My first foray into Traditional Chinese Medicine

My cough has gotten a lot worse since Sunday. What started as intermittent cough or what my mom calls “cam cam” cough graduated to a full fledged cough your lungs out kinda cough. My throat burns, my insides cramp up and I start wheezing for breath. There’s an incessant tickle in my throat that no lozenges can soothe and it’s making me cough non-stop, to the point my colleague gets up from her desk to check on me. Suddenly I’m not so sure it’s acid reflux.

I decided then to seek different treatment. I got the name of a recommended traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) sinseh from YH, who got it from his auntie colleagues and made the appointment for today. When I first checked out their website, I almost freaked coz it was completely in Chinese (I missed out the English option in one corner). When I called, a young man answered the phone in china accented Mandarin. I asked if he spoke English. He paused, and then replied, “yes?” when he transferred me to the clinic, another woman answered in mandarin. This wasn’t good. I made an appointment and left my name.

The clinic was in Macpherson and it was an epic journey getting there. The clinic smelled of strong herbs. When I told the counter person I was here for my appointment, she almost couldn’t find my name coz the lady on phone recorded it as Bee Leng.

I waited as the sinseh was with another patient. Her mandarin was so fluent, not the typical Singaporean half English half mandarin sentences that I got stressed out listening to her. Performance anxiety dey.

When she called me, it was my Chinese name she used. Only 2 people use my Chinese name; my mother when she’s pissed off at me, and my Chinese teacher. I almost didn’t respond to my name.

I first announced to her my command of mandarin wasn’t too good, at which she went oh dear! My English isn’t too fantastic either. So I just stumbled along and told her the story of my 3 month cough.

She tut me and said I should have come earlier. She told me to show her my tongue and she gasped when she saw it. I was mystified. I asked what’s wrong and she said my tongue was red. Apparently that’s not normal.

Then she felt my left wrist like they do in tv, followed by my right. She said my heartbeat was too fast. I wasn’t sure what that meant but it didn’t sound good coz she tsked some more.

She asked all sorts of questions regarding aches, pains and heat. When she asked if my “fei” felt hot, I stared at her puzzled as to why she was asking about my intestines. I asked her what fei was and she pointed to her chest. Diaphragm? Not that either. Lungs? Ah that made more sense.

She flipped through her file of herbs or something. Then she referred to her big book of medical things as she wrote down my medication in Chinese. She said we will try 5 days of the powdered variety and if that didn’t work, we will move onto the serious stuff. My eyes widened at the packet of black sludge she waved at me.

She then asked if I wanted to do something with my blood. Wut? Acupuncture, she clarified in English. At my wide eyed look, she decided against it.

At the counter I breathed in the herbal essence that is Chinese medicinal hall but it’s distinctively bitter. I was given instructions to drink my powders twice a day. When I tasted it, it was black and nasty, much like the little diarrhea pills we grew up with.

So cross your fingers and hope this works!



  1. So did it work?

    1. no not really. i tried to psycho myself into believing it will work but the mind is weak when i was heave-coughing like that. so i went back to another western doctor and he cured me with knock out drugs that cost $2 each.

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