Folk Medicine – China

“When you have a cold or after you get rained on or in the winter time and you work outside for a long time, drink hot ginger water and brown sugar. Chinese people think that ginger gets rid of the cold in your body. Even when we cook, we put ginger in food when it’s too cold for your body. Ginger helps balance cold and hot.”

My mom learned it from her mother when she drank it as a child in Taiwan. Her mother brought the remedy from her hometown Anhui, China to Taiwan when she moved there in 1950. My mom then brought over the recipe to the United States when she moved here in the 1970s. One basically just boils ginger root in water and add brown sugar to make it taste slightly better. She thinks that this tradition probably dates back to the beginning of Chinese civilization because ginger is a mere root. Medicine in China use to be mainly herbal, so doctors would try to mix different roots and plants together to create an effective concoction. I am assuming that one man from northern China boiled ginger root and drank it and found it very warming. The winters in northern China get very cold and without heaters, people drank this to keep themselves warm. I think that this spread to the rest of China through travelers and relatives who found this drink to be therapeutic and helpful. When I drink hot ginger water with brown sugar, it tastes very bad and it stings, but it makes the body warmer and it is not just from the heat of the liquid. My mom makes it every time someone in the family gets sick or just during the winters in Maryland because it gets very cold. After my dad shovels the snow out of the driveway, my mom makes him drink the ginger water to prevent him from getting sick. No matter what kind of sickness, she makes people drink the ginger water.

Although I am unsure of the actual benefits of ginger, the ginger water my mom makes is effective to a certain degree. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. When I feel a cold coming on, drinking ginger water usually prevents it, but then there are still times when I get sick regardless of what I do. I also think that it may be mental. If I think I am not getting sick, then I am more likely to stay healthy. The ginger may or may not have any actual health benefits. However, through experience, I do know that it warms the body for awhile after you drink it.

Chinese herbal medicine still exists in China, but western medicine is becoming more and more accepted. I do not think that Chinese folk medicine will die out anytime soon because there are many clinics in both China and the United States that practice folk medicine. Doctors now are still being trained in the ways of acupuncture and herbal medicine. I do not strongly believe in the effects of all Chinese medicine, but it must be effective since it has been passed down for hundreds of years.