Category Archives: medicine

The Pink Panacea

A bit of exaggeration perhaps, but the self-proclaimed “Famous Pink Tablets” were probably the most highly-favoured over-the-counter medication of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

It was like the grand-mummy of the present-day Panadol.  As the claim went, 2 tablets of these pink tablets could quickly take the misery out of Headches, Fever, Body Aches, Influenza and Toothaches. I suspect women of those days must have used them for other needs too.

In any case, I must have eaten at least 10 dozen boxes of the pinkish stuff in my younger days, as usually we did not (and could not afford to) visit a doctor unless we were about to die.

These days, I think Vinac is not popular anymore; the familiar red-and-yellow packaging has been replaced by something nondescript.  I have not seen a modern specimen in real-life.

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The Matchless Cream

Confessions first: am no Mopiko salesman nor itching to be one.

But true to its Chinese name – 無比膏 – it was and still is an Incomparable Cream, matchless in its ability to soothe pain, stop itch and ease off a host of other discomforts. 

I first came across this ‘wonder’ stuff some time in ‘60s – back then its advertisements were blasted numerous times over the radio everyday, “Stop Pain, Stop Itch, Use Mopiko”.  Since then it has been granted permanent residency in my household.

I understand that the “Indications” list on the packaging differs slightly from country to country.  The one here from Singapore says it is also good for pimples!

Anyway, this medication is so effective that oftentimes, one look at a tube  is enough to trigger an itchy spot on the body. 

An Extra Leg Up On Coughs

Coughs bugged us kids on and off whole year round.   But we had an extra leg-up on those ailments — the trusty Three-Legs brand cough syrup.  It was cheap, readily available and quite effective.   (Only in very bad cases when our lungs threatened to jump out of our mouths did we visit the doctors)

Dosage was kinda flexible.  I remember we used to take 1 tablespoonful at a time, maybe hourly.  If the cough was bad, then more often.   But one uncle of mine used to drink half a bottle at one go, claiming that it afforded him a sound sleep at night.  (He did wake up the following mornings).

Why was it branded as “Three-Legs” ?  Maybe to give the doctors an extra run for their money.   Has anyone any idea ?

Siamese Marching Powder ??

No kidding !  That’s the Chinese description – 行軍散 – (as per my limited Chinese prowess).   Yes, the 5-Pagoda Medicinal Powder that has been trusted for generations for ailments of the alimentary system.

But why was it called such ?  Perhaps because it did an awesome job in giving the Marching Orders to whatever goblins inside us that were causing the tummy to bloat, or the guts to flush like a monsoon drain.

For old-timers, it was like magic silver bullets (just look at the small aluminum canisters).  Just one canister of that minty brown powder was all it took to restore peace and order.

Alas, these days this stuff is shunned – even banned in some countries – in favor of modern chemical weapons.

Escape From Sea Of Misery

Not quite as fascinating as Jason’s Odyssey but for an ancient set of walking fossils like me – or whatever remains of a body after 6 decades on planet Earth – these vintage Japanese analgesic plasters provided legendary relief from the aches and pains all over.

For those who read Chinese, the name is “Tuo Ku Hai” – meaning escape from the sea of misery.  What an insightful name !

Tokuhon came into my life at a very young age.  After a game of badminton, or a day’s work of sawing firewood for the family, my arms would ache at night, and dad was ready with his favorite patch-up job using pieces of this Japanese wonder.  From there, the old habits stuck on for life.

Intimate Cover-up Of Old

Haha !   Sorry, no juicy scandals here.

As active kampong boys, rough-and-tumble outdoor play activities were the norm.  And in the process, inevitably our bodies received cuts, lacerations, gashes and an occasional nasty insect bite.

No worries, we got home and perhaps after a nice dressing down from our parents, we looked forward to dressing up with our good old friend, the medicated plasters from Elastoplast.   The pic shows the packaging during those days.

Never mind the misadventures that caused the injuries, those plasters (came in many sizes and forms) provided a much needed comforting cover-up for the wounds in a well-cushioned intimate embrace.

All Kinds Of Medicine Remind Me Of This

At 454, Penang Road stands a modest but iconic “heritage” of the medical kind. “Howe Cheang” is its name.  For since the time when I knew my ABC’s – nearly 6 decades ago – I have heard this name so very often.  Yes it was the “Go-To” place for all kinds of western medicine – well trusted by Penang Lang.   You named it, they had it.

As a kid I was not always in good health.  Poor as my parents were, they always took me across from Butterworth to visit clinics in Penang.  Often, the clinics did not stock certain medicine, and the doctors would write a prescription to buy them at this shop.  But I also know, a prescription was not always needed.