Pay, Pack and Follow: Keeping An Open Mind

In her search for natural methods of pain management, Drusilla discovers traditional Chinese medicine and decides to give it a whirl.

by / Published: 14 Nov 2017

Pay, Pack and Follow: Keeping An Open Mind
Photo: iStock

It’s no secret, I’m coping with shattered knees and a set of bathroom scales which alternate between hysterical laughter and screaming ‘no, no, please not again’ as I stand on them in the mornings. But what came first, my inordinately large arse or broken down knees?

I broke my legs and various other parts a few years ago when still in the military, running around in camouflage green and abseiling out of helicopters – which was the source of the problem in the first place...abseiling out of helicopters works better if you use ropes.

Passing years, advancing middle age and enjoying life to the fullest haven’t helped. Not aided either by three years in Texas, eating steak and enchiladas, followed by three in Italy eating pasta and gelato. Let’s just say my knees are dealing with the strain.

I’ve just reached the age of fifty, so it’s time for new goals, new resolutions and a new half century. Looking at my arse – really, you can’t miss it, English workmen used to sing Queen’s ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ when I walked past – I’ve implemented a new plan for both the husband person and myself: cleared the fridge and cupboards of ‘bad’ food; put together an eating and fitness programme and engaged a torturer (aka personal trainer) to help when my will wobbles – the breaking strain of a wet Kit-Kat, that’s me.

But on pain management, well, that’s not so easy. The torturer Lisa advises me on muscle development, the excellent John at Phuket Knee therapy massages a great deal of the pain away and then it’s down to pharmaceuticals. But the gods alone know what the chemicals are doing to my insides.

Last month, I came across the interesting Cheng Woh medicine shop on Campbell Street in George Town. Could this be the answer to pill popping painkillers? It couldn’t hurt and I thought it would be fun to try.

Gently nudging my way to the counter, I shyly explained that I have advanced osteoarthritis and could they help? Alarmingly, a lady of (many) advanced years beside me started shouting and gesticulating, first at my face and then at my knees. Eyebrows disappearing rapidly into my hairline and with a face like a startled rabbit, I looked in desperation for a translation.

Far from “you no right to be in here, you go, out, out!” which is what I thought she was shouting, it seems she has the same problem and at last, she said, a foreigner has been sensible to come for ‘good medicine’. Her shouting, I asked? It seems she was a tad hard of hearing. Simple.

Various draws and boxes were opened. Unidentifiable and intriguing dried roots, seeds and pods were weighed, measured and carefully divided into paper bags. Cooking instructions were translated into English and this happy girl left the shop, clutching 24 days’ supply.

Each day for the past fortnight, I’ve loyally followed the cooking instructions – the pods, seeds and herbs sweating in a glutinous ‘soup’ – the fetid smell permeating like a putrid decaying fog. As it simmers for an hour, the steam oozes its malodorous scent onto the nostrils and eyes of any foolhardy enough to approach the kitchen.

And as for the taste…do you remember as a child, your mother holding your nose as she poured some noxious liquid down your throat? Well that is what I have to do. Fast – as the taste viciously stabs at my defenceless taste buds.

Has it worked so far? Daringly, I’ve stopped taking pain-killers and haven’t noticed any increase in pain level…but I’m worried my household won’t survive this alternative medicine. I know my cleaner is considering changing to the afternoons and my dogs already flee the kitchen when I get ‘that’ bag out, so...?

(The other side to this jolly delve into alternative medicine – whilst all that I could see in Cheng Woh looked vegetable in origin, much is written about traditional Chinese medicine being a threat to endangered species, with a dearth of evidence for its efficacy. So I think you’ll have to make your own minds up.)