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From the fields to the pharmacy

By Tan Weiyun (Shanghai Daily)

09:52, August 29, 2012

FOLK remedies are a part of traditional Chinese medicine even though they are not included in standard TCM texts. Nonetheless, experts in the field say these prescriptions can cure many diseases even if doctors don't quite understand how they work. Tan Weiyun reports.

A willow branch can cure skin problems, rock sugar plus a sweet peach helps with asthma, diced garlic drives away painful menstruation ... Simple, affordable, easy to practice, fast-acting and mysterious, folk prescriptions (pian fang) have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years.

Since ancient times, folk remedies have been concocted by villagers around China through a combination of wisdom and experience. Though not approved by the official medical system, the prescriptions with "magical curing effects" are favored by many Chinese people.

Pian fang or mi fang (secret remedies) refer to traditional Chinese medicine prescriptions not included in the Pharmacopoeia of People's Republic of China or other official TCM books.

Having been practiced for centuries, these remedies usually feature easy-to-get herbs, simple treatment methods and work quickly on various ailments ranging from minor coughs to complicated illnesses such as Ménière's syndrome, tumors and cancers.

"The folk prescriptions, I think, are a tremendous treasure, a shining pearl of TCM," says Qian Hai, a professor at Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. "They are primitive, yet full of intelligence. They are inexhaustible resources because you never know exactly how many folk remedies are out there. You would be shocked each time at how magical they are."

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