Would you trade your trusty pills for herbs and needles? One healer says you should.
We met Jin-Hong Ngan (pictured) when we were shopping for herbs in a Chinatown apothecary last month. We recently chatted her up to learn more about her fascinating Chinese medicine practice—she uses healing modalities that no one else in Chicago offers.
What’s your background and training with Chinese medicine?
My family is from Malaysia, but after I graduated from high school I went to study [medicine] in China. I started treating people in the United States when I was 22 or 23. I’ve never wanted to do anything else.
What’s the difference between cupping and Gua Sha?
They’re both detoxification procedures, but Gua Sha [which uses a scraping tool] lets me go deeper. When you break capillaries, you break down the toxins that have been trapped in the body for years, that have been torturing you. It’s good for stress, pain and emotional disorders. I can bring the stuff to the surface.
A coworker tried cupping and got really extensive bruising. Is that normal?
When you have a lot of toxin build-up and bring it out through the pores, you’ll see bruising. If you are sick, have sensitive skin or are weak, I don’t recommend it. Afterwards, I tell patients they can’t drink cold water or take a shower, because they might catch a cold.
How do you use herbs in your practice?
Every ailment has a [cause]. For example, a headache is just a sign that shows other sicknesses. The regular way to take [herbs] is to boil loose ones in hot water. If you put it in alcohol it makes the treatment even more intense because alcohol delivers it into your system faster. Patients like using vodka, but I make customized therapeutic wines with herbs and a Chinese wine called Gao Liang Giau.
What is moxibustion?
It’s a way to eliminate pain by warming up the body. We use a thick stick of rolled up herbs and burn it; I don’t touch skin with the stick. It gets about an inch away from the body and leaves a pinkish color on the skin. It’s energizing and really good for relieving menstrual pain.
You’ve mentioned that you practice bleeding, which sounds like something out of the Middle Ages. Does it hurt?
It’s a really small procedure. I poke acupuncture points with a sterile, disposable lancet to release yang [hot energy]. It’s good for a sore throat, pink eye, yellow phlegm and headaches. It can be painful—like getting a shot—but it works…I don’t know of anyone else in Chicago who does it.
Do you have at-home remedies?
If you catch a cold or the flu, boil an egg and peel it. Then wrap the egg in a handerkerchief when [the egg] is really hot, and rub it [carefully] on the face, scalp, back and torso—it pulls out the toxins—the sick chi. I also recommend drinking peppermint tea or chrysanthemum tea for headaches.
Make an appointment with Ngan at her private practice at 3322 N Ashland Ave (773-592-4559) or at Ruby Room, 1743–45 W Division St (773-235-2323).