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Bitter Medicines

Lately our household has been bugged with the cold/flu bug. The air is filled with the sound of phlegmy hacking, coughing, sneezing and blowing of noses.

Almost every winter or approach of winter I go through this. Nothing I do seems to be able to help me dodge it completely. I went for a flu-jab, took Vitamin-C, kept my hands as clean as possible… but still I can never evade it.

The worst bit of a cold for me is the coughing. It always gets worse at night when the phlegm builds up and by the middle of the night it has become impossible to breath and my body is rudely awakened by a violent fit of coughing. Sometimes it was so bad that I had to sleep sitting up like the Elephant Man.

Anyway, allow me to share my favourite remedy for times like this…

It’s is called Senega & Ammonia.

I have to tell you that it is absolutely one of the most disgusting tasting concoctions in the world.

It was recommended by a doctor a few years ago to help with relieving some symptoms of a case of bronchitis I was going through. It’s meant to help open up the airways in your lungs to make it easier to cough out all that yucky phlegm.

It was like a miracle cure for my cough. In just a one or two days, my coughing had eased tremendously and I was sleeping easier at night.

But let me reiterate again that it really is quite the most horrible things you’ve probably ever tasted in your life.

However I was well-trained by a master-drinker of nasty medicines. You see my father always told me “The yuckier and smellier the medicine, the better it is for you”.

As a child during times of sickness, we were made to drink bitter tasting medicines like the classic Hor Yan Hor herbal tea. Or worse still, we might pay a visit to the medicine man at the shop corner in Taman Foh Sang to gulp down terrible tasting black liquids concocted on the spot. How I loathed those times.

Anyway let’s take a turn on this topic to another episode of Stories of Long Ago

My father often tells me that the bitter medicines I had to drink were nothing compared to what he was made to swallow.

As a child growing up in the village, he too was made to drink bitter black medicines to cure illness. But the ingredients that went into those potions were much worse, which included things like cockroaches, insects, lizard dung… ground up together into some yucky mixture to drink.

I don’t know if he was pulling my leg at that time. But I remember his face being completely serious as he told me how ‘not so bad’ the medicine I was drinking was compared to the cockroach dung he has to eat as a boy.

As a boy growing up in a poor village environment, I suppose families always resorted to home remedies first to cure an illness or ailment. Only in dire circumstances when they had exhausted all options would they finally pay a visit to a western doctor.

My father told me the story of one time having to carry his younger brother piggy-back on his shoulders in the middle of the night to see a doctor. Apparently he was suffering from a fever which had gotten worse and worse almost to the point of delirium. My father was only a boy at that time, and his brother only a year or two younger than him. As it turned out, his younger brother got better after the visit to the doctor, since my uncle is now well and alive today.

However not all situations turn out this way, my father’s eldest brother too had suffered from a fever but in his situation, the fever got so bad until it resulted in brain damage. He eventually came through and survived the fever and illness, but it left him somewhat simple-minded as a result.

This uncle eventually died quite young when I was just barely out of toddlerhood. But I do have vague memories of him and I don’t remember anything strange or simple about him. In fact I remember him as being a mild and gentle man who was happy to sit down with us children and play or talk to us a little. I have one memory of him sitting down on the floor with me and my younger brother singing ‘Do Re Mi’ along with us.


For more stories on my dad’s village life, you can check out these chapters…

My First Home

Money Mattered

Fun Games and Happy Times



Read more on our little family project to compile our Stories of Long Ago


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