Antelope horns and deer tails? Exotic TCM herbs and their uses

Antelope horns and deer tails? Exotic TCM herbs and their uses
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Whenever I ran a temperature as a child, my grandma would brew a special Chinese medicinal concoction to dissipate the fever.

Clear as water, the brew had a flavour I could not place, but the taste was not off-putting.

Little did I know that the drink was actually made from antelope's horns - better known to some of us by its Mandarin moniker, 'ling yang'.

I would watch fascinated as grandma would scrape translucent ribbons of white confetti-like material off the horn and boil it in water.

The horn is believed to relieve 'heatiness' and high fever.

To treat the bronchitis I suffered from in my younger days, my grandma would diligently boil crocodile meat soup for me every week.

Crocodile meat is believed to relieve asthma and cure cough-related illnesses, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

However, my experiences with these unusual remedies doesn't mean I don't still balk at exotic animals and animal parts with purported health benefits - such as dried seahorses, centipedes, snakes and scorpions.

Dried seahorses

Dried seahorses.
Photo: The Straits Times

According to TCM specialist Eu Yan Sang, dried seahorses are used to treat skin infections and to relieve itchiness. It is also believed to nourish the kidneys.

Seahorse wine, where the creatures are soaked in alcohol, is a tonic that China's Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang dynasty is believed to have consumed for its health benefits. It can also be cooked in a soup.

Centipedes and snakes

Dried centipede and scorpions from a medicinal hall.Photo: The Straits Times

Venomous insects such as centipedes and snakes are, interestingly enough, well-known medicinal sources in TCM.

Dried scorpions and centipedes are used to relieve wind and alleviate pain.

Snake bile is also valued as a tonic and is used to clear heat and detoxify.

Deer velvet and dried tails

Deer velvet, sliced.Photo: The New Paper

Deer velvet is an ancient tonic developed from deer antlers.

According to Eu Yan Sang, the velvet is derived from the living tissues of the young male deer's antlers before it is calcified into horns.

It is believed to help strengthen the lower back, build immunity, provide energy and relieve tiredness. It also supports your body's recovery and maintenance, tonifies the blood and improves blood circulation.

You can find deer velvet with manuka honey supplements, such as Flex 360, at Eu Yan Sang stores in Singapore.

Flex 360 supplements promotes bone and joint health and builds immunity.Photo: Eu Yan Sang

Another part of the deer sought after for its medicinal value is, surprisingly, its tail.

The dried tails of the deer (pharmaceutical name, Cauda Cervi), known as 'Lok Mei Pa', are believed to help strengthen the knees and relieve joint pain. It also nourishes the kidney and lessens fatigue.

In Singapore, Eu Yan Sang sells the animal part in pill form - great for those who are particularly squeamish about consuming unusual foods.

Lok Mei Pa pills.Photo: Eu Yan Sang

As always, before taking any herbs or herbal supplements, one should always consult a doctor, physician or speak to a certified herbalist.

This article is sponsored by Eu Yan Sang.


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