can be prepared two ways to cure certain ailments.
“Eating starfruit twice a day relieves fever and cough in the common cold,” she says. “On the other hand, boil three fresh starfruits with two teaspoons of honey. Eat the fruit and drink the juice, for those who have kidney stones or have difficulty urinating.”
Lastly, celery mixed with honey or vinegar can be a big help for people who have hypertension and high blood pressure.
“Fresh celery juice can be mixed with honey to relieve dizziness, headache, and shoulder pain associated with hypertension. Meanwhile, celery may be cooked with vinegar to lower blood pressure and relieve headache due to high blood pressure,” Dr. Talavera points out.
Dr. Talavera looks back at how her mother would treat her sore throat and fever with just ginger and garlic, respectively.
“My mom would put hot sliced ginger over my throat and tie it with a handkerchief for sore throat. Also, she would boil garlic in water and use the solution to bathe me in to reduce fever,” she says.
In conclusion, Dr. Talavera stresses, “TCM is safe when used appropriately. It helps the body to heal itself and it could be used for prevention and cure. It is natural and, lastly, it has been around for thousands of years. It’s a health system that works and, although it has a holistic approach, there is a science behind all this.”