There’s nothing straightforward or simple about Chinese medicine. I discover this on my visit to the Chaslu Wellbeing Centre, where I assumed I could just pick up a list of the medicinal properties of easy-to-find herbs and spices. Dr Li Xiao Ling, the clinic’s herbal specialist, smiles at me and shakes her head.
‘In Western medicine, doctors will use the same medicine for different treatments. We use a different prescription for every person. People react differently to medicines depending on their yin and yang.’
Yin and yang, she tells me, are the energies that balance the body. When they are mismatched, the body gets sick. However, the energy can be unbalanced in different channels of the body, of which there are 14, containing a total of 369 energy points (these are often treated with acupuncture). Dr Li also explains that there are roughly 130,000 different herbs used in Chinese medicine, and while she does offer a few at-home remedies, she stresses that, like any medicine, the herbs should be prescribed.
‘You might take medicine for a flu without realising there are two different types of flu – one with too much yin and one with too much yang. If you treat them the same way, you could actually make yourself sicker,’ she explains. For instance, someone coughing up yellow mucus would want something to restore the yin (garlic should do the trick), while coughing with white mucus would require something to restore the yang (Li recommends ginger).
While this can sound very vague, Li pulls out dozens of photos of her clients – including before and after pictures – to show me their progress. Some of the results are clearly visible (a stroke victim, for instance, whose after picture boasts an even smile). A large number of her photos are of her clients’ babies (notable because these clients were having issues conceiving).
Life in Dubai can, of course, disturb the balance naturally, being an overheated desert. ‘It’s difficult on people who come from cold climates, explains Dr Li. ‘When they come to the heat, it overcharges their yang,’ Temperature is a big part of the equation, and is one of the ways that Dr Li tests for imbalances. ‘Yang is heat, yin is cold. If you are always hot, have a yellow tongue and are very quick to get angry, these are signs of too much yang. Liking warm baths, being sensitive to air conditioning, lacking energy – these can all represent too much yin.’
By the end of the session, I’ve diagnosed myself as having definitively too much yin. Or perhaps I just need to get more sleep…
Chaslu Wellbeing Centre, Crowne Plaza, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 332 2111).
Some to try at home
Aches and pains
Cut up a raw potato and place it on the affected area for about an hour, after which point the pain should go.
Cut up a raw potato and place on the pimple for about half an hour. Do it every day until the pimple clears (it should only take a couple of days or so).
Coughs (without phlegm)
Boil some fresh ginger with white sugar, then drink a cup of the liquid. This should help to soothe the cough.
Coughs (with yellow phlegm)
Boil seven cloves of garlic and drink the brew, garlic and all. Do this twice a day for three days and the cough should go.
Runny nose (with yellow mucus)
Take six cloves of garlic and place them on the bottom of the foot for half an hour. This should help to dry up the sinuses.