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Traditional Chinese Medicine: Treatment for Stomach Flu

When you catch a cold or have a flu when you were still a kid, do you remember your grandmother or mother reminding you to wrap yourself in thick blankets after taking your medicine? I do have such suffocating experiences. According to my mom, this helps the body to perspire and perspiration helps to cure a flu.
Don't be too quick to dismiss it as old wives' tale. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) do believe that inducing perspiration is part of the treatment for flu. However, not all flu patients are given the same treatment. Stomach flu is one example. Although symptoms of stomach flu are similar to common cold, however for stomach flu, the temperature will be lower in the morning and higher after noontime. Besides feeling discomfort in the chest and in the gastral cavity areas, the patient may also show symptoms of enterogastritis. According to Mr Ng Whay Teck, a TCM practitioner since 1964, stomach flu is known as “shi wen bing” traditional Chinese medicine. ‘Shi’ ..., a common term in TCM, can be classified into internal ....and external ‘shi’..... Internal ‘shi’ is associated with ailments of the digestive system. Stomach flu is one of the internal ‘shi’. A patient with stomach flu will feel like vomiting and will suffer from constipation besides the other symptoms mentioned above..

In TCM, it is said that perspiration treatment is not suitable for stomach flu. Instead, stomach flu is treated with medication, which have mild detoxification effect and the ability to bring down fever. Most of the medicine used have effects similar to medicated oil and are mildly aromic, such as Agastache rugosus and Eupatorium fortunei Turcz. These medicinal effects are known as “Fang Xiang Hua Shi” in TCM.

Stomach flu was one of the most common illnesses during Japanese Occupation. Mr Ng recalls that his father, a Chinese physician would use medicinal herbs such as Tamarix chinensis Lour and red Alocasia odora (Roxb.) C. Koch to treat it. Red Alocasia odora (Roxb.) C. Koch has a mild detoxification effect while Tamarix chinensis Lour is able to bring down a fever.

Like yam skin, which is mildly toxic, the skin of Red Alocasia odora (Roxb.) C. Koch has to be removed before boiling. Boiling helps to neutralize the toxin, otherwise the patient's mouth will feel itchy after consumption. Tamarix chinensis Lour should be boiled longer for the treatment of stomach flu. This is because it reduces one's perspiration, which is not ideal for the treatment of stomach flu.

Next time, if you happen to catch a flu, find out which flu bug you have caught, before covering yourself in thick layers of blankets.


Information extracted from the Oral History Interview of Mr NG Whay Teck
Chinese Physician
Accession No: 1349/13