Monday, January 17, 2011

Flu: Why some people never get it & the wonders of Tiger Balm

While I was struck by a flu that put me into a mini hibernation of two days recently, I started thinking about several flu related topics. At the time, I thought these topics may be interesting for a single interlinked blogpost, but now I don't see their connection except that they both deal with 'flu'. Well, here they are:

Tiger balm
Growing up with an Indonesian mother in the Netherlands, being sick was not only terrible. It was also a time of being terribly spoilt. Suddenly, I was being brought cups of tea, tucked under layers of thick blankets and sometimes even spoon fed again. I'm sure kids with Dutch moms had the same treatment. The most significant thing for me however has always been tiger balm. Whenever I was sick, my mom would always pop a little Chinese can with red goo and rub some on my chest and back. She would also put some on a handkerchief for me to sniff. The scent would open up my airways and my whole body would warm up after a good rub. Now when I smell tiger balm, I am reminded of these childhood flus. Whenever I have a cold or a muscle ache now, I rub tiger balm on and it immediately makes me feel a bit better.

Here in Indonesia the magic substance is kayu putih (white wood) oil, which is actually an ingredient of tiger balm. Whenever someone is sick, they rub it one themselves or on each other. It is not only used for the flu, but also for stomach problems, muscle aches and migraines. If they could, I think they would even use it for toothaches. Rubbing kayu putih usually goes together with saying that the illness you have is 'masuk angin' (the wind inside). I don't know how it works precisely, but whether I have food poisoning or the flu, there's always 'wind inside' me.

Getting back to the topic of the flu: while I was in my mini hibernation, a dear colleague came by with food and medicine and she offered to massage me. This I never decline and being sick it seemed like I was being massaged by an angel. It was great! She found the sore spots and then she burped. Yes, she burped. And I can tell you: all Indonesians do when they massage you (well, not at salons, usually) or when they get a massage. They do this to let the air out that comes free with the massage. It thus makes you wonder if maybe there WAS air inside all along... I even know people that already start burping when they see two other massaging each other. So don't be shocked should this happen to you - it's perfectly normal.  My advise for anyone being sick: get some tiger balm and rub away that nasty flu!

Why some people never get sick?
This topic came to mind as I spoke to some people who always seem to get a break when the flu goes around. This group (frustratingly) includes my boyfriend. It made me wonder if they were that much stronger physically and whether that is something that I can work towards or not. I don't really enjoy getting each flu that breaks out, so I wouldn't mind taking a cold shower everyday if that helps. Well, another Google search led me to find this brilliant article stating that it's above all else positive thinking that keeps us healthy. I guess it's time to fix my attitude... Say it with me: "Yes, we will be healthy!"


Tommy said...

"I spoke to some people"? :-D Interesting article, keep it up!

Amis Boersma said...

Thanks! I added a sentence ;)