Local organic pork in Hong Kong (Updated March 2013)

  1. In one of my prior articles, I mentioned switching to organic food to lead a more healthy lifestyle.  This included purchasing local organic pork (Wah Kee Pork) from Organic BB.  Since then, it has come to my attention that Wah Kee farm maintains an online blog in chinese.  To visit the blog, click here.

As a quick summary in english, wah kee farm is a local farm in yuen long with over 50 years of history.  In 1996, the 2nd generation of wah kee’s farmers started to focus on raising pigs/hogs and began to introduce modern hygiene management practices as well as UK’s Bath Berkshire hog raising best practices to run the business.  Wah Kee is now a iso 9001 certified farm.

For information of authorized sales points to purchase wah kee’s pork, click here. (NB:  in chinese).  Below is a translation of the sales points in English for those who cannot read Chinese.

New Territories

  1. Yuen Long, Liu Lok Square, Yuen Long Government & Tai Kiu Market, Ground Floor, Shop M29/30
  2. Tai Po, Heung Sze Wui Street, Tai Po Complex, Ground Floor, Shop M37/38
  3. Tai Po, Tai Po Tai Wo Road, Tai Po Mega Mall, Yata Supermarket
  4. Fo Tan, 1 Tsun King Road, Ascot Plaza, Shop G31 – Organic B (Telephone is +852 2104 1000)
  5. Shatin, Pak Hong Ting Street, New Town Plaza, Yata Supermarket
  6. Shatin, CityOne, Ngan Shing Commercial Centre, Shop 108 – Organic B (Telephone is +852 2683 1333)
  7. Tseung Kwan O, Po Lam, MetroCity Plaza Phase 3, 1st Floor, Shop 151 – Organic B

Kowloon

  1. Hung Hom, 11 Ma Tau Wai Road, Hung Hom Municipal Services Building, Hung Hum Market, 1st Floor, M13
  2. Cheung Sha Wan, No.863 Lai Chi Kok Road, Banyan Mall, 1/F, Shop 14 – Organic B (Telephone is +852 2802 3283)

Hong Kong Island

  1. Sai Wan Ho, 111 Shau Kei Wan Road, Sai Wan Ho Market, Ground Floor, Shop M12 

Remark:  Please click here to goto the prior post for more information on Organic B.

Eczema and Chinese herbal medicine

It has been about a month since I last wrote on this blog as I have been preoccupied with my chinese herbalist medicine treatment that is truly helping to cure my eczema. After 6 weeks of herbal medication, I am no longer consumed by the insane itch that comes with chronic eczema and 80% of my skin has now cleared up and is beginning to look normal. The healing that I am witnessing has been truly uplifting and god-sent.  Hence, while I am no expert (please seek you own medical advice), I am going to share my thoughts and experience on the use of traditional chinese medicine for eczema in this blog article and hope that you can also find a good chinese doctor to help yourself.

First of all, some reassurance to the hesitant reader, chinese herbalist medicine has been around for thousands of years as a profession and it has prevailed in China for a reason. In China, hospitals still currently approach medical treatment through the combined use of both chinese medicine and western medicine. Generally speaking, chinese medical treatment (herbal tea, acupuncture and bone setting) is widely accepted within the chinese community and it is also becoming more prevalent in the western communities as well.

The essence of chinese herbalist medicine is about maintaining balance to achieve good health and thus treatment to illnesses is focused on strengthening and revitalizing the key organs to facilitate their proper functioning to achieve good health. As a consequence, chinese herbal treatment not only requires the patient to drink (often foul-tasting) herbal tea but to also to follow a restricted diet to facilitate the revitalization of the key organs, e.g. it’s no good taking the medicine if you are also taking the poison straight afterwards. In addition, as the chinese medical philosophy is based on helping the body to heal itself, the process will be progressive rather than instant gratification, i.e. the longer the illness, the longer the recovery process.

On the above note, I recall my current doctor emphasized to me in our first meeting that the most common failure during chinese herbal treatments is the inability for patients to maintain a restricted diet. “If I wanted to be cured [and it can be cured], I must restrict the diet.” This is an important point to note if you are going to try chinese herbalist medicine.  Later on, my doctor also advised that given my prolonged condition, my course of treatment would probably be 4 to 6 months depending on the recovery process.

Secondly, not all chinese doctors are equally skilled. Personally, I have tried 3 traditional chinese doctors before my current doctor over the last 3 years to try to treat my eczema. I saw no significant progress with the prior doctors even after months of treatment. Based on my own experience, I would advise that when one seeks out a chinese herbalist doctor, one should try to look for an old chinese doctor with a lot of field experience who attained his/her profession through traditional means over a chinese herbalist doctor who attained his/her accreditation through modern academic studies (something that is becoming more and more popular in Hong Kong). In addition, try to seek out a chinese herbalist doctor that specialize in skin ailment although my current doctor there aren’t that many around anymore. Personally, I feel very lucky to have met my current doctor who is both western and chinese professionally qualified, in his 70’s with lots of experience, specialize in skin ailment who practices his trade during the day and lecture doctors in the evenings. He has shared many stories with me on how he had treated and cured eczema, psoriasis and even vitiligo.  I believe he is on course to curing my eczema an hopefully my vitiligo all over the back of my neck and sparingly on my cheek.

When undergoing chinese herbalist medicine treatment, there are a few points to note. Nowadays, one can take chinese herbal medicine in processed powder form (modern convenience) as well as traditional form where one need to boil the herbs. However, my present doctor had explained to me that for optimum results, it is best to stick with traditional herbs and that the boiling of herbs should not take longer than 90 minutes. Additionally, chinese herbalist medicine treatment is based on observing the symptoms (via pulse reading, facial and tongue observation) and my present doctor had explained that it is important to conduct the consultation every few days rather than over longer periods. Hence, while it is likely a desired compromise for many people with modern lifestyle and commitments to only see your chinese herbalist doctor say once a week, the reality (as explained by my present doctor) is that in such a situation, the prescribed medicine will not be tailored to your conditions since one will react to the herbal medicine and the herbal medicine needs to be continually adjusted according to the observed symptoms. Thinking back, this was the mistake I made with my first chinese herbalist doctor. I recalled he had requested for consultations every 3 days max (preferably 2) but I could only commit to seeing him once a week. This is also an important point to note if you are considering using a chinese herbalist doctor, time commitment & patience is required. Currently, I am seeing my present doctor every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. On using chinese herbalist medicine to treat eczema, I am certainly not qualified to write on the topic. However, I will share specific experiences & learnings relating to my own recent treatment for reader’s reference. (If the reader is considering seeking treatment, they should consult a qualified chinese doctor). Firstly, a recap of my eczema condition as highlighted in the “my story so far” article. I have had eczema since I was a child. In the last 3 or 4 years, my eczema had worsen and taken on a whole new lease of life that significantly impacted everyday activity. Quick fix western medicine wasn’t working and thus, I turned to alternative treatment for a solution.

On my eczema, the diagnosis from my present doctor is that I have a dysfunctional spleen and weak blood.

According to the chinese medical school of thought, the function of the spleen acts very much like the internal logistics department of the body. It is responsible for transporting nutrition to different parts of the body and toxic waste to the digestive system. When the function of the spleen is compromised, metabolism and nutrition absorption is also compromised and as toxic waste cannot be channelled effectively into the digestive system, the body responds by diverting the toxic waste to the skin as an alternative means to try and process it out of the system. However, as the body was never designed to function in such a way, toxicity will start to build up over time depending on your dietary and lifestyle habits, visible symptoms include pimples/acne, bloating & skin irritation. If the situation is left unchecked, the toxicity (the chinese doctors call it “dampness”, “heat” & “wind”) will continue to build up in the spleen and then in the blood, visible symptoms include poor metabolism and blood circulation, inflammation, redness & dry skin (heat), weeping wounds (dampness), and itchiness (wind). As such, my understanding is the chinese herbalist medical course of treatment is focused on expelling these three elements, cleansing & regenerating the blood, strengthening the spleen and nourishing the skin.  At the same, an experience chinese doctor will also protecting the body from the medicine that you’re taking, e.g. not purely focused on the illness but also take account of the overall well-being to ensure to patient is coping with the medicine during the course of treatment.

During my course of treatment, I am required to stick to the following dietary & daily habitual requirements:

Dietary restrictions advice from chinese doctor during treatment

  1. No eggs of any kind (“a culprit of inflammation and flare ups”)
  2. No prawns and crab (“a well-known eczema allergy trigger”)
  3. No pan-fried, deep-fried and roasted food (this basically cuts out junk/fast food, biscuits, chocolate & barbecue food…yes no chocolate – waaaah 😦 )
  4. No mushrooms (“patients with prolonged illness should not eat mushrooms”)
  5. No cold drinks / food (“cold food and drinks is one of the worst evils for the spleen”). This means no ice-cream and ice lollies – waaah 😦  .
  6. No melons of most kinds (“watermelon, bitter gourd, cucumber, etc are too cooling foods in nature and further weakens the spleen”)
  7.  No lychee, mango, pineapple, durian, guava & longan (“fruits that are hot in nature that can lead to further irritation/flare up”)
  8. No spicy / chilli food

Do’s and don’t advice from my current chinese doctor during treatment

  1. No hot showers / bath.  Keep it lukewarm.
  2. Moisturize straight after a shower/bath while wet.  If the body is extremely dry to the point that it is painful to move as I was during the initial stage of treatment.  One can consider using medicated vaseline or horse oil as a moisturizer.
  3. No steroid creams (it was reassuring to hear from my present doctor (both western and chinese professionally qualified) that steroid was a bad idea.
  4. Can consider taking vitamin & omega oil supplements.
  5. Try to drink the chinese herbal tea 1 hour after a meal and at least 4 hours between the prior herbal tea intake.
As a final note, readers can check out the following websites for more information on Traditional Chinese Medicine in english:

Eczema and snacks

20110915-015413.jpg

Since my eczema has taken a turning for the worst 2 years ago and spread to every part of my body, I have been progressively very careful with my diet and try to only eat nutritious and healthy food so that I am not further intoxicating my body. For the last 3 months, I have now completely switch to organic food only, cut out grain 90% of the time and haven’t had any junk food. However, I am a sweet tooth and love my chocolate indulgence. I bought some ice lollies I saw in green at heart lately and just tried one. It was delicious and comforting…chilled coconut dipped in chocolate…no additives, preservatives, colouring, gluten…just basic ingredients…if only I can get these in 7-11.

Eczema and Aloe Vera

20110914-112444.jpg

When I take my daily bath in coconut oil and tea tree oil for 20 minutes, sometimes I would have a Aloe Vera mask if my facial eczema is really bad.

I would basically cut a leaf of aloe vera, skin it and just use the clear jelly, blend it with a little water and a spoon of honey. Put it in the fridge and use it as needed. It is very soothing and immediately calms down redness / inflammation. I would recommend this to users and just in case, you should try a little first to see if you are allergic to either honey or aloe vera.

Regarding the aloe vera, there are actually many kinds and it is easy to grow (plenty of sunshine and a little water in fertile soil). The picture illustrates the aloe Vera that I have. As it grows, siblings drop off and grow on the side and you can replant them as another aloe plant. Alternatively, I do notice you can get them in park n shop for HK$20 a leaf but it would much cheaper to grow it yourself. Also, be careful if you are thinking of eating it as not all aloe plants are edible.

Eczema & washing lotions

In the past, I would use mild chemical based washing lotions to deal with my eczema ( the most used being seba-med). However, I recently came across an organic product made purely of natural ingredients that I could understand. This product is called Aquarius mineral body wash. It is from the US and certified organic and comes in different scent but I use the peppermint scent. The product is made of the following ingredients: mineral salt, olive oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil and essential oils.

One word of caution, if you have cuts / wounds, using this product will sting because, I think, of the salt content reacting to the wounds. Otherwise, I find that this is a product that I can trust. You can get this product at Green at heart (please refer to other blog article).

Below is a picture of the body wash.

20110913-094429.jpg

Eczema & lotions

There are a number of different cream, moisturizers and lotions that I have used over the years to battle eczema. I will cover them over a number of posts giving my own opinion and experience of them. However, it is the reader’s own decision whether they wish to try them.

First of all, I will cover Lavera neutral face cream and body lotion. (See picture below). This is a German brand and quite a pricey product. I have recently started to use this product line and I like it very much for its organic ingredients and neutral scent.

Its main selling point is organic ingredients. The neutral line is fragrance free and contains organic evening primrose & sea buckthorn oil (anti-inflammatory), jojoba seed oil, sunflower seed oil, oilive oil and shea butter (anti-oxidant & moisturising).

I purchase them from ThreeSixty costing about HK$200 each for the face cream and body lotion. (Please shout if anybody can find them cheaper elsewhere)

The face cream is very rich and thick. Most people would only need a small blob (but I need a big blob) to cover the entire face. The face cream doesn’t have any scent and takes about 5 mins to absorb into the skin after which you will see a glossy shine on the face.

The body lotion feels more water based and quickly absorbs into the skin without feeling too sticky.

Below is the website to their products

http://www.lavera.com/products/Hypoallergenic_Eczema_Dermatitis_Neutral_Face_Cream-37-3.html

20110913-094253.jpg

Frozen meat store in Luen Wo Hui Fanling 曾記環球凍肉

I had been searching for a while to find a place that sells grass-fed organic beef in Hong Kong. Yes, it is probably available in higher-end supermarkets like ThreeSixty, Olivers or CitySuper, chilled and air flown from overseas but it would cost at least HK$400 to 500 for a small piece in those places which is not something I can afford on a everyday “grocery shopping” basis. Luckily, I came across a frozen meat store in Luen Wo Hui Market while doing some BBQ shopping. In the market, there is a frozen meat store called “Tsang Kee” that stores some higher end frozen meat including frozen grass-fed organic steak from Australia at ~HK$100 a piece. Choice of sirloin and rib-eye is available. Additionally, organic pork loin and pork chops is available from the US. Below is the Chinese address to the market and facebook page of Luen Wo market:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/聯和墟街市/127414080664968

曾記環球凍肉 粉嶺聯和墟新街市1樓M9號舖 2676 0737

Live in Green Company 活在綠色

Live in Green is a local company that sells special allergy bedding products from the UK. Their website is

www.live-in-green.com

Their bedding products is made of pure cotton, comfortable to the touch and durable. I have purchased 2 sets of bedding due to my allergy to dust mites and having been using the bed sets for over a year washing every them other day in >60C temp water. They are still in good condition and has helped me with my allergy to dust mites.

I also happen to have a water-based rainbow vacuum cleaner and had a chance to test the effectiveness of the bed sheets by vacuuming 2 beds to compare the impact of having these bed sheet and without them. There were still some dust with the allergy bed sheets but it was minimal compared to the bed with normal bedsheets, so I think they are purchase an investment if you are allergic to dust mites.

Green at heart 綠色心意

Green at heart is a shop in the e-max mall in Kowloon Bay. Free parking is available with purchase from HK$100 upwards. This shop stocks a lot of goods from Taiwan, Korea and the US. Their website address is

www.greenatheart.com.hk

This shop also does online shopping with free delivery and they also have another shop in Yuen Long. However, I have not tried their online shopping nor their shop in Yuen Long.

The things I buy at this store includes:
1. Large jar of organic coconut oil from Thailand/Philippines (good value)
2. Preserved prunes
3. Dried seaweed snack
4. Frozen fruit lollies
5. Black sesame snack

Other interesting products in this store that I can see include:
1. Organic food for cats/dogs
2. Preserved figs
3. Manuka honey

Compared to shops like CitySuper and ThreeSixty, the prices are a lot cheaper at Green at heart.

有機仔仔 Organic BB

Organic BB is a small shop based in Shatin in the New Territories. This shop was recommended to my wife when she was shopping at an organic product counter and she was discussing my condition with the sales lady. We now do a weekly shopping routine at organic BB where my wife would place an order and I would pick it up after work on Tuesday. Parking is quite convenient and I always park outside on the pavement road near the shop.

More recently, they have set up a online ordering system with free delivery for orders over HK$400. Other fellow HK’ers may want to check it out. Below is their website link, Facebook link and Blog link:

www.organicb.com.hk
Facebook page
Yahoo Blog

Personally, my family would buy the following groceries:
1. Local organic vegetables
2. Local organic ka mei chicken
3. Local yuen long monkshood fish
4. Local wah kee bath premium pig meat
5. Dried banana snacks

I also notice the following produce is available that is interesting:
1. Dried seaweed
2. Local organic honey
3. Braggs apple cider vinegar
4. Rocksalt (aka himalaya salt)
5. Local fresh milk
6. Limited local seasonal fruit produce

Anyway, healthgoers should check it out themselves and make their own judgement of the shop.

Eczema and virgin coconut oil

In Hong Kong, virgin coconut oil can be purchased in some of the higher-end supermarkets, e.g. ThreeSixty or CitySuper. You can also get it in some of the smaller organic shops dotted in the territory. When you go to buy coconut oil, it is important that you buy cold pressed virgin coconut oil to ensure the product is 100% natural and pure and not subsequently contaminated with chemicals via modern manufacturing processes.

On virgin coconut oil, I have found two remedies that is useful to treating eczema.

1. Bathing. I bath everyday in lukewarm water for 20 to 30 minutes with 20 drops of pure organic tea tree oil and 4 tea spoons of virgin coconut oil. Sometimes, I would also add organic olive oil. This is very soothing and moisturizing. The coconut oil helps to moisturize whereas the tea tree oil helps to heal wounds as an antiseptic. Note: Do not bath in hot water as you may feel itchy when you step out of the bath and dry yourself. Additionally, if you have cuts and wounds, there may be some stinking sensation but keep bathing for a few days and you will notice the wounds will close and inflammation will die down.

2. Moisturizing oil. I mix the coconut oil with organic olive oil and tea tree oil together to create a oil-based moisturizer and apply it to my skin as needed. The tea tree oil performs the anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral function. The olive oil is rich in vitamin e and heals the skin. The coconut oil is rich in medium length fatty acids that is also good the skin. Note: As this is an oil based moisturizer, if you have very dry skin, you may need to supplement it with a water-based lotion to keep your skin hydrated but it is a good moisturizer with no chemicals.

Having a good anti-eczema routine

There is a lot of information on the internet that covers different eczema prevention techniques aside from the use of topical steroid creams. In all likelihood, each eczema sufferer will have to develop a routine that works best for them to keep free from eczema. In this page, I would like to summarize my personal routine for reference. Hopefully, there are some ideas here that are useful to the reader.

1. Every day I try to ensure I have an intake of at least 8 to 10 glasses of water to keep myself sufficiently hydrated. I do not intake distilled pure water (a commonly misunderstood product in HK with no nutrients whose original intent was to be sold as an industrial product). I mostly try to intake plain water, else I try to take in liquid that can be easily broken down and absorbed by the body for healing and regeneration, e.g. freshly squeezed fruit juice / vegetable juice / water mixed with a spoon of honey or organic apple cider vinegar or green tea or home-made soup. I keep myself away from soft drinks, alcohol, coffee, and packaged beverages with preservatives as I believe the content in these beverages degenerates the health rather than regenerate the health. Note: To assess your own level of hydration, you only need to look at the colour of your urine, if it is clear, you are fine, if it is yellow, you are dehydrated, if it is orange, you are severely dehydrated.

2. Every day I will moisturize my entire body from head to toe at least once (twice during flare outs) immediately after a cool shower while my skin is still subtle from the wash. When I moisturize, I have also learnt to not just apply the cream to my skin and but to spend time (15 minutes) to massage and rub the cream generously into the skin to ensure the skin is relaxed and the beneficial ingredients are absorbed by the skin. This ensures the cream you are using not only performs the function of barrier protection but also tissue healing and locking in moisture.

3. Every week, I will have a pedicure routine to keep my nails as short as possible. This is to minimize the damage that comes with scratching as an unavoidable part of eczema suffering. Longer nails will do greater damage to your skin during scratching, so it is important to keep your nails short and clean. Additionally, it is a good habit to try and first brush an itch spot with the tip of your fingers rather than scratch it with fingernails but this requires constant mind drumming to overcome the intuitive reaction.

4. Everyday, I would still continue to take antihistamines to control my itching sensation as it makes a huge difference. As my condition improves and health strengthens, I hope to reduce my dosage and reliance on antihistamines. Note: I have been searching for alternatives but yet to find an effective alternative.

5. On taking showers, I always take a cool shower (lukewarm during the winter). When my skin is extremely dry during the middle of bad flare outs, I would take 2 showers a day to keep the skin soft and moist contrary to a lot of advice on minimum showering. However, the key with this routine is a cool shower rather than a warm/hot shower that would make the skin drier and more irritable. When I take a shower, I do not use soap. Instead, I use sebamed’s shower oil during bad flare outs (massaging it into wet skin before rinse off) and baby cleansing products when my skin is in reasonable shape. I would always end a shower with a 30 seconds cold rinse (as cold as possible). This helps to close up pores and stimulate circulation. I find it also helps to subdue the nerves from “heatiness” and “extreme itching sensations” as I step out of a shower. After a shower, I tend to drip dry for 30 seconds and immediately rub and massage on my moisturizers before the skin dries up. I do not towel dry which may irritate the skin and if it do, I tend to pat dry with a towel rather than doing a rub down.

6. Getting sufficient rest and avoiding late nights. If you want good skin, it is imperative to get rest early and have sufficient sleep. The body begin it’s renewal cycle from 9pm and this is optimally performed when you are resting. On the contrary, late nights is bad, it not only impedes the renewal cycle but overworks the organs accumulating more toxins in the body. I use to goto bed between 1 to 2 am and rely on coffee to carry me through the day. I now tend to goto bed around 12am. Hopefully, I can move it to 11pm as my health strengthens and I become more active and stop taking naps.

7. You become what you eat and this isn’t just about staying away from allergy foods. This is a big topic and I will separately cover in another page.

8. Wear cotton clothes. Stay away from man-made synthetics.

9. Under your allergy triggers. Go and take a skin prick test or blood test to find out your allergy triggers.

My story so far

I am an overseas born chinese guy, married with a toddler child, currently in my late 30’s and work in a bank.

I have been a lifetime sufferer of eczema starting with hayfever allergies during my early teenage years in the UK. During those summer periods, I would also sometimes get bouts of mild eczema on the fold of my arms, legs and on my neck due to heat rash. It was uncomfortable but largely non-intrusive and life was largely normal in those days with doctor’s prescription of antihistamines, creams and sometimes mild steroid cream.

I settled in Hong Kong in the late 1990’s looking for better career opportunities and adapting to the metropolitan lifestyle of Hong Kong, my eczema condition started to slowly take on a whole new lease of life since my move to Hong Kong. Over the years, my bouts of eczema flare outs had gotten more aggressive and frequent over time with more intensive itching sensations spreading the condition initially to the legs, then body, back and eventually everywhere including the face. Over the same period, I would goto see different western skin specialist doctors to address the issue and they would prescribe stronger and stronger dosage of anti-histamines and steroid cream. After every prescription dosage, the eczema flare out would reside returning firstly after a year, then shortening to 9 months, and then with stronger steroid cream shortening to 6 months, and then progressively to 3 months and eventually more recently to 1 month even after taking steroid pills as a medication.

Over the same period, my general well being had deteriorated with lower energy levels and a less active lifestyle due to the eczema condition. At it’s worst, I couldn’t sleep from the itch and inner heat, I couldn’t concentrate to work, I couldn’t walk without pain and dreaded having showers everyday with the burning pain that came with cleaning the thousands of wound cuts all over my body. Social life became an embarrassment and my self esteem was very low. It got to a low point where I basically concluded western medication isn’t going to work and I had to take charge of my own health or face a prolonged slow death from the torture that I was experiencing. I started to seriously research and read up on eczema treatment.

Interestingly, it became apparent to me and I am also convinced by it from personal experience that steroid creams not only doesn’t really help with eczema but it deteriorates your health to make eczema more problematic over the long term. Hence, over the last six months, I have completely stopped using steroid cream and have been trying alternative remedies. In this blog, I hope to share some useful experiences to readers and I truly wish strength and inner peace to other acute eczema sufferers who are reading this blog. I understand that eczema can feel like a life-long torture but it can be managed out!