A Guide to Hong Kong’s Famous Traditional Chinese Medicine Shops

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Very controversial shark fin soup

Traditional Chinese Medicine differs greatly from Western medical practice in that it makes extensive use of natural remedies to cure patients, and therefore is of great interest to those seeking a more holistic approach to curing ailments and diseases.

If you’ve had a Chinese medicine consultation before, you’ll know that the practitioner first takes the patient’s pulse and inspects the ears, eyes, and tongue before purchasing a personalized remedy. The purpose of the practice is to maintain a balance between the energies of yin (negativity, darkness), yang (positivity, lightness) and who (the force that guides bodily functions) thought to reside in the human body.

One place where the Chinese medicine business is truly flourishing outside the mainland is the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). The influx of traditional remedies began in earnest in the 1950s, when a trade embargo against China created the need for a neutral port for the export of Chinese herbs across Asia.

string of herbs on the wall

Today, almost a quarter of the world trade in these products continues to pass through the SAR. Additionally, about a fifth of all medical consultations in the state are done at traditional Chinese medicine stores, which are worth checking out on a trip to Hong Kong. Before planning your trip, just be sure to check if you need to complete a Hong Kong PAR Application Form in advance.

What to expect from a traditional Chinese medicine store

If you travel to Hong Kong and visit a Chinese herbal remedy supplier, you can expect to come across a plethora of traditional medicine ingredients that you usually won’t find in a drugstore or western market.

Some key ingredients in traditional remedies include:

    • Ginseng – A root with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects
    • Chinese Jujube – These little red berries are said to nourish the blood and calm the mind
    • Codonopsis Root – Said to tone the lungs and improve the body’s ‘qi’ energy
    • Mulberries – Banned for anemia and constipation and believed to prevent premature graying of hair
    • Cordyceps – A fungus that only lives on rare caterpillars in some mountainous areas of Nepal and Tibet, used to treat asthma
    • Powdered deer antler – Used to improve kidney function and treat arthritis, and to promote muscle growth
    • Shark fins – This controversial ingredient is believed to promote rejuvenation, improve appetite, and strengthen key organs such as the kidneys and lungs.

The majority of traditional Chinese medicine stores in Hong Kong are small establishments with a counter, behind which are shelves and shelves filled with jars filled with these traditional ingredients.

While stores wholesale the ingredients for the customer to take away and cook for themselves, many also brew tea to drink on the spot based on what they perceive as individual needs.

Where to find the best Chinese medicine stores in Hong Kong

The best place for explore a chinese medicine store in Hong Kong is undoubtedly the district of Sheun Wan, also known as “little Thailand”. In addition to a large number of family-friendly Thai restaurants, the area around Wing Lok Street and Queen’s Road West boasts of hundreds of such traditional medicine establishments.

Specifically, you should head to Ko Shing Street, known locally as ‘Medicine Street’, where you will find some of the city’s oldest herbal remedy stores. Many of them have retained their classic decor and boast of having extremely knowledgeable and friendly practitioners whose skills have been passed down from generation to generation.

The traditional medicine store that has become an Instagram hotspot

One of the most famous Chinese medicine stores in all of Hong Kong is located across the bay for Sheung Wan, in City of Kowloon. However, although Tai Wo Tang has become incredibly popular in recent years, it no longer serves its original purpose.

Founded in 1932, Tai Wo Tang Medicine Store distributed traditional remedies to locals, including a number of prominent customers, until it closed after 80 years in 2017. However, it has been taken over by new management in 2018 and renovated. in a cafe, although it preserves many of its traditional Chinese decorative elements, including the ancient wood doctor’s office that lines the wall from floor to ceiling.

While the space now serves trendy modern coffee drinks instead of the traditional herbal teas it once specialized in, it has become a popular attraction for local hipsters and foreign tourists looking to take a selfie for their page. Instagram in the context of the original lovingly persevered. decor.

If you find some of the more bizarre ingredients used in Chinese medicine a bit off-putting, Tai Wo Tang is a great destination to sample a traditional store without having to fully engage in the practice!

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