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Many of my Vietnamese friends have told me about folk treatments for coughs, pains and sore throats amongst others. Are there any guidebooks or other types of reference material on such treatments? Could you offer specific examples of some such techniques?
Harold Henderson, Ha Noi
Dear Mr. Henderson
Many of our folk treatment techniques such as xong (herbal steam bath) and cao gio (coining, or skin rubbing) have been specified in textbooks for training students at the Ha Noi Medical University.
A popular technique used to treat colds is xong.
To perform the technique, you firstly need to collect the leaves of medicinal plants such as bac ha (peppermint), tia to (perilla frutescens), huong nhu tia (ocimum tenuiflorum), tre (bamboo), duoi (streblus asper) and sa (cymbopogon).
Add the leaves to a pot under 2 centimetres of water. Cover the pot with a thick piece of paper or a banana leaf and boil for 1-3 minutes.
When done, take off the lid and use a chopstick to make a hole in the banana leaf so that the steam is gradually released.
Let the patient sit under a blanket by the pot with their clothes off and allow the steam to emanate the upper body. Staying like this for 10-15 minutes will make sure the patient sweats a lot and feel a sense of release.
After that, towel the body down and avoid exposure to the wind. Taking a bowl of onion rice soup is also advisable.
A herbal steam bath promotes good health as it stimulates blood circulation and helps eliminate toxins.
Xong is also used to ease fevers, headaches, nasal congestion and pains all over the body.
To avoid burns, do not touch the hot pot.
Xong should not be applied to those with low blood pressure or heart disease, sufferers of sunstroke or viral haemorrhagic fever, pregnant women and children below 15.
Dr Nguyen Quang Vinh
National Hospital of Traditional Medicine
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