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What's that smell?

The distinct power of herbal medicines
Jan 19,2003
The following is a tip on traditional Korean language and customs in response to a query from a Mr. Beyssou, who wrote to us from Seoul:

Q. Mr. Beyssou:
I work near a commercial district. I enjoy this lively all-Korean neighborhood, that is, only by looking. In a few drugstores a curious brown liquid boils all day, all week long, and the nasty smell coming from what looks like a steamer has been driving me crazy.

What is that and why does it smell so terrible?

Many druggists in Korea prescribe Oriental medicine, which seeks natural remedies to chronic ailments. Their prescription drug is usually in the form of an opaque brown liquid, made from various natural ingredients such as roots, herbs and animal parts.

Traditionally, herbal medicine was prepared at home in special earthenware. More recently, pharmacies that have replaced traveling herbal doctors, have begun offering machine-boiled and squeezed medicine. To most Koreans who grew up smelling the bitter brew, it's the sweet aroma of an elixir.
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