I was coughing when I wrote this.  I’m probably coughing while you read this.  And if you think you hear a seal barking aggressively from a rocky island in the ocean, it’s not a seal.  It’s me.  I can’t stop coughing.

I was lamenting about this to a friend yesterday, and she suggested I visit a Chinese herbalist.  There’s a shop in Aberdeen Centre, so I headed there to find both medicine and lunch.  At this point, I’m up for trying anything.

I first went up to the food court to get a bowl of pho.  Forgive me for my somewhat plain eating choices lately, but I couldn’t manage anything fancier than that.  When you just want to be in bed, pho is like a hug.  I got the lemongrass chicken pho from the Basil Leaf stall, which also offers Vietnamese subs and meat + rice dishes.

The pho came with a large portion of chicken on top, which was well-marinated and tasty.  The noodle to broth ratio was a little high, however; I would have appreciated fewer noodles, more broth, and a slightly stronger one at that.  It was still a very comforting bowl, and it only came to $6.44 including tax.  If you’re in the food court and want something on the lighter side, give Basil Leaf a try.  I’d also be up for trying their banh mi sometime.

Filled with warm soup, I next headed to Daiso.  I needed to pickup a notebook because I’d forgotten mine at home, and chose this one simply for the nonsensical message on its cover.  I’m still trying to figure it out.

Weird notebook in hand, I continued on to Ton On Enterprises Ltd, where I was helped by a lovely woman named Judy (that’s her English name, anyways) who’s a trained herbalist.

This shop, like many others in Richmond and Vancouver’s Chinatown, is a type of a natural Chinese pharmacy.  Its shelves were filled with jar after jar of dried herbs, plants, seafood, and roots.  Like going into an unfamiliar restaurant for the first time, visiting a store like this can be intimidating; there’s a bit of a language barrier, and the names of the products aren’t always easily translated into English.

Going in reminded me of a time in Italy when my allergies were raging out of control, but my Italian was still poor and I didn’t know how to communicate that.  So I went into a pharmacy, faked sneezed a few times, and said “Fiore!  Albero!” (Flower!  Tree!) until the woman’s eyes lit up and she said “oooh, allergia!”  It was that close.  And that easy.  All you really have to do is try.

So I told them my symptoms, and Judy and another man listened carefully, then set about finding me some remedies.  Much of the dried products they sell are to be taken home and cooked into medicinal Chinese soups, but they obviously knew I wouldn’t know how to do that.  Therefore, they brought out two boxes: one was filled with packets of brown granules called Ganmao Qingre that dissolve in hot water and are meant to help with cold and flu symptoms, and the other was filled with pills to relieve coughing.

For the ‘tea,’ the man told me to use two packets in one mugful of hot water, but it was so strong smelling I decided to ease my way in.  I used just one packet, and it was still pretty powerful.

It smelled like black liquorice and tasted slightly bitter, but it was manageable to drink.  I assume that’s because of the added sugar!  Either way, you never want medicine to be too tasty, or else you don’t feel like it’s doing you any good.  That’s what I tell myself anyways.

The other medicine, Hua Tan Cough Capsules, are meant to relieve a bad cough.  Judy pointed out that the boxes had the ingredients written in latin on the side, so I could look them up.

I looked up all the ingredients in the cough capsules, and here’s what I was ingesting:

Prunus armeniaca = apricot (apricot kernels, perhaps?  I know they’re used medicinally)

Asarum heterotropoides = a type of Chinese flower, usually wild but sometimes cultivated

Zingiber officinale = ginger

Cinnamomum cassia = Chinese cinnamon

Glycyrrhiza uralensis = “five flavour berry,” a deciduous woody vine native to the forest of Northern China and the Russian Far East

Paeonia lactiflora = Chinese peony

Pinellia ternata = “crow dipper,” a plant native to China but an invasive weed in some parts of North America

Blumea oil = extracted from the leaf and stem of artemisia argyi, which is a herbaceous perennial used to treat problems of the liver, spleen, and kidney

Alright, today’s science lesson is over.  It’s too early to say whether these medicines have helped me or not, but even if they do nothing more than offer the placebo effect, I’ll be happy.  I’ve just had enough of this, I tell you, enough!

Does anyone have any other cough-treating alternative medicinal suggestions?  I’m close to chewing on raw ginger all day long, and that’ll be painful.  ADVICE WELCOME.  Thanks!


Basil Leaf, Aberdeen Centre

4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond BC


Have cash handy (though I think they take cards)

The menu is relatively meat-heavy, so perhaps not the best choice for vegetarians in the food court.


Ton On Enterprises, Aberdeen Mall

4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond BC


Cash and cards accepted