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TCM is just the tonic to stave off winter illnesses

Updated: 2021-11-18 08:16 ( China Daily )
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Gaofang, a condensed semisolid paste, is especially helpful for people with weak immune systems and chronical diseases.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Traditional Chinese medicine theories emphasize the importance of prevention over cure, thus, finding remedies to strengthen the body during winter has proved an effective method for urban dwellers to keep themselves safe from the season's illnesses, especially taking into consideration their busy city lives.

Gaofang, a condensed semisolid paste, includes a dozen different herbal medicines and specialist ingredients. In addition, foods such as lotus seeds, dates and crystal sugar are added to improve the taste. Some varieties are available ready-made while other variations can be made directly by pharmacists according to a TCM prescription.

Originating in the Han (206 BC-AD 220) and Tang (618-907) dynasties, the TCM tonics and remedies, particularly useful among those with weak immune systems and chronic diseases, have been hailed as an important part of Chinese medical theory and mechanism, with the core principle being a "unity of man and nature, and curing through differentiation and a combination of nutrition and recuperation to gain better health", according to a brochure introducing gaofang at Fang Hui Chun Tang TCM clinic in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

"Many people think gaofang can only be taken in winter. In fact, as long as a doctor deems it necessary and writes prescriptions in line with the patient's own physical and health condition, it is a therapy that has proved effective and helpful throughout all the seasons," Yu Botang, an intangible cultural heritage inheritor and TCM practitioner at the clinic, says.

Located in Hefang Street, a historical scenic area in Hangzhou, the clinic is one of China's oldest medicine shops dating back to 1649, preserving the long-lasting tradition of making gaofang by hand.

According to Yu, who's in his 60s, the gaofang is usually prepared over a variety of steps, including prescription writing, preparing and soaking the ingredients, brewing, settling and condensing and then the final packaging.

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