Whenever Mr Fitri Zakaria visits his grandmother in Clementi, he passes by a Chinese medical hall.
He used to stay away from it.
"I was wary about them because the items in them may not be halal," said the 29-year-old events executive.
Yesterday, he set foot in a medical hall for the first time as part of a tour in Toa Payoh to woo the younger generation and the Malay community to use traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
The Singapore Chinese Druggists Association (SCDA), which is partnering the People's Association in the effort to promote TCM, said it is already seeing a rise in Malay customers patronising the medical halls, though there are no figures available.
In the next few months, it aims to reach out to some 300 youth and Malay residents through various activities, including visiting the medical halls and organising workshops and a carnival.
Mr Fitri's initiation into TCM was part of a half-day "learning journey" where 30 Malay residents and young people went for a tour of three medical halls in the morning.
They were introduced to herbs, which they weighed with a traditional weighing scale, and tried to grind the herbs.
In the afternoon, they learnt how to brew herbal flower tea and make herbal scent bags at Toa Payoh East Community Club.
Said Mr Fitri: "It was a window for us to peer into another culture previously unknown to us.
"I will still pop a Panadol when I fall sick, for example, but now I know there are alternatives out there to try.
"I used to go to TWG for flower tea but today I learnt the specific benefits of those different types of tea."
Also read: 3 herbal teas to relieve stress and make you feel happy
Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Saktiandi Supaat said: "Many people think that only the seniors will have an interest in TCM but it is a stereotype.
With SkillsFuture, it may even be possible in future to have the first Malay physician offering TCM services."
He joined the participants in making herbal scent bags yesterday.
Mr Tuan Yu Lian, president of SCDA, said TCM use is increasing among the Malay population because of greater access to an expanding number of medical halls islandwide.
There is also better awareness of this form of alternative medicine.
However, the youngsters seem to be still lukewarm towards TCM, he added.
Said Mr Tuan: "The young people are English-educated and have less experience or knowledge about Chinese culture.
"We want to assure them that TCM is scientific and safe to be taken alongside Western medicine, if a physician is consulted."
Yesterday was also university student Joshua Leow's first time in a medical hall.
Mr Leow, 24, said: "TCM has always been mysterious to me and you don't know if it will work or not.
"But I now know that it is just another form of pharmacy where we can get the Chinese equivalent of a Band-Aid or cough syrup instead of the ones we get in convenience stores or supermarkets."
This article was first published on Jan 09, 2017.
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