The holiday season will be here soon! Along with the usual overeating and drinking, that also means a lot of people getting sick. That is especially true here in China, where masses of people are traveling at the same time, greatly increasing transmission rate of germs and viruses.
Another big deal over here is a particularly bad cold/flu season, largely due to radically strange weather this year that is changing faster than the average body can adapt to. Additionally, there is an acute virus that hits fast and strong, attacking the stomach without warning, then lingering in the body to cause major fatigue.
Recently, I have treated numerous folks at their homes, as the moms are having a tough time managing entire households of nauseous kids, husbands and servants. In the process, I have spent a lot of time at their neighborhood drug stores, identifying and picking up remedies for patients that they can conveniently refill as needed. Much to my pleasant surprise, I found an excellent modern Chinese herbal cold formula, Wu Shi Cha Ke Li, available over the counter in extract form (See Figure). It translates as "Noontime Tea Extract" and lists the following ingredients:
hong cha (Camellia sinensis preparata) cang zhu (Rz. atractylodes) chai hu (Rx. bupleuri) qiang hu (Rz. notopterygii) fang feng (Rx. ledebouriellae) bai zhi (Rx. angelicae dahuricae) chuan xiong (Rx. ligustici) huo xiang (H. agastache) qian huo (Rx. peucedani) lian qiao (Fr. forsythia) chen pi (P. citri reticulata) shan zha (Fr. crataegi) zhi shi (Fr. citri immaturus auranti) mai ya (Fr. hordei vulgaris germinatus) gan cao (Rx. glycyrrhizae) jie geng (Rx. platycodii G) liu shen qu (Massa fermentata) zi su ye (Fo. perillae) hou pu (C. magnolia) Sugar
The functions stated on the package are: for common cold, stomach ache, headache, body aches, fever, fullness/distention caused by overeating, difficult breathing and nausea. The chief herb, as you may have guessed by now, is tea. It is black tea (in Western cultures), which is referred to as red tea, or hong cha, in China. Numerous varieties of hong cha exist in China. Even though they are all red teas, they have significantly different tastes, aromas and even different herbal actions/feelings on the body.
Review of ingredients supports the indications listed, but I was confused regarding the translation of "Noontime Tea." Good fortune was with me, in that my friend Hannah, who was helping me translate for this article just happened to be personally familiar with this product as a household remedy. According to her grandmother, Hannah began drinking Wu Shi Cha Ke Li about 16 years ago (at age 10) for general stomach weakness and distention.
It was the most popular ke li formula used back then for treating children, especially weak children with low appetite and those susceptible to catching colds and chronic cold. In fact, it was used mostly as a regulating formula for preventive health purposes, such as the classic minor bupleuri formula Xiao Chai Hu Wan and Gui Zhi Tang (Cinnamon Twig Decoction) remedies with which we are so familiar. Black tea is the chief herb used for this regulating formula. That is a very interesting detail, because black tea is far more commonly drunk in the Western world. The vast majority of Chinese tea cultivation and processing is of green and green oolong tea, which is also what most Chinese people drink.
Believe it or not, the difference between the effect of strongly brewed regular black tea and red oolong tea, is like comparing the workload capability of a regular Ford F-100 pick-up truck to an 18-wheeler. It certainly got Jake Fratkin's attention when he gave me a chance to treat him for early Winter Cold invasion symptoms using red oolong as a single herb. He felt its effect in less than an hour, at which time he prompted me to begin writing educational material regarding the use of cha as an herb in China. As the old expression goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Click here for previous articles by Brenton Harvey, LAc, CH.