The secret of Chinese cough syrups
Every time I get a cough, my parents would suggest that I get "Pi Pa Gao" or "Pei Pa Koa". Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'd reply.
Pi Pa Gao is a dark, thick, sweet syrup that's sold in Chinese supermarkets and drug stores almost exclusively. It's made from 15 natural herbs, loquat and honey extracts. Originated by Kingto Nin Jiom of Peking in the Qing Dynasty, it has become popular because of its effectiveness and soothing taste.
I was skeptical of its effectiveness because it claims to do so many things, including relieving coughs due to colds, sore throat, hoarseness or loss of voice. It also claims to help prevent dryness of throat resulting from late nights, fatigue due to overworking, excessive smoking and drinking. In fact, the explanation leaflet in the medicine box has 16 pictures of situations where it is useful. How can jack of all trades be master of any, I ask?
If you look at the ingredients in a typical Western cough syrup, you will see all sorts of chemicals. The Sainsbury adult chesty cough linctus, for instance, contains guaiphenesin BP, cetylpyridinium chloride, alcohol, glycerin, and sorbitol. ["Ooooo," you exclaim. "Just what am I inhaling here?" A dangerous concoction of chemicals!] Meanwhile, Pi Pa Gao contains Latin names of natural herb extracts. If you can choose between two cough syrups about the same price, wouldn't you go for the ancient remedy that uses only natural products?
I finally understand why my parents have been recommending that I take this Chinese cough medicine. I also realise that my mother isn't just nagging for no reason at all. There is truth in covering up my neck when I wake up each morning. I cough less frequently.
I wonder how many of my Western friends know about "King To Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa" and other Chinese remedies?
23 February 2003 Sunday