Alcohol has always been a way of life in China, especially for our ancestors. It influenced our greatest poets, like Li Bai (李白 Lǐ Bái), and inspired a new style of martial arts: zui quan (醉拳 zuì quán), or drunken fist boxing. It’s even seen as a cure; Li Shizhen (李时珍 Lǐ Shízhēn), one of the greatest TCM doctors to have lived, recorded 69 ways of using huang jiu (黄酒 huángjiǔ), or “yellow wine,” to treat ailments. Yes, alcohol has its place in our culture. But then, after drinking, there’s the next day. There’s always the next day.
So can you enjoy the kick of alcohol, just like our ancestors, without that terrible day after?
Suanzaoren and Gegen Soup
(酸枣仁葛根汤 ?Suānzǎorén Gěgēntāng)
Ingredients:10-15g suanzaoren (also known as spina date seed,a Chinese herb)
10-15g gegen (the root of the kudzu vine)
Chinese herbs are often bitter, frighteningly sour and sometimes just downright nasty, but they can also quickly conquer headaches, nausea and that miserable dry throat. To prepare this classic recipe, you’ll be using “jianfu” (煎服 jiānfú), a traditional technique known to every Chinese family that literally means “boil eat” or, more specifically, “boil the ingredients, then drink the soup.” Usually, a cheap shaguo (砂锅 shāguō), which is a clay pot available in any pharmacy, is used for boiling herbs, but any non-reactive saucepan will also work.
First, put all the ingredients into a sauce pan, allowing the herbs to soak for about 10 minutes. Then bring the mix to a boil over high heat, and let it simmer it for around 30 minutes. As it simmers, about half of the liquid should steam off. Once it’s cooled, pour the liquid into a mug, hold your nose, and chug it as quickly as possible. (Adding a little honey or sugar might help with that herbal taste.) It might not be delicious, but you’ll feel better soon after.
Huo Xiang Zheng Qi Pill
(藿香正气丸 Huòxiāng Zhèngqìwán)
This herbal pill, available at any TCM pharmacy for less than 10 RMB, captures the ingredients of the ancient Guang Ci soup, which was used to zheng qi, or “regulate the qi.” Beyond this, it also improves the stomach’s functional levels, fights wind-cold (an invasion of wind and cold into your body, which causes colds, stomach disorders and headaches), and eliminates headaches, nausea and diarrhea. Across China, it’s considered a household cure-all, widely used to combat hangovers or cure travel malaise, especially during those steamy summer months. Be sure to consult a doctor before using if you’re pregnant, suffer from high blood pressure, hepatitis, kidney disease, diabetes or any heart problems.
One of the most popular ways to relieve a nasty day after is with some traditional foot reflexology. Clinics are found in any city across China. In Shanghai, an hour of handy-work will cost anywhere from 40 RMB to a few hundred, a small price to pay to get rid of that throbbing headache and nausea. Clinics can be recognized immediately by the ubiquitous character “足” shining in windows, often giant and neon. The total treatment probably will take about one hour.
It may seem like a drastic measure, but acupuncture is a great way to solve all of your ailments. Ask friends, or at your hotel, for a recommended physician or clinic, and put yourself in the care of TCM professionals. (What’s better for a hangover than taking a nap on a clinic bed?) After one session, you’ll probably see immediate improvement.
In the end, there’s only one way to really tackle that hangover. Take a holistic approach; look at the causes of your ailment instead of the symptoms. Maybe next time you’re out, drink some lucha (green tea) instead of that whole bottle of baijiu (grain alcohol).