Thuoc Bac aka Bile

Eastern medicine works. No knock against Western meds, clearly they pay our bills, but acupuncture and herbal remedies have kept a billion+ people alive for thousands of years. Something must be happening correctly.

Before Emmy, we had 2 miscarriages. You know how they tell you to wait until you're out of the first trimester to tell friends and family? We learned that lesson the hard way, because it really sucks to tell everyone the pregnancy test was positive! Only to tell them a week later that you're not pregnant anymore. Yeah. 

Before Frank, we had another miscarriage. When I say I have a hostile womb, I mean it. Only the strong survive and apparently only Emmy was Darwin enough to make it through out of four pregnancies. She better become Somebody.

One of our close couple friends had been through a similar experience. They had a girl, but suffered a miscarriage afterward. So they went to this Vietnamese herbalist in San Jose, recommended to them by a couple of other women who had gotten pregnant after seeing her.

So one morning, we walked into her little office, and if you've ever been to an apothecary in Chinatown you know what the Rock is cooking. It had the unmistakable smell of herbs and medicines, the customary good luck fish tank, and two chairs in the waiting room. 

I filled out a lengthy questionnaire, with an inordinate number of questions about my menstrual flow, sleeping habits, stress levels, and how I would rate my health in a number of areas. And a few more questions about my menstrual flow for good measure.

Then our herbalist took me inside her office, looked over the questionnaire, looked at my tongue, and asked me a few more questions about my menstrual flow.

15 minutes later we were back in the lobby waiting for these.

9 paper wrapped packages of medicine that I was to brew and drink every night for 27 nights.

Recognize anything in there?

Maybe a closer look will help you identify the bark and berries and twigs and white chalky tubes. 

No? I think some of this stuff  has fallen out of Emmy's shoes after a day at the playground. And the brown cubes look suspiciously like these dehydrated liver treats we used to give Romeo before he became allergic to everything, including his own tail.

Each package was supposed to be brewed with 9 cups of water, until it reduced down to 3 cups worth, so every 3 days, we had to make a new batch.


Lucky for us and for White Grandparents, we happened to be visiting the very first weekend of the very first batch. Let's just say the smell in White Grandma's kitchen was OFF DA HOOK. She loves me very very much. And I owe her a new measuring cup because the smell of thuoc bac (herbal medicine) does not leave anything it touches. It permeates. Like me. 

I tried to convince The Good Doctor that he was actually supposed to drink it, not me, but he was not buying it. This is as close as his lips ever came to the thuoc bac.

Imagine drinking dark brown bitter sour bile. Warm. For every 2 chugs I took, one came back up, and had to be re-swallowed. But I drank it all, every last drop, for 27 days. 

And now, Frank! Or maybe Francesca. Something in this brew did something for my uterus and if we have a boy, the herbalist's record is like 4 for 4 pregnancies that resulted in pork and beans. Hurray for brewed bile!