Posted by: beaufortninja | January 23, 2012

An Awkward Conversation about Traditional Chinese Medicine

Conversation between me and a student of mine who also happens to be the general manager of a TCM workshop.

“So tell me the differences between Western medicine and TCM,” I leaned back in my chair, preparing myself for the strangeness that usually creeps up in conversations with this student.
“Well,” he started, “Western medicine goes into the body through the blood and works very fast. Chinese medicine goes in through the stomach and works very fast.”
“If Chinese medicine is slower then how come people use it? Don’t you want to get better faster?”
“Sometimes. But Chinese medicine corrects imbalances in the body.”
“How so?”
“There are special things, chemicals, in different ingredients that can correct imbalances. “
“What’s the most unusual remedy you’ve seen?”
“Tiger urine,” he said with a straight face.

“Tiger urine?” I had heard some expats joking about this but I assumed it was just that, a joke.
“Yes, I was very ill several years ago and had to take tiger urine to remove the impurities from my body.”
“You…drank tiger pee?” It’s not every day you hear about someone drinking bodily waste.
“Yes. It removes impurities from the body.”
“You do know that urine is made up mostly of impurities, right? You remove impurities by adding more impurities?” I just couldn’t wrap my head around the logic of this particular ingredient.
“But it’s the impurities from the tiger. It’s not the same,” he said matter-of-factly, totally confident in his reasoning. I stared at him silently for a few seconds, debating whether or not the conversation should turn into a biological discussion about why pee is bad to drink but I decided against it for the time being. “Right. So how long did it take you to get better?”
“Several months. I got so bad that my family had to take me to the city hospital for treatment.”
“What kind of medicine did they use to make you better?” I already knew the answer.
“Western medicine.”
“Uh huh. Are you aware that urine is toxic? It’s poisonous.” “Chinese people believe that some kinds of urine are good
for health.”
“So if I tried to sell you a bottle of my urine and said it could cure cancer, would you drink it?”
“Of course not,” he scoffed.
“Because it’s not medicine.”
“So how do you know that tiger urine is good for health?” I already knew what his answer would be to this question too but I went for it anyway.
“Because it has been used for many thousands of years.”
“Who was the first person to “discover” the health effects of tiger pee?”
“A very wise man.”
“I’d say he was a very smart businessman if he got people to pay lots of money to drink urine.”
He laughed. “Yes, he must have been very persuasive.”


  1. […] Source Article from… […]

  2. I’m in awe of the first guy who managed to get a tiger to pee in a bottle! All joking aside, TCM is a bizarre thing isn’t it?

    • TCM works fine for minor ailments like colds, allergies, heck, maybe even the flu. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out why people think ingesting rhino horn or seal esophagus or sparrow kidneys will make them well. There’s very little actual research done with the treatments other than people have used them for a long time. Anyway, here’s how they get tiger pee.

  3. This is hysterical! I want to read the book you write about all your conversations with your students there. Best seller!

  4. Someone thinks this story is fantastic…

    This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report – a collection of China’s best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it….

  5. […] Same adult student from previous conversation here:… […]

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