Here I am, back in Phuket Thailand. Those familiar with Thailand and it’s locales probably have very strong images that come to mind when they think “Phuket”. Touristy. Mass resort-devolopments. Euro trash tourist groups. Sleazy night life. Sex workers. Endangered animals on parade. Hedonism at it’s worst. All these things are true, but make up a very small portion of this very large, very diverse island. If you get away from the most populated beaches (which are completely over-rated in my opinion) you will find an incredible place rich in culture and history, gorgeous secluded beaches and the lovely place I’m now staying, Old Town Phuket. Not many tourists venture inland to where I am, and I love it that way. The Old Town’s streets are lined with gorgeous, colorful old Sino-Portugese shoppe houses and intricate tile work beneath your feet at every turn. New, trendy cafe’s and restaurants are popping up all the time from young Thai proprietors right along side family run businesses that have been around for centuries.
Which leads me to today’s post, and my visit to the Nguan Choon Tong Herb Shoppe on Thalang Road. When I first hunkered down in Phuket back in 2011, I stayed on Thalang road for the first month or so before I found a more permanent apartment. I must have walked past this shop dozens of times, breathing in the earthy, herbal aroma that seeps out from the typical open-air storefront entrance. This was a time before I was keen on finding “the natural way” of healing one’s self and so be it, the whole place was lost on me.
This time around, visiting Nguan Choon Tong was top on my list of priorities for this visit to Thailand. Actually, let me extrapolate a bit:
The major cause for this trip was to experiment with some alternative therapies in adressing chronic health problems. Thus far on this blog, I’ve mainly focused on health food, food photography, recipe development, eating grain free, etc etc. If you read my About page, I mention briefly my struggles with chronic illnesses. Narcolepsy, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Chronic Migraines. I am grateful and fortunate to have come very far with the assistance of a Paleo diet and exercise, as well as western medicine. However, I do have major symptoms that persist, and in an ideal world, I would really love to be treating my conditions entirely (or close to entirely) without the use of western pharmaceuticals. This trip is an experiment of sorts, to see what traditional Chinese medicine, over the course of 7 weeks can do for my chronic illnesses. I’ve been getting acupuncture (something I will write about soon) and now, I’ve got an herbal regime to help balance out my body.
Alright then! let’s get back to this incredible place! Nguan Choon Tong is the Oldest Herb shop in Phuket and has been operated by the same family of Chinese decent, since 1917! I can’t think of more trustworthy place to go for eastern medicinal remedies, short of China it’s self !
I entered the store, which is dark and old and just reeks of history. Locating a young man, I latched on to him and told him I was interested in getting some medicinal teas made up to deal with my endocrine disorder (PCOS specifically). I explained that despite being on western medicine for years, I still have problems with things like ovarian cysts, cystic hormonal acne, hair loss, and hypoglycemia. I’m sure this made him feel totally comfortable. Because what else puts a young Thai man at ease more than a neurotic white woman yammering on about her ovarian cysts?! Poor guy. He was great though.
He couldn’t explain in too many English words why or how the remedy would work, but for someone like me who’s spent over a decade of frustration with conventional medicine not working, I was willing to put faith in him, and the thousands of centuries that Chinese herbal medicine has been healing people. He consulted with his father, mother and sister (how cool is it that the whole family works in tandem together?!) and everybody went into action to get my “prescriptions” ready.
After getting up into everyone’s business with my camera a liiiitttle bit too much, I was encouraged to take a seat ( I’m such an annoying “farang” ( Thai for “foreigner”). Instead I decided to wander around and snap photos of the rest of the shop.
After about 20 minutes of working like all-knowing herbal elves, I was presented with 10 neatly wrapped packages, and instructions on how to boil and drink the brew for 10 days. I asked to have the names of the herbs written down for me so I can cross-check the safety of taking them with my regular western meds. As soon as all’s cleared there, I’ll be adding this bit to my healing regime!
As I just mentioned above, I’m not starting this regime without checking with my M.D. back in New York City who also happens to be a wicked genius when it comes to interactions between herbal supplements and western meds. If you are considering taking any herbal medications DO NOT do so with out making sure they don’t interact with any other meds you take. Mucho importante!!!! So, that’s all for now folks! I highly recommend visiting the Old Town area of Phuket for all it’s charms, especially this old herbal shop! It’s worn and tattered and sooty and authentic… that’s why I just love it! Check it out, it’s been around for 99 years. I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon (or let’s hope not!).
Nguan Choon Tong Herb Shoppe
Thalang Road, off from Yaowarat. Situated next to Kopitiam Restaurant
Phuket Town, Thailand