Traditional Chinese Medicine differs greatly from Western medical practice in that it makes extensive use of natural remedies to treat patients, and is therefore of great interest to those seeking a more holistic approach to curing ailments and diseases. .
If you’ve ever had a Chinese medicine consultation, you’ll know that the practitioner first takes the patient’s pulse and inspects the ears, eyes, and tongue before taking out a personalized remedy. The purpose of the practice is to maintain a balance between the energies of yin (negativity, darkness), yang (positivity, lightness) and who (the force that guides bodily functions) believed to reside within the human body.
One place where the Chinese medicine trade is really flourishing outside of the mainland is the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). The influx of traditional remedies began in earnest in the 1950s, when a trade embargo against China created the need for a neutral port for the export of Chinese herbs across Asia.
Today, almost a quarter of world trade in these products continues to pass through the SAR. Additionally, about one-fifth of all medical consultations in the state take place at traditional Chinese medicine shops, which are worth visiting when traveling to Hong Kong. Before planning your trip, just be sure to check if you need to fill out a Hong Kong RAP Application Form in advance.
What to expect from a traditional Chinese medicine store
If you travel to Hong Kong and visit a Chinese herbal medicine supplier, you can expect to encounter a host of traditional medicine ingredients that you wouldn’t usually find in a Western pharmacy or market.
Some key ingredients in traditional remedies include:
- Ginseng – A root with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects
- Chinese Jujube – These small red berries are said to nourish the blood and calm the mind
- Codonopsis Root – Said to invigorate the lungs and improve the body’s ‘qi’ energy
- Blackberries – Outlawed for anemia and constipation and believed to prevent premature graying of hair
- Cordyceps – A fungus that lives only on rare caterpillars in some mountainous regions of Nepal and Tibet, used to treat asthma
- Deer Antler Powder – Used to improve kidney function and treat arthritis, and to promote muscle growth
- shark fins – This controversial ingredient is believed to promote rejuvenation, improve appetite and strengthen key organs such as the kidneys and lungs.
The majority of traditional Chinese medicine shops in Hong Kong are small, counter-front establishments, behind which are shelves and racks stacked with jars filled with these traditional ingredients.
While stores wholesale the ingredients for the customer to take home and prepare themselves, many also prepare a tea to drink on the spot based on what they perceive individual needs.
Where to Find the Best Chinese Medicine Shops in Hong Kong
The best place for explore a chinese medicine store in Hong Kong is, without a doubt, the district of Sheun Wan, also known as “little Thailand”. In addition to a large number of family-run Thai restaurants, the area around Wing Lok Street and Queen’s Road West has hundreds of such traditional medicine establishments.
Specifically, head to Ko Shing Street, locally known as “Medicine Street,” where you’ll find some of the city’s oldest herbal remedy shops. Many of them have retained their classic decor and have extremely knowledgeable and friendly practitioners whose skills have been passed down from generation to generation.
The traditional medicine shop that became an Instagram hotspot
One of the most famous Chinese medicine shops in all of Hong Kong is located across the bay from Sheung Wan in Kowloon City. However, although Tai Wo Tang has become incredibly popular in recent years, it no longer fulfills its former purpose.
Founded in 1932, the Tai Wo Tang Medicine Shop distributed traditional remedies to locals, including a number of high profile customers, until it closed after 80 years in 2017. However, it has was taken over by new management in 2018 and renovated. in a cafe, although it has retained many of its traditional Chinese decorative features, including the old medical office which lines the wall from floor to ceiling.
As the space now serves trendy modern coffee drinks instead of the traditional herbal teas it once specialized in, it has become a popular attraction for local hipsters and foreign tourists looking to snap a selfie for their page. Instagram in the context of the original persevered with love. decor.
If you find some of the more bizarre ingredients used in Chinese medicine a little off-putting, Tai Wo Tang is a great destination to sample a traditional shop without having to fully commit to the practice!