Life in Taiwan: Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a common feature of life in Taiwan, and it’s used to treat a wide range of health issues from headaches, to injuries, all the way to the heat.

Taiwan is hot. There’s no room to deny that fact. Summer days tend to be spent in a state of perpetual sweating accompanied by the repeated assertion that it’s too hot. Living in this environment certainly has its ups and downs. On the one hand, you get to eat endless tropical fruits, you have a perfectly valid excuse to be at the beach whenever you have free time and you can drink an obscene amount of fruit tea without gaining weight because you’ll have sweat out the calories just walking to the shop. On the other hand, you have to part with more cash because your new best friend air con does not come cheap and you’re most likely to get ill on a much more regular basis than normal.

In the UK, I would probably get ill once a year at the start of the winter season, but besides that I’d remain mostly healthy. In Taiwan, I find myself with some kind of ailment almost once a month. Walking between blistering hot heat weather and freezing air con all day is certainly not the healthiest thing for your body. You’re also working with children and the chances are that a few of them won’t understand how to go about their lives using a basic standard of hygiene just yet.

I personally despise going to the doctor, although I imagine nobody actually enjoys it. For me, I have to wallow in self-pity for a decent amount of time before I’m convinced to go, or occasionally dragged there forcefully. Being in Taiwan, it then transpired that I was once dragged towards a practice of medicine I had never experienced before – Chinese medicine. I’d always been a little dubious about the idea going on the perfectly valid assumption that having pins stuck into your body and being forced to eat bad tasting medicine for a week sounded more like an increase in discomfort. Given that upwards of 1.5 billion people in the world use it though, it was probably worth seeing what the hype was all about, not to mention the fact that normal doctors here prescribe 15 pills a day for a common cold. That can’t be good for your body either. So, on one rainy Saturday afternoon, I found myself seeing a Chinese doctor.

I’m not going to hold my hands up and say that I thought it was the most fantastic thing in the world but I will say that, for whatever reason, having a lady feel your wrist, stick pins all over your body and then making you drink the most disgusting concoction she can probably create doesn’t harm you either. Though I won’t be making it a regular practice, I felt a lot better.

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About the Author

Ella is an English teacher in Taiwan and has been living and teaching in Asia for the last two years. She has loved seeing kids enjoy learning English. In her spare time Ella has been learning Chinese, climbing mountains and finding hidden waterfalls in Taiwan’s beautiful countryside. You can check out her adventures on her Instagram or read about them on her blog