Flu season has some turning to Chinese remedies

"Big Snake Mak" has a secret weapon to fend off the threat of flu - it wriggles and hisses in a basket at his side.

Snakes have been used in China for thousands of years to cure a host of ailments - snake-fermented wine for arthritis, snake genitals for the kidneys and male sex drive, snake gall bladder for bronchitis.

And snake, says "Big Snake Mak" - otherwise known as serpent salesman Mak Tai-kwong - is a proven flu fighter.

"Those that eat snake bile four to five times every year will have a stronger body and will have much lower chances of contracting the flu," Mak told AFP as he pulled a king cobra from his basket that he will kill, cook up and sell.

"Look at me, I'm over 80 but I rarely have the flu. It's because I eat snake regularly."

While not everyone would be inclined to follow Mak's lead, some in the teeming city of seven million are turning away from the traditional flu jab in favour of Chinese herbal treatments.

Freelance photographer Vincent Du used Chinese medicine for chronic asthma as a child and reckons that herbal remedies keep the flu bug at bay - and ward off long-term illness.

"Western medicine takes effect faster but often has a lot of side effects," he said.

Bian Zhao Xiang, director of the Chinese medicine clinic at Hong Kong's Baptist University, said the number of flu patients at the clinic increased by 37 percent in the latter part of last year compared to the same period in 2009.

The university plans to build a HK$800 million ($100 million) teaching hospital that would provide the city's first in-patient Chinese medicine treatment.

"Chinese medicine is by far a better treatment for seasonal flu (compared to Western medicine), in terms of its effectiveness, side effects and symptom control," he said.

"In Chinese medicine, every patient will receive a personalised, tailor-made set of treatments specific to their body type."

Hong Kong is particularly nervous about infectious diseases, with at least 12 lives lost since the end of January to the deadly swine flu strain of the disease.

Dozens have been admitted to intensive care units with flu of some kind this year.

Officials from the city, which has some of the most densely packed neighbourhoods in the world, have been nervous since the 2003 SARS virus outbreak which killed 300 people in Hong Kong and another 500 around the world.

There is little concrete evidence of Chinese medicine's effectiveness as a flu killer, but many in the city and across China swear it works.

Chinese treatments involve using herbs such as powdered honeysuckle and forsythia, to keep the body's Han (cold) and Re (hot) energies in harmony - in addition to a healthy diet and acupuncture treatments.

Traditional remedies have been a crucial part of healthcare in China for thousands of years, and used for everything from disease prevention and treatment for diseases to relieving pain and soothing restlessness.

Hong Kong and China's central government have both urged citizens to use different herbal concoctions to beat the flu, and other ailments.

Even everyday foods like garlic, ginger, spring onion and vinegar can help ward off influenza, some say.

However, like some Western medicines, the Chinese variety have drawn criticism with questions swirling about the production facilities and manufacturing standards in Hong Kong.

Even the industry concedes about half the Chinese medicine sold in Hong Kong had not been tested for the presence of toxic materials such as heavy metals and pesticide residues.

In response, the city's government introduced new legislation in December, banning all unregistered proprietary Chinese medicine with a maximum fine of HK$10,000 and two years in jail.

The move sparked anger among many Chinese medicine practitioners, but there seems little doubt Hong Kong residents will keep using traditional remedies despite the new regulations.

"Many youngsters nowadays turn to Chinese medicine," said Qiu Hong-zhen, a shopkeeper at a pharmacy that sells both Chinese and Western medicine.

"Western medicines are mostly for those looking for a quick fix, but it does not get to the root of the problem - Chinese medicine is a thorough solution."

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
i100
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim footballer acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Arts and Entertainment
A shared vision: Cerys Matthews has been familiarising herself with Dylan Thomas’s material, for a revealing radio programme
arts + entsA singer, her uncle and a special relationship with Dylan Thomas
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

    £300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

    KS1 Teacher

    £95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

    HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

    £32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster