Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Nic's Birthday Basket of Liu Pao Tea

Here's something different from all the herbs and plants that I post about. This video is about Nic's recent birthday and how he decided to give himself a basket of tea. A 6kg basket of Liu Pao tea all the way from Wuzhou, China (from one of China's largest tea manufacturers and exporters).

We are big tea drinkers. In fact, if you read my blog long enough, you know I don't drink coffee. Not at all.

So friends who know me well will often buy me tea when they travel. I've got an entire tea cabinet filled with tea from all over the world.

Now besides teas that friends buy me, Nic and I drink Pu-Erh daily after our dinner. Pu-Erh is a digestive tea that helps people to keep slim and fit. It's also suitable for night drinking as some people do find it hard to fall asleep if they drink too much of other teas like jasmine.

This tea that Nic is unboxing is Liu Pao tea. It is a fermented tea that is good for detoxification. While Pu-Erh dissolves all the fats (supposedly), Liu Pao is a healing tea that cools the body. It is named after a village in China called Liu Pao but it gained popularity in Malaysia over the years, thanks to the tin miners in Ipoh who used to imbibe this tea daily. Right now, it is becoming popular in China again thanks to its humble beginnings in Perak.

We got reacquainted with this tea early this year and it is a good addition to our tea collection.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Hair Fall Update After Drinking Lots (And I Mean LOTS) of Ba Zhen Tang!

I have been drinking Ba Zhen Tang twice a week now for about 6 weeks. (See my previous post)

When I say twice a week, it's not that I boil Ba Zhen twice a week. I brew Ba Zhen herbs in my slow cooker in 700ml of water for about 4 to 5 hours on Auto mode.

I usually drink 350ml of the soup and save the remainder for two days later. Two days later, I'll gently reheat the soup on the stove and drink it while it's warm. This means my one pot of soup lasts me two sessions.

I've also switched up my drinking time. I used to drink it at night (11pm or so) because I used to brew the soup around 7pm.

But the problem is that at night I used to toss and turn, unable to sleep!

When I told my sinseh this, she told me to drink it in the evening around 6pm (or at least before dinner time).

I found that switching up the time of drinking Ba Zhen Tang was better. I didn't have difficulty sleeping - apparently, Ba Zhen invigorates the body so all that energy at night was not suitable at all.

When I switched my Ba Zhen drinking time to 6pm I also made my life easier! I would then start brewing the herbs in my slow cooker around 1pm (yes, it helps that I work from home mostly) and by 6pm, it's ready.

Then, of course, I don't throw out the herbs but add another 700ml of hot water to the slow cooker and switch it on to brew for another 5 hours until 11pm. Then I take out the soup, put it into a thermos so that my husband can drink this the next morning!

So what's the verdict after weeks of doing this?

I did find that my hair fall was lessened considerably! I am not kidding. So all the while it is the blood and nourishment (well, at least for me).

The hair fall reduced a lot so this means that Ba Zhen does work.

I think that's like the best thing so far. Just a packet of herbs, twice a week.

Another thing I've been taking is this pill that I don't know the name for. I went back to my sinseh a week or so ago and she checked my pulse and said I needed more nourishment for my stomach. So she gave me these white balls which contain a black, gingery tasting soft nougat-like medicine. I was supposed to chew this black ball thingy before I ate. The first time I tried it, it was so pungent on my tongue. I quickly chewed and swallowed the awful stuff.

A plastic ball coated with wax. Need to break it open. 

The black chewy ball of medicine inside! 

After taking one pill per day for the past 10 days or so, I am getting used to the taste and the chewing.

Not sure if this pill helps reduce the hair fall but my sinseh says it's perfectly OK to take this pill and also drink Ba Zhen, as long as I am not heaty.

I'll be back to see her in a week or so. Will update more then!

P/S: I tried a type of massage called DDS Bio-electric Therapy early this week when I was in town. This tiny shop is in Komtar and I wouldn't have known about it had a friend not posted this on her FB page (yes, FB has its benefits). Nic and I were in town and we wanted a foot massage. So we went in search of this place and when we found it, there was only one reflexologist for foot massage. Nic opted for this while the lady asked if I would like to try a Bio-electric therapy massage. It was electricity running through me as she massaged me gently. It felt really good and relaxing. Even she told me that drinking Ba Zhen was good for women.

This is my sinseh's shop all the way at Paya Terubong. 

Monday, March 05, 2018

Drinking Ba Zhen Tang Again & More Hair Secrets!

Remember the last round where I mentioned I was having hair fall issues?

Well, I read through my blog and found out that I have been crazily suffering from this issue for a few years now. (This is why blogging not only serves as knowledge to others but also a reminder to myself each time I forget my health issues. I just comb through my own blog and find out stuff that I've forgotten!)

So in 2017, I was still having hair fall issues. I hated washing my hair because I'd get so depressed looking at the clump of hair at the drain cover. I would wash my hair every 2 days because I think over-washing the hair also could cause hair loss.

It didn't help that the weather in Malaysia is always hot and humid. My scalp would itch and sweat so that was also a reminder to wash my hair. I tried a few shampoos - from the expensive L'Occittane (which did nothing spectacular despite the price tag of RM80) to the commercial supermarket Rejoice (it gave me a clean scalp BUT I kept thinking of all the SLS in the shampoo).

I also tried chemical-free shampoos from Human Nature, a Philippine brand, but the clarifying range made my hair squeaky clean but still, the hairs kept falling.

I knew deep down that it was internal. It was the food. It probably was some imbalance somewhere inside me.

So this year, what with making resolutions to kickstart 2018, I gave myself the challenge to find out what the heck is wrong with my aptly named Project Hair Restoration.

Yes, I was going to uncover what rubbish was clogging up my system.

A few years back, I met a young Chinese physician/TCM practitioner when I brought Lauren, an Australian artist to this Chinese medical herbal shop in Paya Terubong. How I met Lauren was serendipity or maybe not.

(Lauren does botanical fine art and before she left, she even gave me the ginseng root she bought. She said she wouldn't be able to take the root back to Australia anyway and even if she did, she wouldn't know how to brew the concoction.)

Lauren was drawing pencil sketches of Chinese herbs in Penang. I met her when she was doing her herb research at Ren I Tang, a cafe/boutique hotel in Little India. We started talking as you know, I'm just curious why this ang moh was interested in herbs. As Nic is an artist and I'm a TCM fan, we had lots of things in common to chat about.

She also told us that the original folks who ran and managed Ren I Tang (which was really an old Chinese medical hall turned cafe/hotel) had moved their operations to Paya Terubong. She introduced us to Melissa, who was the daughter-in-law of the original owner. Melissa was also a TCM practitioner and spoke English and was helping Lauren identify herbs for her art project. At that time, Lauren was staying at Hotel Penaga which has offered her a studio to use (yes, right on the top floor of Hotel Penaga) as she was the artist in residence.

It was only later that I discovered the brand Ren I Tang (or Yin Oi Tong) is ancient. The medical hall has been existence since 1796!

Now if you live in Penang, you would have seen a few variations of the name. There's Nyin Oi Tong. Then there's this Yin Oi Tong. Apparently, there is no relationship between both (I asked my Chinese physician who is a direct descendant of one of the partners who owned the Yin Oi Tong circa 1786). Whether it is Ren I Tang or Yin Oi Tong, it is basically a generic name.

Lauren remarked that she had wanted to visit the Paya Terubong medical shop but she didn't have a car and she didn't know how the bus routes were like. We love taking friends around Penang and I told her that we could take her there in our car. She was thrilled and that's how we ended up at the Yin Oi Tong medical hall in Paya Terubong.

Of course, Lauren has since left Penang. I think we met her in 2012 and I can't believe it has taken me this long to blog about this adventure. But you see, one never quite pieces the jigsaw together until a much later date.

That's how I met Priscilla, my current TCM physician.

When I met her, I thought it was rather cool that she was a young sinseh. I've always met old sinsehs and many were gnarled men in their 70s at least. Here was a young woman in her 30s who didn't look like a sinseh but she was and she was also running her family business - selling Chinese herbs and pills. Her father was a sinseh and her sister-in-law Melissa is a sinseh too. 

I was so sick and tired of the hair loss that I burst out crying one day in front of Nic. My husband only sees me tear up when I'm upset with him so this was a totally new experience. I blurted out my worries and I adamantly told him that I was going to find out the root cause, once and for all and I was going to start with visiting a sinseh. 

That was my 2018 resolution among my many other resolutions. 

That was how I ended up WhatsApping Priscilla and telling her my woes. I told her I was going to visit her that week. And I did. 

Her shop is totally nondescript in a row of rather plain shops along Paya Terubong. She sat me down and felt my right and left pulse. She asked me to stick out my tongue. Asked me a few questions and then she said that I have a lot of wind issues. That was true. Even my reflexologist told me that I had a lot of "angin" or gassiness. 

Maybe it was stress or irregular meal times. Maybe it was both. I wasn't treating myself too well. I slept late. I worked a lot on the computer.

She also asked if I drank filtered water that wasn't boiled. I said yes. It seems filtered water is too cooling for women's constitutions. Nic laughed the idea off (well, not in front of her) but I said I was going to boil my drinking water from now on if that simple step helped me reduce gassiness. 

She prescribed me these tiny black pills. Said I was to take them twice a day, each time before meals. It was supposed to restore order to my stomach.

(I never drink ice water or ice-cold drinks. I never drink coffee. I hardly snack on junk food except on those days of PMS when I want a salty snack. I never have ice cubes in my freezer unless I am making soap! Yes, I need ice for the ice water bath when I make soaps.) 

As to my hair fall issues, she recommended that I brew Ba Zhen Tang. I always thought I drank enough of it monthly but she surprises me with 3 statements:

1. Ba Zhen Tang can be brewed and drunk weekly. 
2. Ba Zhen Tang can be brewed on its own without needing to add any meat/chicken or egg. 
3. Ba Zhen Tang can be imbibed by men without any harmful side effects so long as it is the second brew (after brewing the first time, the herbs can be re-used to brew the second time. This second - albeit more diluted version - is suitable for men)

The reason for hair fall, she says, is a blood issue. There's just not enough blood and the blood doesn't circulate. The best way to replenish blood is through drinking a weekly brew of Ba Zhen Tang. 

Won't I get heaty? I ask hesitantly. 

Power through it, she says confidently. 

Won't the Ba Zhen Tang be affected by the pills she gave me? Apparently it won't. 

As I write this, I've drunk my Ba Zhen Tang weekly thrice already. I brew it in my slow cooker on Auto for 4 hours. It's enough for 2 bowls. I drink one bowl before I sleep and keep the other in the fridge for the next day. 

My Ba Zhen Tang herbs. They look clean and fresh! 

A closer look at the Ba Zhen Tang herbs, in my metal colander. I give the herbs a quick rinse before putting them into the slow cooker. 

I don't throw out the herbs - I do a second, lighter brew by adding hot water to the same herbs in the slow cooker and brewing it on Auto for the next 8 hours (I just switch it on when I go to sleep). It's ready the next day for Nic. I usually store this second brew in a thermos flask so that Nic can drink it any time he likes. He finds it invigorating. He says it gives him more energy and he feels less fatigued even after late nights and doing work on the PC. 

I also find that I have more energy. Maybe it's all that Qi being powered up and blood being built up. 

After taking the pills too, my gassiness has reduced a lot. I used to burp a lot in the mornings but now that's a thing of the past. I am on my 5th bottle of the pills (each bottle lasts me a week only) so that's about 5 weeks of taking the pills.

I also noticed the lack of gassiness after my last 2 rounds of reflexology sessions which I am pleased about. 

While I am on these pills, I have cut out my regular vitamins C and cod liver oil capsules. 

My hair fall seems to have lessened. I am still monitoring the hairs on the drain cover after each shampooing. 

I am also using a rosemary shampoo from the Human Nature brand (yes, the same Philippine brand of non-chemical products) which I find has helped in a way too. Rosemary, after all, is known for helping with hair growth. This shampoo also is most suitable for my hair - it doesn't dry out my hair or scalp and it smells pleasant! I'm reordering my second bottle and topping it up with the rosemary conditioner too. 

I'll share more as I drink more Ba Zhen and see what happens.

Already I feel better - not sure if it's psychological or not. I feel more optimistic that my hair problem will disappear. I believe Project Hair Restoration is off to a good start, don't you think?