Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This is why I like Malort

I had a Little Too Much Fun this weekend and came down with my fourth upper respiratory tract infection this winter. It started with a scratchy throat and progressed overnight to a fever that had me stumbling deliriously through the grocery store yesterday, lost in the tea aisle. The fever broke early in the morning, but I was up most of the night feeling like there were hot charcoal briquettes lodged down in my pharynx. I remember dreaming about going to clinic to get herbs for it, one of those fever dreams where the herbal formulae book was more like a potions book from the Potter-verse, full of moving text and ingredients like blue dragon eggs and moondrops. I showed up for my clinic shift but my throat was too swollen to talk and I didn't want to infect my patients, so I left them in the hands of my senior partner and made myself this potion:

From the left to right: honeysuckle flowers, forsythia seed pods, burdock fruit, leopard lily root, Chinese puffball, balloon flower root, woad (indigo) plant and root.

This formula, yin qiao ma bo san, "Honeysuckle, Forsythia, and Puffball formula," dates from 1798's wen bing tiao bian, the Systematic Differentiation of Warm Pathogen Diseases.

The ingredients are primarily antipyretic and antiviral (i.e. they clear heat toxins), with about half of them being indicated specifically for swelling and pain of the throat. Balloon flower root dries phlegm and helps prevent the infection from descending into the lungs by expanding the chest and raising the lung qi.

The herbs are decocted for 20 minutes, strained, then decocted again. The strained decoction is taken three times a day between meals.

It tastes like grass and dirt, and the puffball spores give it a gritty texture, but it should resolve the infection within a couple days.