My mom is a doctor. But not just any doctor. She’s a traditional Chinese medicine doctor, which means that her children bear the brunt of being full-time patrons to herbal formula subscriptions. Furthermore, at dinnertime, my mother doesn’t simply nag me to eat vegetables. She goes a step further. It usually goes like this: in a Chinese-American accent she says, “When you eat those pumpkins, it’s better to eat the pumpkin seeds too – it helps fight against parasites. Eat flaxseeds because they are good for your skin. And seaweed is good for your thyroid glands.”
Normally, I would have rolled my eyes and just ate the food to make her happy. But that has changed since a recent trip to visit my family in Haikou, a small tropical city in southern China. In the U.S. people like to supplement their diet with multivitamins, fish oil capsules, or even protein pills. However, in China, people believe there’s a different way that doesn’t involve any type of pill. In fact, it seems they get their calcium from duck feet. One night while I was in China, my uncle brought home a cooked duck. My eight-year-old cousin immediately set her eyes on the part that many people would rather not eat – the foot. More specifically, the bone. In China, young children often suck on chicken, duck, or fish bones. Think there’s nothing in them? Think again. Bone marrow is commonly believed to be an excellent source of calcium. In addition, children don’t do this simply because they are hungry and the family doesn’t have enough money to properly feed the child. In fact, most of the time, fish heads or cow bones often sell for a higher price than the meat part.
After I came home from that strange, eye-opening experience, I slowly began to notice the little tonics my mother so often prepares. When my brother came down with the cold, my mom immediately pulled out some herbal roots from our fridge and began creating a strong ginger drink for him. She then waited patiently until he started sweating profusely. “Let out the bad energy,” she happily sang.
And then I realized: my mom has an entirely different way of dealing with the human body. But she might be right. Maybe my mom has a point when she pesters me to eat the funny looking mushrooms because they are an anti-oxidant or the black sesame seeds because they’re good for my kidneys. It’s taken a little while, but I think I know what she’s talking about.
I believe there are simple actions that can enhance health than through pills and capsules. It’s the small and usually overlooked things: a stray eggshell in homemade bread, or the random bug in not-so-clean lettuce that my mother laughs and calls a “very special kind of protein.”
After living with my mom for years and experiencing a difference lifestyle in China, I’m convinced that there are other ways to improve health, however strange they may be. Finally, I believe.
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