I haven’t been writing because I haven’t been eating much. I got a type of stomach flu last week that I haven’t had for over ten years. I’ll spare you the gory details beyond stating how thankful I am for the design of Korean bathrooms where cleaning them involves merely hosing them down with the shower head.

There is something about living in a foreign land that makes a person more susceptible to illness. My girlfriend said she got sick a lot when she lived in Canada. And I’ve gotten sick more and more often in Korea, as have other foreigners.

Whenever I’m sick, my girlfriend usually goes to the local pharmacist and tells him my symptoms. She then returns with a combination of modern and traditional Chinese medicine. I myself, having taken a pharmacology course or two in college, am a bit skeptical of Chinese medicine. My feeling is that if it’s just folklore and hasn’t been tested using the scientific method, it’s no different from Western traditional medicine, which involved bleeding people and drinking Coca Cola (which was first introduced as a medicine).

Chinese medicine in Korea is concocted in different ways. It usually involves a granular powder around the texture of coffee grounds, black pellets which look like rabbit droppings, and the famous black juice.

The powder and black pellets are easy to take. It’s the black juice that can be tough to get down, especially if you’re having trouble even keeping down apple juice.

Nonetheless, in my opinion, it tastes better than the liquid medicines doctors prescribe in America. This black juice I had last week was more palatable than the ones before. It had the usual taste of earthy ginseng mixed with ashtray (I wonder if that’s the mythical stag horn I’m tasting). Yet it was countered by an aromatic cinnamon kick. And it actually settled my stomach.

I don’t argue with my girlfriend as much about Chinese medicine as I used to. I’ll take it whenever I’m sick. She’s starting to accept the aspirin I give her when she gets headaches. I’m still skeptical about its effects. Yet whenever I am running a fever, it tends to break only a few hours after chasing the granules and rabbit pellets with the black juice.

Don't make mistakes other travelers have made!

Get regular emails with insider tips on how to maximize your visit to Korea. Sign up now!

Tour Tips Newsletter

You have Successfully Subscribed!