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? 


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