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Many Asians Turn to Traditional Medicine

April 5, 2003

SINGAPORE (AP) _ Ginseng, chrysanthemum, white fungus and all manner of herbal remedies are selling fast across Asia as people seek ways to ward off severe acute respiratory syndrome, the deadly flu-like disease with no proven cure.

In Singapore, where four people have died and 100 are sickened with SARS, customer Tan Ai Bee is confident she has the stuff to ward it off _ five large packets of Chinese herbs and roots meant to boost immunity.

``These are for fever and flu. They can help prevent the SARS virus,″ said Tan. ``I have been taking Chinese medicines for a long time; there is no reason to lose faith in them now.″

SARS has killed at least 85 people in Asia and Canada and sickened 2,300 in more than a dozen nations as infected travelers carry the virus between continents.

On Friday, a woman died of SARS in Singapore, the country’s sixth death.

Singapore’s government and others across Asia have appealed to people with sudden high fever or difficulty breathing to see a doctor. But many are self-medicating with herbal remedies, traditional medicines regarded in Asia as a reliable way to get well and stay well.

Frankie Lew, a consultant physician at the Meiseido Chinese Medical Treatment Center in Singapore, said some might find comfort in the medicines, fearing that they will be quarantined if they go to a hospital.

``Some may not want to be isolated, so they come to us for cures,″ said Lew, consultant physician at the upscale Meiseido Chinese Medical Treatment center.

Lew said many patients came to the center last week seeking herbal medicine for flu and pneumonia. No one said they had SARS, he said.

Some people asked for a simple herbal soup mix of ginseng, roots and leaves to treat pneumonia, Lew said. The herbal cocktail costs $1.13.

Items like ginseng, chrysanthemum and white fungus are selling fast, said Chiang Pin Pin, a marketing executive with Yue Hwa Chinese Products.

Another hot seller is ``Pientzehuang″ _ green chiretta tablets from China that are believed to reduce the chance of infections. They’re almost sold out with no sign of being restocked, Chiang said.

``Our suppliers in China are running out of stocks because people are rushing for the same items,″ said Chiang.

Update hourly