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.
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 ?
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Chinese description for this age-old classic Minyak Angin actually says, “carminative oil” or flatulence-relieving oil. 驱风油
Yea, I remember starting using this wonder love potion (was not No.9, to be sure) since my very young days, not so much for colic, but always for relief of nasal passages during bouts of flu and cold. Those were the days, when Mum taught me to tie one corner of a handkerchief into a knot and then drip several drops of this oil into it – used for sniffing at intervals.
Photo shows the old bottle, with a cork stopper, tipped with a tin-alloy spout and a screw-on cap. Yes, the stuff is 96 years old now, and Ipoh folks should be proud of it.