Wednesday, February 11, 2009

#54 Chinese/Korean Herbal Medicine

Korean Moms love Korean/Chinese Herbal Medicine. Better known as Hahn-Yahk. If they could carry it around in a flask like a G, whipping it out for a swig every once in while, they would. Vodka and Tequila shots have nothing on the potency of Hahn-Yahk. Its mere stench can make a grown man cry or Clay Aiken grow chest hair. What is it you ask? Nobody really knows. We may have speculations, but we can never really know. Do not even try and ask your Korean Mom what is in your Hahn-Yahk. She will throw back her curly head, laugh scathingly, and make you feel like your man-parts shriveled to the size of an edamame pod. Those mutant ones with only one or two beans, not three. Yes, even if you are not a man. Bottom line. Do not ask because she will not tell you.

Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. Countless numbers of victims have been forced by Korean Moms to drink this cure all. A brown liquid that looks and tastes strangely like warm pureed horse manure or cat vomit. Admit it, you spent valuable moments of your childhood trying to figure out ways to dump it in the sink or flush it down the toilet without your Korean Mom noticing.

I am pretty sure all Korean Moms obtain Hahn-Yahk from the same type of old Korean man. The same old Korean man who will squeeze your mid section and ask you when you had your last period, while you seethingly contemplate molestation charges. All the while your Korean Mom is sitting in the 'exam' room/back of the deli, giving you the stank eye (see #5) and plotting how she will make you drink Hahn-Yahk for the rest of your life. Many of us were forced to drink this nasty concoction of mystery juice to cure ailments a simple Tylenol could have cured. Have a headache? Have some Hahn-Yahk. Oh, you're fat? Hahn-Yahk will cure that. A genital wart? Hahn-Yahk. You're short? Eat some spinach and wash it down with Hahn-Yahk. You're not married? Drink some Hahn-Yahk and pray to Jesus foo! This is why I never like to admit I am sick or am becoming sick. I am deathly afraid that my Korean Mom will find out and mail me a giant package of Hahn-Yahk. Guess what I have in my fridge at this very moment? An entire drawer full of Hahn-Yahk to cure pimples (see #19). Yeah. Pimples. The Hahn-Yahk should eventually cure me of my face. I love my Korean Mom.

It's been a while but I'm back! Did you miss me? :)

Thanks to The Hub of Sparkle and all my readers for the Golden Klog Award! I shall cherish it always while drinking my Hahn-Yahk.

77 comments:

Anonymous said...

You're back! Hooray! Good luck with your apps.


Yes, yes, nasty brown juice medicine. I remember it well. And don't forget the prune juice!

Sonhui said...

Yea, drank that stuff to prove a daughter was tougher than the older son, why the helll did I do THAT for?

Tim said...

yes we missed you.
now where's the clip of the cbc radio interview thing you did?

Anonymous said...

i had to drink a big bowl of mystery juice while visiting my grandmother in the Motherland. Years later my KM told me it's "flavor" was from dried antlers. I'm not sure if she was kidding...

Julie said...

I missed you!!!

Next time my mom hands me a mug, I'll tip a 40 (of han-yak) in your honor.

Anonymous said...

I cried with joy when I saw you had posted a new entry....then I remembered the horrors that you explain so well and I grew fearfully happy.

XD

Welcome back!

Anonymous said...

you're back-yippy skippy I am delighted

Anonymous said...

I think the point of the "tea" was to get us to all stop our whining and grit through the pain like a tough warrior. In truth, we prefer the pain over another cup.

Anonymous said...

I think the point of the "tea" was to get us to all stop our whining and grit through the pain like a tough warrior. In truth, we prefer the pain over another cup.

Wife and Mommy said...

Aaaaaack! I'd almost forgotten about hahn-yahk. Now that I've been reminded of it, I shall resume fearing all brown liquids.

Good to see you back. :)

ngf said...

i look at what is on the stove before asking what it is...

when someone isn't feeling well (generally flu season), it's time to stay away...(insert name) is sick, drink some of this too...bleh...

Anonymous said...

We missed you! Please write more often!!! ;)

Anonymous said...

I had the unfortunate experience of taking hahn-yahk with supplemental accupuncture sessions. A 10 yr old child should never have to endure this type of torture. The worst part of it all was when my mom started buying the "convenient" pouches of hahn-yahk instead of brewing it herself because then I could take it with me to school. =(

Anonymous said...

Awe Hahn Yak is nothing. Try drinking pureed bear guts!

hmmm said...

omg. My mother in law is sending me some so I can get pregnant faster. argh!!!

whyjennipi said...

omg we all missed youuuu !

and yes I suffered the same pain )*: oh the old days of tyranny

Anonymous said...

I was a frightfully skinny child who never liked to eat. So my mom and grandma boiled up some hanyak to induce appetite. Sure enough, it kicked up my appetite, and now I'm fat. This stuff works.

Florsie G said...

Man, and I thought the purple onion with honey and lemon my grandma made as a cough medicine was disgusting enough..Then again, I have a mexican mom and a mexican granny.

About your pimples, try pulse light and heat energy therapy (or LHE). They basically flash blue light on spots of your face. Sounds strange and like a racket but believe me, it works. I've been acne free for 4 months now.

It's wonderful to have you back.

saejinnie said...

i moved to korea to teach english and when my first care package from the states came...guess what was included? yup!! Hahn yahk. Hahn yahk that I had "accidentally" forgotten in the states. Gotta love my KM.

Girl Who Can't Cook said...

I'm not Korean but I remember being made to drink a black bitter liquid medicine (probably a close relative of hahn yak) and the equally-feared white cod-liver oil!! Blech...

Joolsey said...

i've started following your blog just two weeks back, read the entire thing... and i'm hooked! i've already been itching for a new post! welcome back! :-)

Anonymous said...

We have two refrigerators at my house. A "K" fridge and a "Meegook" fridge. Somehow all of my mom's Hahn-Yahk (convenient pouch size) ended up in the "meegook" fridge and she's trying to get me to drink it to regulate my periods, get rid of any pimples, lose weight and make babies one day. Every time I ask her what it's made out of... I get the stank eye and an ambiguous answer followed by "it's natural!" What's worse is my emo is an acupunturist and really into herbal medicines... she supplies my mom with all the "Hahn-Yak" one would ever need in a lifetime. Glad that you are back!

John Ji said...

mutant edamame pod...lol

my mom used to have a piece of ggak ddugi (pickled radish) in hand as she watched me drink it and after i swigged it down she'd put the ggak dduki right in my mouth.

Dory said...

Hooray you're back! So yes, i think the Chinese version is called Ho yan Hor or something like that. My mom/ grandma would try to get me to drink it when I wasn't feeling good. Smelling that did not make me feel better lol.

justaLil said...

omg.. i hated this stuff
nightmares ::shudder::

my km always thought i was a little bishil bishil so she continually made me drink the nasty concoctions.
The only improvements it's made in my life was to increase gastrointestinal fortitude. heh.

I'm Hani. said...

Oh you're back!!!! It has been the most painful/slow/boring two months ever. I always share your stories with my mom and she has been bugging me nonstop for updates from you. I hope grad school apps are going well. I will be sending good karma your way!!!

Bryan said...

I once had a Korean friend try to force this on me when I was so sick I thought I was near death. She came to my house with all sorts of stuff in a mysterious bag and started mixing things on the stove. My poor Southern parents were baffled.

Eventually, I could smell it all the way in the living room. I prayed with my family that somehow God would intervene (even a small house fire would have been acceptable).

Our prayers were answered when it turns out she heated it up too much and when she poured it into the glass, it shattered (or maybe it just shattered from contact, not the heat). My mother soon thereafter ejected her for breaking one of the "good" glasses and holds a grudge to this day (maybe my Southern mom is part Korean mom).

James said...

Every winter like clockwork, my mom would restore our depleted reserves of han-yahk and make my brother and I drink it. Only we couldn't sneak out and dump it. She stood there like a drill sergeant, waiting for us to finish it in her presence. I was surprised she didn't make us hold the empty cup upside down over our heads to prove we drank it all.

Our reward for each drink?

A stick of doublemint gum and more han-yahk.

I LOVE my Korean mom!

Anonymous said...

I get the Han Yak from my K-mom-in-law every day (when we're in Korea). It actually does grow on you. I may have been born in the states to a caucasian family, but I certainly identify with your blog.

We should all have a K-mom!

Claire said...

hahaha, my KM's older brother, my sam-chun, is a han-ee-won doctor, and each year, we literally get an enormous box of han-yak. my mom claims this is the reason we never get sick. i would drink it in one big gulp without breathing, rinse out my mouth immediately afterwards, and use some Listerine to get rid of the disgusting taste. XP

Michelle said...

When I was a kid, my mom put me on a strict Hanh Yahk regiment. As a bony kid she wanted me to gain some weight.
When I was a teenager and dealing with puberty fat, she fed me weight loss Hahn Yahk, along with daily doses of vinegar, lemon juice in water and bamboo rock salt.

Today, my mom thinks she was an early foremother to the "Well Being" craze.
She has now deemed herself the naturopath self healer extraordinaire and has graduated to concocting her own versions of "Hahn Yahk".
My sister's and my freezer has been stocked full of used 1 liter coke bottles filled with a miracle cure all prevent all vegetable elixir. It smells and tastes like rotting garbage on a humid hot city summer day.
What it's supposed to do for me, I don't know.
All I'm told is that "it is good for me".

Mama Roe said...

My Caucasian friend called it "Korean Capri-Sun" because of the lovely pouches it came in.

Don't forget the solid version of the herbal medicine (wrapped in gold leaf). Eeewwwww!

Glad you're back!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I missed your posts! Welcome back! Good luck with your grad school apps - hope you hear good news soon.

MiLee said...

Oh man, the hanyahk. My KM made me take this to school and drink it after lunch! All of my friends had to keep their distance from me while I consumed this vile drink and tried to get the taste out of my mouth with a whole bunch of chocolate (followed by numerous breath mints, of course).

I have been to this herbal medicine place so many times (NO MORE ACCUPUNCTURE PLEASE OH GOD) that I seem to know much more about this brew than I should... for one thing the ingredients may vary as well as the taste (and the shade of brown, even). However, it never fails to taste absolutely disgusting.

And it usually contains dried antlers, all sorts of dried roots, and maybe even some dead things we never want to find out about.

*shudder*

Now I finally know that I'm not the only one who's been suffering under the wrath and power that is uhm-ma....

Steph said...

SO TRUE!

My mom made me drink that nasty stuff so that I'll grow. Rather than growing upwards, I grew width-wise.
She also tries to get me hahn-yahk when I'm home for breaks, but so far, I've escaped it for a few semester!

The Clam said...

My wife was sick last week and her mom came over with a big bag full of it. She convinced me that I should drink it because I was probably going to get sick this spring. I'm not sure why I listened to her, but a Korean Mother-in-Law is pretty damn hard to say 'no' to.

Now, I guess I'm cured until summer at least.

Welcome back!!!!

Anonymous said...

My sister suggests that you write about Korean moms' love of bidets and migun (aka torture back machine.) Or taking out moles.

Simon said...

You are an amazing person

hub of sparkle said...

No problem, eh? And congrats on the award.

generika. said...

oh hanyak.. the korean everyman's cureall. my mom made me take it last year, and the fallout was as follows: http://generika.blogspot.com/2008/06/spoonful-of-sugar.html

Janette said...

deer antler hahn-yak scares me the most. post more!

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, I know the hahnyak. "Drink, it medishin-ya," my mom would insist as I balked/gagged.

KMs like Zojirushi or Tiger brand appliances. Every old school Korean household I've entered has a 10-cup rice cooker and at least 90% has the hot water dispenser. Right next to the calendar from the grocery store.

The eEditor said...

I am sure it has been stated in the comments here at least once before, but you should really send updates via Twitter, too. Just a thought.

Sonya said...

Oh man... My mom is taking me to get some today... to help me get pregnant~! I'm only going because she gave me the "Stank Eye" and she just got back from Korea yesterday and is all about the "Made in Korea" medicine is better... GAG!!

Anonymous said...

Hehh, I actually think han-yak tastes pretty good, am I the only one?;-;

Anonymous said...

korean moms love gogoomah.

Andrea said...

I love Korean food and have always loved eating at my Korean mother in law's house. However, a couple years after my husband and I got married she served me a HUGE serving of Hahn-Yahk. Apparently, she was getting impatient because she didn't have a grandchild yet... I was able to drink a little bit, but not the enormous glass full. I tried to be polite, but I really couldn't drink it all and made my husband drink most of it when she wasn't looking...

Ello said...

Just had a whole bunch of readers of my blog recommend I check you out and so glad I did!

Lucky for me, my mom isn't the han yak pusher. It was my grandmother, rest her soul. But I still have nightmares about the stuff. The worst was the big ball of concentrated han yak that she made me chew. Just the smell of the stuff made me puke. shudder.

Check said...

oh man all this stuff is so true

me and my older sister were reading and luaghing at this. then my mother stole a quick glance and we "x-ed" out the window and acted like we were just on Facebook. she gave us the stank eye and went back to making kimchi

XD

the_13th_redneck said...

I can totally relate to this. Actually Chinese/Korean Herbal medicine is the first topic in my new blog about explaining Korea.

Check it out if you want.

Bullshit Buster said...

The previous post was actually mine. I moved from xanga to blogger becuase I think xanga's got way too many teenagers trying stupid shit to be unique.
My first post is about Herbal medicine.

Su Won said...

We used to say "yuck" for "yak", which got applied to every medicine aside from mixed fruit flavored Tylenol(a HUGE improvement in medication flavor and cooperation vs crushed up Tylenol w/sugar and water)

In fact, han yak was foul enough that my own K-parents wussed out and took the han yak that looked like teeny-tiny silver BBs(still smelled horrible) or nonpareils whereas my halmoni would chug it like a gansta wit a 40.

I once saw an acupuncturist for a bad UTI (& I did not have insurance & an ER visit was too expensive.) After some extensive pins, he had a han yak for me and gave me a liter. He wanted me to drink 1 cup twice a day until it was all gone, about 5 days worth. I cringed and asked how does it taste? The acupuncturist had a apologetic look on his face and said "Eh, it's not bad...but it's not good either. You'll survive."

I had doubts, but dang it, later that same day, I no longer had UTI pain.

Generalissimo said...

한약이 마시없습니다! My yoja-chinga swears by it along with the required accupuncture theray. One time, I had some hand pain and my yoja-chinga (financee)'s imo-nim gave me this stuff. I had a religious experience, but not in a good way.

Herbal Medicine said...

Within the last several decades however, we have started to see a gradual transition back to the use of herbal medicines. And as the consciousness of our culture grows, we will see more and more people fade out their use of allopathic medicines in favor of herbal medicines exclusively

Anonymous said...

your agent told me to tell u to update. please.

Anonymous said...

Anhyoung haseyo....OMG - you are hilarious! I stumbled upon your blog as I was looking for korean food recipes. My husband and I are not Korean (but we are asians) but we've been "educating" ourselves on korean culture by watching K-dramas! No? Not a good way to learn? But being asian I can relate to all your KM postings being drama queens. After I gave birth to my daughter many many moons ago my mother wanted to send some nasty herbal roots thingy via my best friend. I was horrified. I saw what it did to my SIL. The smell alone will kill you. So I told her that the immigration officers at the airport know what those are and will not only take the stuff away but will put my best friend in jail. She decided not to send them. To mail them to me will be "waste money". Thanks for the laugh. Pls keep 'em coming.

Wish I have a KM to hug!
MK

Janet said...

hysterical. so true. keep writing! I love your stuff.

seitzk said...

I miss your blog! Selfishly, I hope your life calms down so you can post again...

Natural Remedies said...

Nice Blog, hey please keep on writing.

Anonymous said...

YUCK! I remember my mom made me drink that to!!! horrible stuff!

I love reading your journal entries.....alot of the entries esp the Koreans I can relate =)

Galbijim said...

Hi,

I'm editor of an English magazine in Daegu, called Daegu Pockets (www.daegupockets.com). Would we be able to get your permission to publish some of your past posts in our mag?

Cheers,
Craig

Patrick Walsh said...

My korean mom sent me a bunch of Han-yahk in Iraq while I was deployed. I had other things to worry about and so never got around to drinking it.

Tammy said...

this is great! My drinks it too. i called it her witch doctor drink. and it was totally stank. i could smell it brewing up the block.

Anonymous said...

I lived next to a han yak brewery for a while in Ulsan. I generally enjoyed the smell, at least when it was herby and sweet. I also saw ingredients that went into some of the blends. Mostly, it was ginseng, roots, herbs, and pear juice. A friend of mine told me that oil from pressed cat was added to a kind of Han Yak, similar to kae-soju, and was used as a treatment for severe arthritis. I'm pretty sure I would have smelled that if it was going on next door, though.

sol said...

not only han-yak, but she obsessed over vaseline too.

Jaime said...

Wow! Nice to know that I'm not the only kid that poured precious, expensive pouches of han yak down the drain, or in planters... Now I'm a crazy KM myself and when my kids get sick or have nosebleeds, I have momentary lapses where I wonder if I should consult a han yak man to brew my girls up a batch to fix them up... God help me!

Anonymous said...

Went to Korea this summer and guess what took up a full carrier on the way back? Good ol' Hahn-yak. They could've made it taste better by adding Gam-cho but noooooooo pure bitter and nasty tasting liquid for me! And now my mom is thinking of getting my brother some. More brown liquid in pouches!

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l0vedim0 said...

OMG I just threw up a little in my mouth...Oh how I tried to avoid drinking this stuff, but how can you when your KM is standing there in front of you giving you the stink eye until you downed it!! Even as a kid I knew there was something wrong with this stuff. The first time I had it was to cure a rash on my hand. My KM had me soak my hand in this concoction for 30mins and then I had to down a fresh cup of it...I was like wait what? I spent years burying my experiences with this elixir of Satan under layers and layers of mental barriers. Thank you for bringing this nightmare back to the forefront of my psyche ;)

Dallas

Anonymous said...

Okay, am I the only crazy one that LOVED Hahn-Yahk?? My mom made the stuff in a giant crock pot and I would eagerly down my cup and ask for more. They would always deny my request, supposedly it's bad to drink more than one cup, which begs the question, is a Hahn-Yahk overdose possible?

ClaRawr

hakan altan said...

thank you

Anonymous said...

I don't know if the medicine ever cured my ills or helped me...but being quite possibly the nastiest thing I ever ate/drank, I was able to drink coffee, beer, hard liquor without flinching...and that includes tequila. None of that lick the salt and suck the lime crap...I drink it straight!

Daniel A Kim said...

HAHA THIS IS SOOOO FUNNY! i love your style of writing!

Unknown said...

I like your blogs but I actually believe the effects of Eastern medicine, and I'm also a Nursing student. I had severe seasonal allergies as a child and I sneezed non stop, everyday for 3 months every spring. After going to a well-known Korean Traditional Medicine practitioner, I took his precribed Hanyak and my allergies only lasted 2 weeks the next year. A few years later and now, I only have about a week of allergic symptoms. It really depends on who you visit, and whether you are all that ill or not for the meds to take effect.

A lot of Koreans take the han-yak as a bo-yak (extra strengthening supplement) so of course you wouldn't really feel that much of a difference in your physical well being... eating someone else's prescription won't work either because the amount of the herbs that go in is totally catered towards your own body.

Just saying, Tylenol is hepatotoxic (toxic to liver cells) and is certainly more dangerous than hanyak if you have a weak liver or have screwed your liver with alcohol or liver-harming substance.
It's funny how people think western medicine is all the shiz when one of the top reasons for deaths in the US is due to western medicine treatments, which includes medicines as well as procedures.

They both have their ups and downs. It's just that Eastern Medicine is not very invasive and really depends on the person's belief and faith as well as the adherence of the medicine itself in order to work