Well, I'm trying to find out. A week ago on Saturday whilst shopping in Manchester with my friend Mr. P (junior) I decided to take the plunge and try a Chinese remedy for my hands.
A bit of background - I have a skin problem on my hands that causes periodical peeling and cracking of the skin on my fingers. I know, gross, right? It doesn't hurt as such (although when the skin has come off and my fingers are showing raw 'new' skin, that can hurt) but it does itch and generally makes my hands look and feel pretty horrible. I've tried various steroid creams from the doctors but none of them seem to work. So, back to the Chinese Health shop...
I had thought about trying a remedy from a Chinese herbalist for a while, knowing that nothing else had seemed to work. And, as we went to leave the shopping center, we passed one. "What the hell" I thought. So in I went. I had a brief chat with the dude behind the counter, and he said I should wait to talk to the doctor. So we waited for about 10 minutes, and then a consultant came and had a look and a prod at my hands. She didn't speak English, so through a translator she asked me some questions about my hands, and then decided that I had a 'fungal infection' below the skin. (Nice, eh?). This was why the creams, that only helped repair the skin on top, failed in the past. She recommended some herbs and stuff that I needed to soak my hands in once a day for half an hour over a course of about three weeks. "OK" says I, "And this will definitely work will it?" I mean, I won't say how expensive it was, but it weren't cheap, and the lady says "Yes, it will definitely work".
So, I decided to go for it, and they started to make up my 'doses'. Scientific it ain't. They laid out 12 or so paper plates on the counter, and then the chief medicine man started grabbing hand fulls of herbs and stuff from different pots and dividing it up amongst the plates. It seems almost random, and the dosage I'm sure was different from plate to plate, but what do I know?
Anyway, all this caused much hilarity for Mr. P (junior) - talk of being mugged, "saw you coming" etc. filled the air. To be fair, it was funny.
"How do you use the herbs?" I hear you asking. Well, it's like the herbs you'd take internally, but you don't drink these. I have to boil & simmer them for about half an hour (and they stink, by the way) and then let it cool before soaking my hands in the strained juice. It also stains my hands a nice nicotine yellow for a while as well, which is dead pleasant.
So now I'm just over two weeks into the treatment, and have I noticed a difference? No. I am trying to stay positive, and I'm going to complete the course and then see how it goes. But rest assured, there will be an angry man standing in a Chinese herbalists in a few days if nothing has changed, demanding some answers!
Chinese remedies? The jury is still out, but stay tuned...