Friday 29 January 2010

Health and Fitness: Liquorice Root (2nd Suggested Cure for Mouth Ulcers)

Liquorice Root
Image from

WARNING: consult a doctor or a medical expert before trying!

Traditional Chinese medicine is widely appreciated, even by some westerners. Westerners travelling across the oceans to China to study Chinese medicine and to become doctors in mainland is no longer news. Nowadays, tough diseases which are seemingly incurable are facing strong challenges from Chinese herbology. Just to list one example, Shikimic acid, a primary feedstock used to create Tamiflu which is largely used to fights SARS virus, is produced from Chinese star anises. [1]
Chinese Star Anise
Image from
It seems almost magical to me to find that apart from expensive Manuka honey, there is yet another low-cost natural herb that can cure my oral ulcers -- the slightly-sweet Liquorice /ˈlɪk.ər.ɪs/ Root.
Liquorice's sweetness comes partially from glycyrrhizic acid (GA), which is an anti-viral compound significantly sweeter than sugar. It is this acid that plays an important part in curing the mouth ulcers.[2]

From my personal experience, Manuka Honey works well before and when the mouth ulcers are first formed, while Liquorice root (brewed in hot water and then drinking the water) is effective even after trauma.

Liquorice is widely used in food and medicine worldwide. It is used in candies in the UK and the Netherlands, used in cakes in some parts of England such as Yorkshire and Lancashire, used in soft drinks in the Netherlands and Egypt, used as natural mouth-freshener in Italy and Spain, used in soy sauces, broths and medicine in China.[3]

In traditional Chinese medicine, liquorice is commonly used in herbal formulae to "harmonize" the other ingredients in the formula. [4]

In modern medicine, it is shown that the glycyrrhizic acid(GA) in liquorice inhibits liver cell injury caused by many chemicals and is used in the treatment of chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis in Japan. It also inhibits the growth of several DNA and RNA viruses, inactivating herpes simplex virus particles irreversibly[5]

Despite the benefits, one should strongly note the toxicity of liquorice. Excessive consumption of liquorice or liquorice candy is known to be toxic to the liver and cardiovascular system, and may produce hypertension and oedema.[6]

The European Union suggests that people should not consume any more than 100 mg of glycyrrhizic acid(GA) a day, equivalent to approximately 50g of liquorice sweets[5] (assuming a content of 0.2% glycyrrhizic acid)[7]

But does the concentration of glycyrrhizic acid(GA) in the liquorice roots varies with cultivated areas? Yes. Here's the study done by a group of researchers in China. A preview can be read from here.

Then how much glycyrrhizic acid(GA) is there in 1 gram of liquorice root I bought from the medical store? Unknown.

So it is fair to say that it is very hard to tell how much liquorice root we should use in brewing the water, thus we had better be careful. One indicator is how sweet the brewed liquorice water is.

Since glycyrrhizic acid(GA) is 30-50 times as sweet as table sugar[5], then 1 gram of GA will taste like 30-50 grams of sugar. When I drink milk tea, I add 5 grams of sugar (a packet) only and I already find it sweet enough, therefore, in order not to exceed the maximum suggested intake of GA, which is 100mg / 0.1 g, then the brewed liquorice water (in my milk tea standard) should not be more than a tea cup (around 250ml), and should not be sweeter than 3 - 5 grams of sugar -- meaning not be sweeter than the milk tea.

In simple words, you should not drink more than a cup a day and it should be less sweeter than milk tea. (There are other ingredients in the liquorice root that will give the sweetness and not just from GA, but in the case of safety, it is better less than more.) Of course, it is better to consult a doctor or a medical expert before taking any actions, since you are dealing with medicine... but I just don't think they know the content of GA in the liquorice roots I bought.

trauma -- specialized (a) severe injury, usually caused by a violent attack or an accident
harmonize -- originally means "to add harmonies to a music tune", hereby used in a metaphorical way, which means "lowering the sharpness or great medical strengths of some other herbs"
inhibit -- to prevent someone from doing something, or to slow down a process or the growth of something
toxicity -- the level of poisonous substance


Wednesday 27 January 2010

Health and Fitness: Manuka Honey (1st Suggested Cure for Mouth Ulcers)

One of the methods that works for me is taking honey, but not just any kind of honey, it has to be a type of honey called Manuka Honey AND it must come with something called the UMF, which stands for Unique Manuka Factor. Many companies such as Comvita, sell Manuka honey at various UMF. In Hong Kong, the most commonly seen UMF numbers start from UMF5+, to UMF8+, 10+, 12+, 15+, 20+ or even higher. The price also increases with the value of the UMF.

The best Manuka honey comes from New Zealand, as it comes from the bees which feed on the flowers of the Manuka Bush, also known as the "Tea Tree", which produces honey that has anti-bacterial properties. [1]

Here I have a great video that explains the difference:

All honeys contain a chemical called Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) which provides the anti-bacteria properties of honey. However, Manuka Honeys with UMF produce a much better anti-bacterial activity and are much more stable and effective even in stringent conditions than the peroxide honeys. [2]

The non-peroxide antibacterial activity of Manuka honey is reported as the equivalent concentration of phenol with the same level of antibacterial activity. (For example, an Active Manuka Honey rated as 10 for its non-peroxide antibacterial activity will kill Staph. aureus as effectively as will a 10% phenol solution.)[3]

In short, the higher the UMF, the stronger the anti-bacterial strength the Manuka honey has, which means that the honey has higher strength to fight off bacteria.

In January 2008 Professor Thomas Henle, University of Dresden (Germany) identified methylglyoxal as the active compound in Manuka honey. This is now shown on products as MGO Manuka honey. E.g. MGO 100 represents 100 mg of methylglyoxal per kilogram.[4] Thus, you might also find MGO as an alternative name for UMF now in the market.

According to my lip-biting experience, I find UMF15+ or higher most effective and any honeys lower than UMF15+ are useless in healing my mouth ulcers, but any honeys above UMF10+ still show effectiveness in soothing my sore throat and protecting me from flu, cold and cough.

Generally, I take the honey 2 times a day, once before breakfast and once before sleep, and I swallow it slowly, allowing it to have more time to kill the bacteria in my mouth, thus curing the mouth ulcers.

Here I have a video of the famous Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins explaining how she uses Manuka Honey to recover her voice:

When purchasing UMF Manuka Honey, I don't go for brands, I go for price, so I will only get them when they are on sale. They are generally on sale in large supermarkets and a 50ml Manuka Honey of UMF15+ generally costs around $200.

Comvita is usually the one I never buy because they are too expensive.


Monday 25 January 2010

Health and Fitness: Mouth Ulcers

Do you like French fries? KFC chicken? Crisps or Potato chips? Hot and Spicy food? Hotpot? Pop Corns?

I have to say I like all these, but as a person with strong discipline, I manage to restrict my appetite to just the hot and spicy food (Oh mine! Indian food I love them!), and I do not have them often. Unfortunately, that does not mean I suffer less from the side effect of "heatiness". And so what do I get most of the time?

Oral ulcers / Mouth ulcers (US English: Canker sores)

Mouth Ulcer
Image from
The exact cause of oral ulcers is unknown[1], but there are many possibilities. As for my mouth ulcers, they usually appear after I bite my lips with my own teeth, which happens when I have consumed too much "heaty " food.

I have tried many different ways, eat less heaty food, apply sugar on the wound, apply salt on the wounds, applying fresh Aloe Vera onto the wounds, drink herbal tea, eat Guilinggao herbal jelly (as suggested by my ex-students), but none of these work for me.

When these don't work, the wounds grow bigger and bigger, and if there are multiple of them, they will eventually merge together, forming and huge one which can be as big as my thumb nail. The pain can be terrible!

I even thought about having my tooth removed so that I wouldn't bite my lips again, but of course, I dropped that thought soon.

That's because I have found two solutions that help in my situation!!! What are they? Let me tell you on Wednesday. Till then, you should be reading those resources I have listed below:


Friday 22 January 2010

Food and Restaurant: Café Rendezvous

Mezzanine Level, InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong,
70 Mody Road,
Tsim Sha Tsui

Parma Ham
Irish Oysters (A bit small)
Mini lobsters, Japanese spider crab and conch
Roasted Beef
Instant Cook Penne (This month only)
Scallops and Salmon
Desserts (look good)
Sour Strawberry in Sweet White Chocolate (Yum!)

  • Photos by me, dating back to 2009-9-18


Located in a not-so-accessible area of East Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) -- including a 10-min walk from the East TST MTR station or a 20-min walk from the TST station, inside a hotel with a not-so-grand exterior having a sea view blocked 70% by a footbridge, offering dinner buffet at weekends from $388+ might sound a little too crazy, but Café Rendezvous /ˈkæf.eɪ ˈrɒn.deɪ.vuː/
remains on the top of my list for buffet for the past 4 years for some really good reasons.

Excellent Quality for Seafood lovers (or not)
Quality is my top priority. I can eat junk food or swallow an entire fast food meal in 5 minutes for my weekday meals (which I usually do), but at weekends I must use those money I saved up in 5 days to eat something good! So I want quality, quality, quality food!

The dinner buffet offers Irish oysters all year round. They are freshly opened by experienced chefs and are washed right in front of you when you place your order, so you need not be afraid of eating contaminated shellfish because the person queuing before you were spitting saliva onto them while talking to his friend (yucks!)

Since oysters are seasonal, the size of the shellfish also fluctuates. That doesn't cause any troubles nonethless, as you can order as much as you like. I often ask for a dozen each time and the chefs never seem to mind at all! They even reply to you with a cheerful "Sure!" I am not an oyster lover and I hardly eat more than one in 6 months, but consume a dozen in a year, and now you know where I eat.

I have never really liked crabs. Hairy crabs, flower crabs, crabby crab crab, whatever. But I just can't help but keep eating the Japanese Spider Crabs here. Not only are they fresh, they are juicy and most often you can taste a tint of sea water. The crab meat is always firm which means the boiling is well-timed every time. I like it with the Thai chilli-lime sauce as it brings out the best taste of the arthropod.

Other seafood consists of baby lobsters and conches, and salmons, scallops, octopuses, sea urchins over at the sushi bar. They all taste way above my expectations! Food refill happens way before the food runs out, so there is no time-lag in between your servings.

Tender Meatloaf
They also offer roasted lamb legs and roasted beef, and they are both my favourite food, but it really depends on which depth of the meat they are cutting. Of course, the further in, the more tender texture, the more succulent they taste. I have never tried asking them to cut me the middle slice, maybe I should try next time.

Variety of Cooked Dishes
Chinese dishes such as fried rice, steamed fish, stir-fried vegetables, cooked lamb, pork, chicken, beef, plain rice, pan-fried udon and Chinese soup are not my choice in a western-style buffet, but just in case you have friends who doesn't eat seafood and dislike raw Japanese food, then you do get the familiar taste of orient and they are not bad.

Other than the roasted, the Western style dishes also consist of smoked salmon and ham, cheese with biscuits, butter with buns and borscht /bɔːʃt/.

Because every month, the cafe comes with a theme for its buffet, thus occasionally, you do get Italian parma ham and cook-on-request pastas and pizza, or Indian curry mutton and kerbab, I suggest you phone the cafe and ask them before you make reservation.

Cozy Environment
Diners here are not noisy at all, so you tune the atmosphere on your table to family-gathering, friends' reunion or romantic-candlelight style. Their staff will also arrange the best table for you for the purpose, so you may also let them know why you are going to dine there.

Sweet Watermelons
Sugar-soaked? Probably not, because I have never had a complaint from my better half, who is very sharp when it comes to tasting food. She loves Malaysian watermelons best, but the unknown ones here still receive some praises, and so I believe the watermelons are pretty good.

Desserts for Kids
Well, I say the desserts are for kids because they will surely be happy to have chocolate fondue fountain with fresh fruits such as strawberries, honeydew and cantaloupe. They can design their own Ice cream with almond flakes or melon seeds.

As for the rest of the desserts, cheese cakes and tiramisu mostly look really good, moose and cream in mini-glasses just don't fit the feeling on my tongue, so... I belong to the kids' category.

Coupons and Discounts
Ever since launched the English version, I find it much easier for me to search for what I want, including the coupons. However, I usually book a table for 2, so these 4 - 20 heads coupons don't do much good for me (which is sad because they offer 25% off for these coupons). Fortunately, HSBC credit card does provide a 20% off and that helped to save some. So assuming if you go at the weekends and you use HSBC credit card, each person pays about $350. I have to say it is not cheap, but with the kind of food and consistent food quality and services, you won't regret it if you go once in a while.

To add to my review here, I quoted what I wrote about this restaurant last year as follows:

This is the 6th or 7th time I have buffet here, and every time I go home a very happy guy!mad

It is not just the environment that was brilliant, the food -- the succulent, meaty Japanese spider crab, tender roasted beef, creamy Irish oysters , and this month, the theme is Italian cuisine. Today, there was Parma ham with honey dew. Still mouthwatering after a 120% full meal.tongue

The best of all is, the savoury food got my girlfriend back from a very bad mood sadto a great one!lol It is her birthday today, so it was very important that she enjoyed

Really must thank the fine food!smilesmilesmile

PS: Some of the Japanese spider crabs were a bit too salty. Manager should check. sad
Recommended Dish(es): Japanese spider crab, roasted beef, Irish oysters
Date of Visit: 2009-09-18
Spending per head: Approximately HKD350(Dinner)
Other Ratings:
Taste 5 | Environment 5 | Service 5 | Hygiene 5 | Value for Money 4


Mezzanine -- a small extra floor between one floor of a building and the next floor up
Well-timed -- happening or caused to happen at a suitable or effective time
borscht -- a type of soup made from beetroot (= a small dark red vegetable)
cook-on-request -- (of a food) which is cooked to you immediately when you place order
mutton -- the meat from an adult sheep eaten as food



Tuesday 19 January 2010

TV Drama: House with Medical Terms

Picture from

After I had finished watching the entire Blackadder series, I began searching for TV programs which were performed by the leading actors, one of which has become incredibly popular on the American TV, and that is no other than Hugh Laurie. I suppose those of you who have been keeping up with my blog postings, including the one about Hugh learning American accent, you have expected that I will soon write about his TV series.

House M.D., made its debute in November 2004 and the series is at its 6th season thus far, starring Hugh Laurie as Dr. Greogory House, M.D. who works in the fictional Princeton‑Plainsboro Teaching Hospital (PPTH) in New Jersey. In the first episode, he is already a highly reputable doctor who heads a team of diagnosticians, however, as oppose to the general reception received by great doctors, his misanthropy has put him on the list of "an ass" (as his colleagues put it in numerous episodes). Despite all these, his team of diagnosticians and his colleagues still hold very high respect for him, for his brilliance in thinking "out of the box" and thus arriving at the correct diagnosis.

His favourite line is "the patient is lying!"

To understand if the show is worth watching, we should look at the awards. Quoting from Wikipedia,
The show has been nominated for six Golden Globe Awards and received two. Hugh Laurie has been nominated four times for the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama; he won in 2006 and again in 2007 In 2008 the series received its first nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series - Drama. House was nominated for best dramatic series again the following year, but has yet to win in the category.

What I personally think about the show is really simple, "Once I start watching, I can't stop."

However, there are tonnes of medical terms and I am really really weak in these. So, I get a little help from the internet.

When I am enjoying the show on, I just listen to what they say and enjoy the show, when I finished watching a particular episode, I will go to the's medical review and read up on the diagnosis made and learn a few names of the diseases. The website is cool because the writer, sounded like a doctor themselves, also mentioned the errors made in the series and how different they would have diagnosed the patient in the episodes. The writer also did a great job in putting up links to the explanation of the medical terms, which saves a lot of my time in looking for the meanings by myself. It is hard to find a blogger who writes with heart and I have found a comrade here.

All in all, House M.D. is a TV series which doesn't require any medical background to enjoy, the soap opera and the twists are enough to entertain most viewers, yet if you want to learn some medical terms, you too will find interests.


fictional -- imaginary
diagnostician -- a medical doctor who makes diagnoses
reception -- the way in which people react to something or someone
misanthropy -- the act of not liking other people
diagnosis -- a judgment about what a particular illness or problem is, made after examining it
comrade -- (UK comrade-in-arms ) old-fashioned a friend, especially one who you have been involved in difficult or dangerous, usually military, activities with
soap opera -- a series of television or radio programmes about the lives and problems of a particular group of characters. The series continues over a long period and is broadcast (several times) every week.
twist -- [C] a change in the way in which something happens


Monday 18 January 2010

Health and Fitness: Healthy Coffee??

Since the last time I have written an entry on coffee type and an entry on tea, I have kept my interest in knowing more. Here's an article which I read last December, and now I think is a good time to share.

Quoting from,

Coffee, Tea Might Stave Off Diabetes

Decaf may also offer some protection, study finds

Posted: December 14, 2009

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Here's good news for people who can't start their morning without a cup or two of java: Coffee and tea consumption may decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Click here to find out more!

That's the conclusion of an Australian study that also found the more coffee you drink, the lower your risk of diabetes. Every cup of coffee was associated with a 7 percent reduction in the risk of diabetes, the researchers said.

"There is good evidence that consumption of coffee, including decaffeinated coffee, and tea is independently associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes," said the study's lead author, Rachel Huxley, an associate professor and director of the renal and metabolic division at The George Institute for International Health at the University of Sydney in Australia.

Results of the study are published in the Dec. 14/28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Other studies have also noted health benefits from coffee. Last week, at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting, researchers reported that coffee consumption reduced the risk of dying from prostate cancer. According to other studies, coffee may help thwart liver disease, Alzheimer's, stroke and Parkinson's disease.

Experts initially thought caffeine was the source of any health advantages from coffee. However, research on decaffeinated coffee suggests that java minus the caffeine can still benefit your health.

In an attempt to better assess the relationship between coffee, decaffeinated coffee and tea on diabetes risk, Huxley and her colleagues reviewed 18 previously completed studies that included 457,922 people. Six of those studies included information on decaffeinated coffee consumption, while seven included information on tea-drinking habits.

The researchers found that people who drink three to four cups of coffee daily had about a 25 percent reduction in their risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who drank no coffee or up to two cups a day. For every cup of coffee consumed each day, the risk of developing diabetes dropped by about 7 percent, the study found.

Results for decaffeinated coffee and tea were also positive. Those drinking three to four cups of decaffeinated coffee per day lowered their risk of diabetes by about one-third compared to those who had no coffee each day. Those drinking three to four cups of tea each day lowered their risk of diabetes by about one-fifth compared to those who didn't drink tea, according to the study.

The researchers weren't able to assess a per cup risk reduction for tea or decaffeinated coffee, as they did for regular coffee, because there wasn't enough data in the published studies to do so, Huxley said.

It was previously believed that caffeine provided most of coffee's beneficial effects, but now experts suspect that "other components of these beverages, such as magnesium, lignans and chlorogenic acids, may also have a role," Huxley said.

She said those components appear to have a beneficial effect on blood sugar regulation and insulin secretion, but that further research is necessary.

"This study adds to the body of evidence that our diet and lifestyle are important determinants of subsequent diabetes risk," said Huxley. "Although it is too early to advocate for increased consumption of tea and coffee as a way of preventing diabetes, if these findings are confirmed by clinical trials, then the identification of the protective components in these beverages would open up new therapeutic pathways for the primary prevention of type 2 diabetes."

Other experts agree more research is needed.

"Coffee or tea may have an effect on diabetes risk, but in order to prove it, you need prospective studies," said Dr. Joel Zonszein, a professor of medicine and director of the clinical diabetes center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

With regard to preventing diabetes, he said, "Coffee doesn't hurt, but you have to watch your diet and get enough physical activity."

More information

Learn more about eating right to help prevent diabetes and other illnesses from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


diabetes -- a disease in which the body cannot control the level of sugar in the blood
prostate cancer -- a form of cancer that develops in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system.
thwart -- to stop something from happening or someone from doing something
Alzheimer's disease -- a disease that results in the gradual loss of memory, speech, movement, and the ability to think clearly, and that is common esp. among older people
stroke -- a sudden change in the blood supply to a part of the brain, which can cause a loss of the ability to move particular parts of the body
Parkinson's disease -- is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that often impairs the sufferer's motor skills, speech, and other functions
insulin -- a hormone in the body which controls the amount of sugar in the blood
secretion -- the process by which an animal or plant produces and releases a liquid, or the liquid produced
advocate -- to publicly support or suggest an idea, development or way of doing something
prospective study -- or a prospective cohort study is a cohort study that follows over time a group of similar individuals ("cohort") who differ with respect to certain factors under study, in order to determine how these factors affect rates of a certain outcome


People have been saying that coffee consists of many cancer-causing (carcinogenic) substances and it stains your teeth from white to brown, then medical researches seem to be proving the other way round, people have also proven that drinking coffee with a straw can prevent getting your teeth stained. So is coffee a wolf in sheep's clothing? Or is it a sheep in wolf's clothing?

Let's keep up with the news by reading more newspaper when you go coffee drinking.


There are a lot of medical terms in this article, and so in the next entry, I will be offering something cool to help you with these terms.

Friday 15 January 2010

Beauty: More on Perfumes (Calvin Klein One Summer)

I'm not a big fan of perfume, but when you need it, you need it. I would rather smell like a fruit cake than a smelling foot. You know it can happen in summer time.

I never buy my own perfume though, I get them as gifts, and I like them! So far, I have got two, and both of them belong to the Calvin Klein One series. CK One is designed to suit both men and women, in another word, unisex. And this makes it even better because if I cannot finish using them, I always have ladies who can help me out.

Perfume has another word equivalent, and that word is fragrance. Since the last time we have learnt the terms Top note, Middle /Heart note and Base note, let's look at another way to describe perfumes:

Let's look at an example from CK One Summer:

Details from,

3.4 oz Eau de Toilette Spray 2009 Limited Edition
Fragrance Notes: Mint, Cucumber, Lemon, Bergamot, Green Apple, Lotus, Rosemary, Rum, Woods, Sea Moss, Sandalwood
Fragrance Family: Aquatic
Fragrance Style: Laid Back
Recommended Use Summer
Launch Date: 2009

Our focus here is the Fragrance Family.
From Wikipedia, modern fragrance family can be categorized into the following: (descriptions rephrased by me after my understanding)

Bright Floral: flowery smells,
Green: grassy, planty smells, fresh and natural
Aquatic, Oceanic or Ozonic: clean, water-like smells, liquidy
Citrus: Acidic fruity smells, with Vitamin C
Fruity: Non-acidic fruity smells
Gourmand: Scents with edible or dessert-like qualities.

Then there is the Fragrance Wheel which is an even newer classification method with 5 standard families which consist of Floral, Oriental, Woody, Fougère and Fresh, with each of them having further subgroups which might be a little too detail to go on.

Can you find the fragrance family for your favourite perfume(s)?

Then it is the Fragrance Style, which is the general feeling that the fragrance offers you, for CK One Summer, it is laid-back, meaning relaxed and not worried.