For most minor ailments, many Chinese are more likely to pay a visit to their neighborhood medicine store than see a doctor. Most traditional medicine stores cater solely to the practice of Chinese herbal medicine, with some cures dating back 2,000 years. The medicinal stock, however, includes much more than roots and plants. Take a look inside one of Hong Kong's many medicinal shops and you'll find a bewildering array of jars and drawers containing everything from ginseng and deer's horn to fossilized bones and animal teeth. Deer's horn is said to be effective against fever; bones, teeth, and seashells are used as tranquilizers and cures for insomnia. In prescribing treatment, herbalists take into account the patient's overall mental and physical well-being in the belief that disease and illness are caused by an imbalance in bodily forces. In contrast to Western medicine, treatment is often preventive rather than remedial. Visitors particularly interested in traditional Chinese medicine will want to visit the Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences.
Acupuncture is also alive and well in Hong Kong. With a history in China that goes back 4,000 years, acupuncture is based on 365 pressure points, which in turn act upon certain organs; slender, stainless-steel needles are used, which vary in length from 1.3 to 25cm (1/2-10 in.). Most acupuncturists also use moxa (dried mugwort), a slow-burning herb that applies gentle heat. I'm also a fan of foot reflexology, a treatment in which various pressure points in the foot -- each one corresponding to a specific organ or body part such as the kidney, brain, or colon, for example -- are massaged to promote health.
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