Ol’ Zhou has been feeling a little under the weather for a few days – probably due to a week straight of rain working in conjunction with the added stress of a new assignment at the jobby job. That’s quite the double team. When I decided to take a half day off work, my return to action was greeted with the familiar unsolicited advice about staying healthy from Chinese co-workers.
(Scene: Zhou is in the office talking about being sick with two Chinese co-workers.)
Co-worker #1: It’s because you drink too many cold things. You never drink hot water.
Zhou: That’s not why I am sick.
Co-worker #1: [purses lips in obvious disagreement]
Co-worker #2: Do you believe in Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Zhou: It depends. For some things, yes. For others, no. I think that Traditional Chinese Medicine is good for small things but not for big things.
Co-workers #1 and #2: [big smiles for my acceptance of Chinese stuff]
Co-worker #1: Have you ever tried 灸(jiu3)? (Moxibustion for us foreigners – yeah, I’d never heard of it either)
Zhou: What the heck is that?
Co-worker #1: It’s when the use smoke and the heat from this thing that looks like a big cigarette to help you feel better.
Co-worker #2: I feel good and have lots of energy after. I have a coupon if you would like to try 灸.
Zhou: Really? How much would it cost?
Co-worker #2: It’s free!
Let’s see….a strange medical treatment that involves a giant cigarette, smoke and most likely filled with a lot of Chinese magical healing powers/hokum/pseudoscience, all at the cost of free. Sign me up!
The Adventure Begins:
I arrived at a little hole in the wall doctor’s office, open minded and ready for some good ol’ smoke healing. Maybe I could get a snake oil massage afterwards to get a double dose of the magical healing powers. OK, so my mind was not that open but I was willing to give it the old college try.
I entered the office, gave my name and was taken back to a small room with a massage table and a bunch of blankets. Soon after, the doctor arrived with a giant cigarette like thing and a pair of shorts and a shirt.
My outfit was, of course, about three sizes too small. Oh, the joys of being a Sasquatch in China. But seeing as I have been a Sasquatch for many years now, I came prepared. I had on a simple white undershirt and a pair of gym shorts in my bag. Take that Boys Scouts. You’re not the only ones who know what they’re doing.
After a quick change, I jumped on the massage table, the giant cigarette was lit and we were off.
Not Zhou’s sexy body. This treatment isn’t something you can photograph easily.
How it works:
Here’s what the doctor explained to me (after a little cell phone translation for words like pressure point): The doctor uses the heat from the giant cigarette to warm up different pressure points around the body depending on what is wrong with you. He pushes on your pressure point, hovers the smoking cigarette thingy over the offending spot to heat it up and slowly moves around your body from pressure point to pressure point in order to get your energy straightened out. After that, he worked a few pressure points on my face. It was a little scary at first but then I remembered that the doctor probably knows how to not light my hair on fire. That said, I wouldn’t recommend a lot hair spray on a smoke treatment day.
How it feels:
Strange at first but then relaxing. Not too hot, nothing crazy and a whole lot of smoke. Most of the smoke is sucked up by a machine that looks like a giant funnel but this is a smoky experience. Kinda like drinking at a bar in China. You’re going to take the smoke smell home with you. The good news is that the medical cigarette thingy smells like a Buddhist temple rather than an ashtray – so that’s nice.
Winner, winner chicken dinner! I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I did indeed feel a lot better after my treatment.
Do I think it did anything to cure me of my illness? No way. Still totally sick.
Was it relaxing? Hell yeah, it was. Super relaxing!
It was so relaxing that I almost fell asleep at the end of the session – even with a fire burning an inch from my face. To be honest, I’ve been under a lot of stress recently and this Traditional Chinese Medical adventure was just what the doctor ordered. I would put the relaxation level slightly above a blind person massage – only with a whole lot less pain during the procedure.
The treatment I received should have cost me 218 RMB – about $30 USD – for an hour’s worth of treatment and I think it’s worth every penny. Getting my relax on at this level is not an easy thing for me and I’m more than willing to fork over $30 to chill out completely – even if I do smell like a campfire for the rest of the day. I will be heading back for another round of smoke therapy sometime in the near future.