June 28, 2005

Snake oil: Rx, Macau-style

Had I been suffering from a skin or eye infection or sore throat as I passed this Macau clinic, I could have gone inside and asked for a little snake to take the edge off. The Chinese beat the high cost of prescription drugs by using traditional healing products, like these snakes getting perfectly pickled in alcohol.

When your Yin and Yang are out of whack, traditional Chinese medicine can help restore balance and good health. For 2,000 years, snake has been a key ingredient in the traditional healer’s medicine cabinet. Hemorrhoids keeping you up? Rub them with snake skin. Snake gallbladder can quell skin diseases, chronic pain and pesky intestinal hemorrhages. Eating snake soup or snake meat can cure a whole menu of ills. And don’t pass up an offer of snake bile. A few swigs of the stuff can quiet whooping cough, rheumatism, fever and bleeding gums.

The average life expectancy in Macau is 82 years. Next time a snake oil salesman knocks on your door, consider inviting him in.