Asian herbal remedies; brilliant or bunk?

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Herb

From bottled herb drinks to brews to spice up your sex life, Asian
traditional medicine companies are telling visitors to a Singapore
food expo they have just the tonic.

From bottled herb drinks to brews to spice up your sex life, Asian traditional medicine companies are telling visitors to a Singapore food expo they have just the tonic.

Praising the virtues of a tradition that goes back thousands of years, companies from South Korea to Singapore are hoping to tap deeper into a market that has always existed in the region and build on growing demand for alternatives to Western remedies.

In one booth at the Singapore Expo building an advertisement asked: "Do you want to be a 'Man of Vigor' in bed? 'Sansuyoo 100' can help you!"

Harry Park, a trade manager for Korea's Chunho Food Company, touted the benefits of a Korean fruit called sansuyoo.

"Sansuyoo is good for energy and strength and improves the blood circulation and the kidneys,"​ he said. "It also affects men's organs."

Park says Chunho produces 90,000 bottles of Sansuyoo 100 pills, which mix sansuyoo, black raspberries and 'Chinese matrimony vine', each month.

Each bottle, holding about 1,600 tablets, sells in Korea for about US$40 and might last half a month, since users take between 30 and 50 pills at a time, three times a day.

Besides Sansuyoo 100, Chunho sells 'deer extract, attractively advertised as "boiled up meat and bones of deer"​ , and turtle extract, and Park hopes the time-tried remedies will prove popular outside Korea.

At another booth Singapore's Eu Yan Sang talked up herbal elixirs based on traditional Chinese cures.

"Herbs are tonic foods based on tried and proven Chinese medicines that address health needs,"​ Benny Swinn, the company's regional manager, said.

Eu Yan Sang hopes formulations like Yin from the Cold, a mix of lemon juice and a Chinese herb called Lonicera that Swinn says wards off colds and flu, and Power Plant, a brew using ginseng to give a caffeine-free kick, will sell in Southeast Asia.

A bottle of concentrated drink would cost retailers about S$60 (US$33) while a glass of Virtual Nirvana or Yin from the Cold sells for about S$8 at spas and hotels.

And like their Korean competitor, Eu Yan Sang is interested in lifting more than energy -- the company is developing two drinks to enhance sex.

Otto Weibel, the director of kitchens at Singapore's Raffles Hotel and the president of the Singapore Chefs Association, said that herbal cures had had more attention than they deserve.

"A lot of people believe, especially the Chinese, in natural herb healing. So yes, it's coming back. But I'm not sure it's a big market,"​ he said during a break from judging a cooking contest at the fair. "Everybody talks about health food, but how many are eating it? ...People will always eat chocolate and heavy foods."

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