Saturday, 21 April 2012

Chinese Sinsehs in Penang

The traditional Chinese doctors are called sinsehs. The are knowledgeable and keep centuries old formula and knowledge about Chinese herbal medicine. Chinese herbal medicine is widely used and is available globally from Chinese medicine halls or stores. In British Malaya, the Chinese medicine halls and the sinsehs played an important part in the health of the British Malayans residing in Malaya and Singapore. Big Chinese medicine halls served just like the hospitals we have today. With progress and as Malaya shifted to British-built hospitals, and now with modern Malaysian hospitals, the usage and importance of the Chinese medicine halls have declined somewhat, but it does not mean they are not needed anymore. Many Chinese and also Malay patients attend the Chinese medicine halls and prefer treatment from the sinsehs.

Chinese medicine hall. Photo from Penang Museum display.
The hall has ornate furniture and a distinct layout. The treatment altar where the sinseh presides is up in front (near the back wall in this pic). The medicines are on a long table where the sinseh sits.
It is a matter of choice where patients want to go and whom they wish to consult for their ailments. There should be no coercion. However, we do worry about patients not knowing their medicines. Most traditional Chinese medicines sold in Malaysia have a cover to say they are safe for human consumption. But do patients know or do they read the tiny print about the safety of their medicines? We often hear abuses of the system when it comes to instant cures and especially from quarters dealing with traditional Chinese medicine.

We must be clear about the root of the problems and that there are two sides to the coin. The intentions of the manufacturers of traditional Chinese medicine maybe good but what can happen is the middlemen can take the medicines and manipulate the contents for higher monetary returns. That is the root of many problems we get today when it comes to traditional Chinese medicine. The best practice is to consult the sinsehs or any practising Chinese doctor who knows traditional Chinese medicine. They can differentiate between genuine and adulterated traditional Chinese medicines.

Is Chinese traditional medicine an acceptable means of treatment today? Yes.