By Ana Maria Amaro*

"(...) the Macanese culture as represented

by the true tradition of the refined culinary art of

"Cantigas de escola" and "de casa" and of "nominhos"

a great longing for old time" dós" of "chachas" and "nhonhonha"

for the religious processions of S. Joãe Senhor dos Passos, and mainly

by the last traces of "patois" and the famous "mezinhas de casa" and

"de mestrinho" were maintained (...) To illustrate the richness of

Macanese culture, unfortunately so badly known, we have

chosen an example we think is amongst the most signi

ficant, precisely in the field of popular medicine".

If there are any places on Earth where the convergence of different cultures can be felt vigorously, then that place must be Macau.

When the Portuguese landed in the narrow peninsula of Fosso da Baía (1), they were confronted with various problems presented by a new environment as new as it was poor in living resources: the lack of fresh water, lack of suitable land for cultivation, shortage of shade trees in a region of very hot and humid summers, and to top it all, a lack of adequate medicines against the unknown diseases of the region.

Having settled in that country with their Asiatic and Eurasian women they began to establish trade contacts with the Chinese at a priviliged point on the Canton route. They had to create a specific style, by applying acquired knowledge and adopting new ideas from the local population. Thus, progressively exploiting and transforming the geographical and human features they were faced with, they created a new community with the uniqueness of a specific culture in which ancient Portuguese traditions were, sometimes deeply cross-bred, not only as an inevitable consequence of the phenomenon of acculturation, but also as a result of the absolute bio-ecological necessity of direct and immediate environmental resources.

Evident proof of sui-generis Macanese culture is the Popular Medicine that, not a long time ago, was predominant in Macau.

The Portuguese drained swamps, made the periphery of the city habitable, planted trees on the hillsides and along the street pavements, extending the city through the fields up to the shore and to the nearest islands and constructing embankments in their search for more space as the port was silting up. From being an anchorage place for big ships, large freight vessels and large 2-masts crafts it was becoming a mere shelter for lorchas and fishing tous.

The Macau of four hundred years ago and the Macau of to-day cannot be compared. The humanization of its landscape has reached its peak in the skycrapers of today. The Macau-Taipa Bridge and the road linking Taipa and Coloane are an indication that a similar change will occur on the islands, in a short period of time. However, Macanese culture as represented by the true tradition of the refined culinary art of Cantigas de escola and of casa, of nominhos a great longing for old times dós of chachas and nhonhonha for the religious processions of S. João e Senhor dos Passos, and mainly by the last traces of "patois" and the famous mezinhas de casa and de mestrinho were maintained, inspite of the extraordinary numerical disproportions between the Macanese, Chinese and the European Portuguese groups. To illustrate the richness of Macanese culture, unfortunately so badly known, we have chosen an example we think is amongst the most significant, precisely in the field of popular medicine.

João Feliciano Marques Pereira, at the end of last century, recorded a popular Macanese song, a Canção da Cathrina known as Paródia à Bastiana and included it under the heading of Cancioneiro Musical Crioulo (2).

As many as twenty-one funny stanzas that were sung in Macau at that time, with this melody, are a precious ethnografic document supplying valuable indications of some traditional Macanese customs lost, even gone out of the memory of the oldest ladies of Macau.

As a subject for our study, we have selected the second of those stanzas, which refers to popular Macanese medicine:

(...) Riva de vosso porta Cathrina

Três pau logo botá

Alo macho, tingili, Cathrina

Sabsana co ocá (...)

In this stanza, a reference is made to a popular custom common to both the Portuguese and the Chinese, a custom which consists of placing over the doors of the houses, branches of certain vegetal species considered to dispel witchcraft, evil spirits, bewitchment and the evil eye.

Next, mention is made of three plants and two medicines very much appreciated by the Portuguese of Macau in the first decades of 20thcentury. However, the selection of these did not really seem to correspond with, the varieties that were traditionally hung upon the doors, but was instead in compliance with a quite different criterion.

We believe that the intention of the author of the stanza, when he referred to those household medicines, was to emphasize the low social standing of Cathrina, which the very reference to her residence a meu de travessa (in the middle of a by-lane) could be hinting at, as well as, her conduct, which seems to have been not very proper. Thus, it is possible that the song may have originated in the manner of old lampoons, satirizing some girl of low social, and probably also moral standing, speaking a strong patois and believing in nonsensical superstitions that might have risen, through marriage, to the wealthier classes in Macau.

According to J. F. Marques Pereira, medicines referred to in this stanza are used against the evil eye and witchery and not just for therapeutical proprieties. Not at all. If this fact could be accepted as far as the sabsana is concerned, the truth in relation to the remaining household medicines cannot be accepted in the same way. Many of those medicines, we believe, had real therapeutic value.


Três paus or mezinha três pau is one of the earliest prescriptions in popular Macanese medicine used against cholera in the early 20th century.

We have observed in Macau a whole set of utensils, together with the três paus (three sticks) used for preparing this household medicine. They were three small pieces of wood, more or less cylindrical in shape and approximately the size of a thumb. The set of wooden pieces was processed in a small sá pun (3) and a small sacrificial bowl, and always well protected from humidity in tin boxes, or, more recently in brass boxes, more or less air-tight.

Mrs. Aurora Viana Brito and Mr. Abilio Basto, even in the sixties, had a set of these pieces. These Macanese friends taught us the procedure for the preparation of mezinha três paus.

The paus were scraped one by one in the sá pun and the scrapings mixed in brandy which was poured into a bowl. This mixture was taken at the first symptoms of mordecim, which may simply be an indisposition, although it can indicate cholera. This medicine was considered to be very effective when taken immediately at the start of the sickness.

The três paus correspond to:

1 - costo-root of saussurea lappa Clarke (sin. Aplotaxis lappa Decne., Aucklandia costus Falc.) Asteracea, a native plant of India existing in Canton under the name mok heong (木香) (aromatic wood). The outer part of the root is of a chestnut colour and the inner portion is light in colour. It contains alkaloid Saussurin and essential oils such as costulactona, costal, costanus, canfenus and felandrenus.

Old people attribute fabulous properties to costo, which has been long in use in Europe by Galeno, Plinio and Arab doctors.

Garcia de Orta referred to costo (Colóquio XVIII - Do costo e da cholerica passio) naming it pucho, a name derived from the Malay puchuk, and it appears that this drug was commonly used in Malaysia. In Konkani, the name kosht was used, derived from the Arabic cost or cast, the name in Gujerat being uplot. This simple medicine is, even today, used in northern India as a specific remedy against cholera (4). For a long time, costo was imported from India and Malaysia to China being used as a medicine and also to produce fumo aromático (aromatic vapours) (5). Today, it is accepted that this species originally came from Kashmir and the slopes of the Himalayas, where it is also used in popular medicine as well as to repel woolmoths.

2 -águila -águila stick or achylia are common names for the species Aquilaria agallocha Roxb., Thymeleacea arborea, an indigenous herb from the Himalayas and Assam, which was used in Chinese medicine, under the name of cham héong, (沉香) or mat heong (蜜香) and in ancient western medicine under the name of linaloes. Garcia de Orta (Colóquio XXX) has referred to this tree saying that its branches were imported from Malacca. According to D. G. Dalgado (6), this species corresponds to Aquilaria malaccensis Lamk., and it originally comes from Malaysia. The tree is, in fact, very similar to Aquilaria agallocha Roxb.. According to the same author, the remedy known as linaloes must be a product of both species.

In Europe, the linaloes has been used for a long time in the treatment of various diseases, namely gout, rheumatism and diarrhoea.

3 -abuta-buta, or abutua are the common names for the "velvet leaf", tropical climbing shrub, Cissampelus pareira L. (Brazilian variety). The stem and the root of this creeper are normally used in medicine; the root, which is ordinarily known as abuta, has a bitter taste. It is considered a tonic, a diuretic and an aperitif. In Brazil, it is very much appreciated as a diuretic and as a treatment against all renal infections.

In Pharmacopea Tubalense (7) the abutua or parreira braba is described as "a root similar to the trunks of our vine tree (...)". The authors believe that the best parreira braba (velvet leaf) grows in Mexico, where we, Portuguese are presumed to get it from, but the truth is that we get it from Brazil". The best type was the long, thick, twisted one, with many knots, black on the outside and green inside. In the beginning, it was used in a powdered form and mixed with water against abcesses or "apostema interior, because if taken at the start, the problem will be solved within a few days; but if the problem is an old one, or if it contains pus, it will burst, removing all dirt from the exterior and from the interior parts, through the intestine or the urine". It had other uses, in the form of liniment mixed with vinegar against falls, contusions and inflamation, (8) diphteria and to facilitate parturition. For external use, it was also good for erysipélas "colic and stomach pains caused by windiness or cold conditions". It was also used in the form of decoction as an embrocation (fomentação) (9) upon the abdomen, against piles, venereal diseases and renal disorders.

According to João Curvo Semmedo, a famous doctor of the 18th century, "that root derived its name from "Reyno da Butua" where it is produced; it is also mentioned in "Rios de Sena" (10) by the pagans. Among the Portuguese people it is called "Parreyra brava" or "Raiz da Butua" (11).

In Timor, Brother Alberto de São Tomás (12) described two species of "parreira brava" both locally known as A-Alle; the "male"parreira brava that produces white grapes and has white roots with a black stem, and the "female" parreira brava that produces black grapes and has dark-yellow roots with a brown stem. It was decocted and used against catarrh and "scraped on a stone with water" it was used against twinges to relieve pain.

The same author states that persons have been cured of pleuresy in Mozambique and Timor with decoctions of this species of wood "not having to undergo any blood letting". It was very much used in India, being very effective in the removal of kidney stones. An unknown author wrote in the Manuscript of Brother Alberto de São Tomás the Latin name corresponding to the plant Vitis indica L. However, in the opinion of José Diogo Sampayo d'Orey. who commented on the manuscripts of Brother Alberto de São Tomás (ob. cit. p. 39) the Timor species could correspond to Ampelocissus arachnoidea (Hassk.), Planch., of the family Ampelidaceae. The name abutua was probably used only for its similarity as it corresponds to one of the African "parreiras bravas" cited by Conde de Ficalho and others. The species Cissampelos pareira L. is the Brazilian species which is, nowadays, found in several tropical regions.

In our opinion, in the past there was no perfect distinction between different species of medicinal plants used for the similar purposes, all of them being called by one general local name. Hence, it gave rise to a certain confusion and it is now difficult to identify them.

The Macanese prescription, known as mezinha três pau, was, as it can be concluded, cleary imported and it seems to have been the result of the fusion of cultures, which were carried by the Portuguese, and which converged in the East.


J. F. Marques Pereira says that alo macho is the common garlic. However. in the sixties, we find in Macau a household prescription against "flato" and "vento marado"(13) that consisted in "ruça"(14) or fumá (15) on the abdomen, with "çabola da India" (Indian onion) (16) "açado em unga papel pagode" or with bulbs of green onions(17) or of "alo macho" wrapped in its leaves, in the form of a roll(18) mixed with alum. This alo macho was the Allium porrum L. (French garlic) or the A. ramosum Jacq. (French garlic of China), thus designated in common language to distinguish it from ordinary garlic (A. sativum L.).

On New Year's Day, the maritime population of Macau used to place on the stern of their small boats an auspicious branch consisting of a lettuce ( Sang choi -生菜), celery ( Kan choi -芹菜) and one Chinese onion (19), Allium tuberosum Rottl. (Kau choi- 韮菜) with two tangerines and, in certain cases, an "inhame chicu "(Eleocharis tuberosa Rottl.). It was a way of attracting luck (the 5 Sources of Happiness) by a kind of homoeophatic magic based on a curious homophonic game: wealth (lettuce), prosperity (celery), long life (Chinese onion), happiness (tangerine) and sons (a line of offspring) represented by the "inhame chicu".

It has not been observed, however, nor have we had any information about a Portuguese in Macau having ever adopted that procedure.


We observed in Macau, in the years 1960/70, a specimen of this creeping plant, in the Istmo gardens. It is actually a Cucurbitaceae of the Cephalandea indica species Nand. (sin. Momordica monadelpha Roxb).

The Cephalandra species includes about 12 different kinds that can be found in the warm regions of the world and some bear edible fruit. The fruits of C. indica Nand., that look like small red pumpkins, were used, before maturing, as vegetables and for making pickles (10) prepared with rice vinegar.

The Chinese call tindili or tingili, lou si tam tong kuá (老鼠担冬瓜) - the mouse carrying pumpkin - an allusion to the shape and the small size of the fruit. The Portuguese name, according to João António Maria da Silva (20), is derived from the Malayan word tin-gili. In accordance with the opinion of Graciete Batalha, the root word is tendelim, the Macanese term being "the same as tindilim for tendelim" (21).

In his book Flora de Goa e Savantvadi (22), D. Dalgado records Cephalandra indica Nand. (Fl. Ind. III, 708; Rheede, Hort. Mal, VIII. t. 14) as a species whose local names were, in Goa, tendali (Portuguese) and teindli (Konkani). ^^SABSANA In the Collecção de Receitas e Segredos at the Pharmacy of the Colégio dos Jesuitas in Macau, (23)there are two formulas, meant for the treatment of stomach diseases like Bálsamo estomacal (fol. 69) and Tintura estomacal (fol. 394), the composition of which includes "raiz de sapuz" (sapuz root). In one of the formulas it is written: "raiz de sapuz que he sapaçane" (sapuz root, which is sapaçane) an indentification that is maintained in the second formula (facsimile). Raphael Bluteau(24)has recorded in his Vocabulary "a root which, in Konkani is known as sapus and it came to be designated as sapuche by the Portuguese". He adds that it is a plant from India or Angola. João Curvo Semmedo, one of the most famous doctors of the 18th century, wrote about the sapuche root(25): "The Sapuche root and its properties" "This root is also of great value and is the finest antidote for snakebites so far known. "When this plant germinates, the snake by instinct destroys the leaves beyond recognition; yet if one has tied it lightly to the arm (even sleeping outdoor) the snake won't dare to touch him. This is an excellent antidote against all poisononous reptiles and other poisons: mixed in water and drank, it cures stomachache: and if taken in the morning on an empty stomach it removes all obstructions, and help in the circulation of blood". Brother Alberto de Saint Tomas in his beautiful water-colour paintings, already mentioned, presents a creeper from Timor known as Aumata or Sapassana with the following description(26). "The creeper if cut obliquely shows some cockspurs. In Mozambique it is known as snakeroot. It is very hot according to Timorese if ground and taken in water it cures chill-fever and help vomit all the poison. If it is chewed in the morning and its juice swallowed, it prevents the effects of poison taken during that period, and the powdered root spread over the bites of poisonous animals the swelling disappear, curing it completely. Each fruit has 124 seeds". We know, therefore, that sapassana is the same as sapús and "snake-root". "Snake-root" or "pau-decobra" was described by Garcia d'Orta (Colóquio XLII) as corresponding to three different species. D. C. Dalgado, in his study to identify plants and drugs described in "Colóquios dos Simples", wrote about these species(27). The first "pau-de-cobra" described by Garcia d'Orta and which he named "rannetul de Ceilão", could correspond to Rauwolfin serpentina Benth. (Apocynaceae) or to Ophiorhiza mungos L. (Rubiaceae) Nevertheless, the fruit of the first mentioned species is not red, while the flowers of the latter is strongly red. The first is, however, the one that can be more easily identified with the one that Garcia d'Orta has described. In his "Hortus Indicus Malabaricus", Rheede calls this species talona (Portuguese name) and matvi(Konkani name) which corresponds to the present "atikî". It is a medicinal plant which serves also for the treatment of cholera according to Garcia d'Orta. In Pharmacographia Indica (cited by Dalgado on page 24) the following is said about the uses of Rauwolfia: "In Konkan the root with Aristolochia indica (sâpûs) is used in cases of cholera; against colic 1 part of root with 2 parts of Hollarrhena root and 3 parts of Jatropha curcas root in milk, and in cases of fever the root with Andrographis paniculata". The second species referred to by Garcia d'Orta is Strychnos colubrina L. known as "Pau-de-Cobra" or Paode-Solor" and the third species is the Aristolochia indica L.. When Viceroy D. Constantino went to Jaffnapatam, Garcia d'Orta wrote, "the people offered him bundles of a plant with its roots, for it was much appreciated against poison; and this root smells good (...)". The Konkani name for this root is "sâpûs" (ob. cit. p. 25). Cristovão da Costa(28) speaks only of two different species known as "pau-de-cobra" for both are used as a remedy against the bite of a particular type of snake. One of this species is a creeper whose odour, it is believed, is strong enough to move out the ophidians (a type of snake) and whose trunk, interlocked with a support, resembles a snake when seen on a moonlit night. The second species is a small plant, with only three leaves, which grows in humid climates. According to the Count of Ficalho, the first species is the one that corresponds to the third species described by Garcia d'Orta - Aristolochia indica L. From what has been said, it seems possible to conclude that "sabsana", "sapsana" or "sapassana" is the same as "sapuz", "sapuche", or "pau-de-cobra". Having recorded about 160 species of this Aristolochia species (of the Family of (Aristolochiaceae) of which the majority is medicinal(29)the sabsana of Macau can be identified as the Aristolochia species, for it is possible that different species might have been brought to Macau from India or from Timor or even from some other place as, for instance, America (30) or even Africa. It should be noted that in Chinese medicine, many different species of the class Aristolochia are used: A. debilis Sieb. et Zucc. (sin A. longa Thunb., A. recurvilabra Hance), A. kaempferi Willd. and A. contorta Bunge. However, the effective part of the plant is the fruit, which seems to be chosen, homoepathically for their similarity, when open, to human lungs. They are, therefore, used for pulmonary infections, namely as a remedy against coughs and as an expectorant, being effectively used in cases of bronchitis and asthma. They contain a toxic alkaloid, aristolochia, which, in laboratory tests, has shown to be active in cardiac and pulmonary functions. We believe, however, that it was not the Chinese medicinal species which passed into the popular medicine of Macau, but the Indian species, whose indigenous name was replaced by the Timorese name, perhaps through the influence of the slaves from that Island, who were prevalent in Macau in the last century. It is only natural that the use of "sapsana" may have been introduced by scientific medicine, as can be inferred from the reading of the aforementioned secret formulas of the Pharmacy of the Colégio dos Jesuítas. It is possible that this substance was used against chills, fevers and also to expel poison from the body may have replaced the old tradition and survived, through medicine, as the one used by the less favoured classes. We suppose that in the satirical stanza we have analysed, the name "sapsana" has been chosen to emphasize the social status of "Cathrina" who was apparently an unscrupulous woman or perhaps in the sense of it being a species capable of "removing poison" considering the efficacy of the plant as mere superstition, common to the less favoured and ignorant population classes. ^^VÓ KIAU or HÓ KÁ ( 阿膠) Black jelly (tonic) This medicine known in the old days among the population of Macau, under the Cantonese name Ocá, was very popular. Nevertheless, nobody in the 60's used this medicine, although in the past century and according to the notes of Dr. Lúcio Augusto da Silva, who practiced Medicine in Macau between 1861 and 1884, it was then still very popular (31). The old ladies remember it as Ocá, a Chinese medicine, good against hectic fever. It's not surprising that with the progress of western medicine in the field of prevention and treatment of tuberculosis, this medicine was put aside by the Portuguese people of Macau. The Bishop of Peking, D. Policarpo de Sousa, in his letter dated 1st May 1742 written in Peking to Ribeiro Sanches, refers to VÓ Kiau as an excellent Chinese medicine to prevent vomiting blood or the discharge of the same by women. He says that this drug is made with the skin of a black ass, those that drink water from a well in the Province of Xan-dōng which is protected by mandarins under the orders of the Emperor. One takes a small portion every day diluted in tea, chicken soup, etc. He had given seven or eight portions of Vó Kiau to a strong man who had vomited a lot of blood and to whom he was about to give the sacrament because he was dying. However, he took the drug twice and was cured(32).
Facsimile of the notes of Dr. Lúcio Augusto da Silva about Ocá- (Ms. of Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino - Miscelânea - Vol 1, room 15 (collection of Chinese Receipts)

In the above mentioned papers of Dr. Lúcio Augusto da Silva, there is also an interesting reference to Ocá that was reproduced in facsimile. In this reference, the doctor names several Chinese plants, with romanized names, which are connected with ó cá, according to the additional effects they produce. We have tried to identify them and we suppose they are the following ones:

Shan-coc, is a drug, the composition of which varies according to the masters who prepare it. The following is the composition given by one of the most esteemed in Macau - the "San Kôk chá" - as per order of the prescription written, in Chinese, that wraps each block:

    - Artemisia apiacea Hance........................................4,7%
    - Mosla Chinensis Maxim (edible fungus)..........................4,7%
    - Rootstalk of Dioscorea japonica Thunb, or
      Dioscorea batatas Decne. (preparation).........................5, %
    - Bark of Magnolia officinalis Reh. et Wils......................4,7%
    - Root of Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi.........................4,7%
    - Rootstalk of Notopterygium incisum
    - Root of Angelica grosserrata Maxim............................4,7%
    - Root of Platycodon grandilflorum DC..........................4,7%
    - Fruit of Amomum costatum Roxb..................................4,7%
    - Fruit of Citrus aurantium L. and Citrus
      op. (immature).......................................................4,7%
    - Rootstalk of Coptis teeta Wall..................................5, %
    - Fruit of Chaenomeles sinensis Koeh............................ 4,7%
    - Triticum sativum Lam (bran) used as an
    - Poria cocos Wolf.................................................5%

Indications: In the treatment of chills, fevers, coughs, abdominal pains, vomiting and diarrhoea with dyspepsia, head blows and illnesses due to inadaptation to different climates.

Posology: one block boiled in water each time, reducing it to 70% of the total volume. For children, halve the dosage. In case of cold accompanied by fever, add 5 mgs of ginger.

This prescription doesn't exactly correspond with the old traditional recipe, as found in some pharmacopoéias, but is the one printed on the package inside which the favourite san kôk in Macau are at present sold. We know that, at present, the samples used by different firms in the preparation of their medicines are not always the same.

Vom-lin is probably wong-lin (黃連) Coptis teeta wall or Coptis chinensis Franch; its rootstalk is very much used in Chinese medicine. It is sold in 5-6 cms long slices which are brownish on the outside and orange-yellow inside. In taste it is bitter. Originally from South China and the North of India, it is a very popular medicine against stomach-aches, digestive problems and dysentery, taken in doses of 3-7 grams. It contains coptisine, an alkaloid and also berberine.

Pui mun - tung: perhaps it corresponds to tin mun tong ( 天門冬)- Asparagus lucidus Lindl. (sin. A. falcatus Benth; A. insularis Hance)The root parts that are sold in 7-8 cms long pieces are yellowish and translucent in appearance, and are used as a diuretic and expectorant in doses of 5-10 gms.

Um mei: possibly ng mei chi (五味子) Schizandra chinensis Baill. (sin. Maximowicza chinensisa Rup., Sphaerostema japonica Sieb. et Zucc., Sp. Japonica Hance). The dried seeds are used as a tonic, a stimulant and an anti-cough medicine in doses of 2-5 gms. In all likelihood, it corresponds to ung mei fá (five taste-flowers) a very popular refreshment in Macau, being prepared by decoction of dried leaves of Bombax malabaricum D. C., Lonicera japonica Thunb. Plumieria rubra (Poir.) var. acutifolia Bail., Chrysanthemum indicum L. and Sophora japonica L. or other aromatic flowers, varying from one expert to another.

Vom kam - wong kam (黃芩) - Scutellaria baicalenses Georgi. (sin. S. macrantha Fisch; S. grandiflora Adams., S. lanceolaria Miq.) Originally found in north China, Manchuria and Siberia, the fibrous root is used in Chinese medicine for stomach-aches, as an antipyretic, an expectorant and even in cases of diarrhoea, hypertension and jaundice, in doses of 5-8 gms, being incompatible with the root Paeonia montan Sims. The taste, is bitter and the drug contains scutelarina (C21 H18 O12 21/2 H2O) and baicaleine (C15 H 10O 5). The first of these active principles produces, by hydrolysis, scutelareina (C15 H5 O6) and glucuronic acid.

Pac shoc pak chéok (白芍) - Paeonia albiflora Pall. (sin. P. edulis Salisb., P. lactiflora Pall., P. officinalis Thunb.) The root is sold in 20 cms long pieces by 12 mms. in diameter. Externally, the colour is red-brown and internally it is rosy. The taste is bitter. It contains asparagine and benzoic acid. It is used in the treatment of gastrointestinal infections, as an antiseptic and as well as an expectorant and for the stimulation of menstrual flow in doses of 5-10 gms.

Pui-um, we think, corresponds to pui-mou (貝母) Fritillaria verticillata Willd. (Sin F. thunberjii Miq., F. collicola Hance., Uvularia cirrhosa Thunb). The bulbs, sold in 4,5 cms long fragments, are used as an anti-cough medicine and an expectorant, in cases of bronchial asthma in doses of 5-10 gms. It contains alkaloids, verticin verticilin. fritilin and fritalirin. These alkaloids are toxic acting on the central nervous system. Its action on the respiratory system is similar to morphine. In lethal doses it produces cardio-inhibition and hypertension.

Humg fá-Hong fá (紅花) Carthamus tinctorius L.. (originally from China, Laos, South Vietnam and Kampuchea). The flowers of this Asteracea are used as uterine astringent in cases of dysmenorrhoea in 2-5 grams. It tastes bitter and contains cartamine and a yellow pigment.

We could not identify the items im-hu-só nor the bark chum. Can chum be Ch'ông(木瓜)-pinetree? Or Chám (杉)? Or Ch'ong sôt (蒼術)Atractylodes chinensis D: C. (syn. Atractylisvata Thunb., A. lancea Thunb.) whose root is used as an aromatic tonic in case of gastroenteritis? Or could it be Cham héong (沉香), aquila (Aquilaria agallocha Roxb.) Through the romanized names it is not possible to have an acceptable identification.

After the analysis of these traditional medicines of Macau, nowadays only remembered by an early, popular stanza, it is easy to see their multi-hybridism caused by the long cultural convergence in a small but densely populated territory.

Drawings from the book "Traditional Chinese Medicine", Ming Dynasty 《本草綱目》 (Pun Chou Kóng Mok) by Lei Si Chan (李時珍).

Just as many other cultural marks may define a social group, so the popular medicines can be considered, in fact, an historical document not only to understand the present but also the past. Many of these recipes, still kept by the people, will be used in the future, not only for the benefit of the group but also for the benefit of Humanity. That's why there is such a great interest in their study.

Translated by João Libano

Main Bibliography:

Amaro, Ana Maria - Medicina Popular de Macau (in print); - Batalha, Graciete N. Glossário do dialecto macaense, Coimbra, 1977): - Bluieau, Rafael - Supplemento ao vocabulário Portuguez e Latino (...) Lisboa Occidental, Anno de M. DCC. XX. V. VII; Dalgado, D. G. - Classificação Botânica das plantas e drogas descritas nos Colóquios da India de Garcia d'Orta, Bombay, Nicol's Printing work'a. 1894;-Dalgado, D. G.- Flora de Goa e Savantvadi, a methodical cataloquc of medicinal, nutritious and industrial plants, Lisbon, Impresa Nacional, 1898; - Dalgado, Monsenhor Sebastião Rodolfo Glossário Luso- Asiático, Coimbra, Imprensa da Universidade, 1919; - Keys, John D. - Chinese Herbs, Hong Kong, 1976; - Pharmacopea Tubalense Chimico-Galenica, Lisbon, M. DCC. XXV (1st volume) and M. DCC. LI (2nd volume); - São Tomás, Frei Alberto de- Virtudes de algumas plantas da Ilha de Timor. Ed. By the Overseas Ministry, Lisbon, 1969; - Silva, João Maria António da - Repósitório de Noções de Botânica aplicada (...) Hong Kong, 1904;- Manuscripts of the Archives of the Society of Jesus in Rome -Collection of various Recipes and Secrets (...), M. DCC. LX. VII; - Manuscripts of the Overseas Historical Archive-Miscellaneous, room 15,2nd section (1839-1858), 1st March.

(1)Name by which Macau was known to the Chinese in the Ming Dynasty (XVI-XVII cent.) or, still by Fosso das ostras, which the homophony of the word Ou (濠) can explain, for whatever remains of the picturesque old-time "patois".

(2)TA-SSI-YANG-KUO - Archivos e Annaes do Extremo Oriente - coordinated and annotated by J. F. Marques Pereira - 1stvolume - Lisboa MDCCCXCIX pp. 240/242.

(3)Sá-Pun thick earthernware bowl with grooved interior serving, as grater.

(4)D. G. Dalgado- Classificação Botânica das Plantas e Drogas descriptas nos "Colóquios da Índia "de Garcia d'Orta - Bombay - Nicol's Printing Work's, 1894-pp. 9-10.

(5)In Macau, costo was also known as pau-catinga due to its strong smell.

(6)D. G. Dalgado - ob. cit. -p. 17.

(7)Pharmacopea Tubalense Chimico - Galenica by Manoel Rodrigues Coelho - Lisboa Occidental; na oficina de António de Sousa da Sylva - M. DCC. XXXV - Tomo, I, p. 188-189.

(8)Common name given to throat infections.

(9)"Fomentação" is an old Portuguese custom, which is known as fuma in Macau. It consists of an application of a hot medicine and chapa-chapa (applied to the affected part).

(10)Rios de Sena is a region in Mozambique.

(11)João Curvo Semmedo - Memorial de vários Simplices que da Índia, da América e de outros pontos vem a este Reyno para o Tratamento de várias enfermidades (...) Em Apêndice a observações Médicas (...) Lisboa M. DCC. XXVII pp. 15-16.

(12)Frei Alberto de São Tomás - Virtudes de algumas plantas da Ilha de Timor (a manuscript painted in water colour in the Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino) - An edition of the Ministério do Ultramar with annotations by Frei Francisco Leite de Faria and Eng. José Diogo Sampayo d'Orey and Preface by Alberto Iria- Lisboa, 1969 (lef. 61, est. 62).

(13)Accumulated gases.


(15)Fomentation - an old form of treatment that consisted in the application of heated plasters to the affected part of the body.

(16)Allium cepa L.

(17)Chinese onion - Allium fistulosum L.

(18)A truss of hair rolled at the neck, which constitutes the hairstyle of Chinese women and was in ancient times also used by many Macanese ladies.

(19)Also known, among the Macanese, as "alho porro".

(20)João António Maria da Silva - Repositório de Noções de Botânica Aplicada- Hong Kong, 1904, p. 284.

(21)Graciete Batalha- Glossário do Dialecto Macaense-Coimbra, 1977 - p. 282.

(22)D. G. Dalgado - Flora de Goa e Savantvadi, Catálogo Methodico das Plantas medicinais, alimentares e industriae Lisboa, Imprensa Nacional, 1898, p.84.

(23)Collecção de várias Receitas e Segredos (...) Manuscripts of the Jesuits Archives in Rome. Book dated M. DCC. LXVII.

(24)R. Bluteau - Supplemento ao Vocabulário Portugueze Latino (...) Lisboa Occidental, Anno de M. DCC. XXVIII, p. 197.

(25)João Curvo Semmedo - Memorial de vários Simplices (...). Ob. cit., p. 14.

(26)Frei Alberto de São Tomás-Virtudes de algumas plantas (..) ob. cit. fol. 27, ext. 28.

(27)D. G. Dalgado - Classificação Botanica das Plantas e Drogas of "Coloquios da Índia"by Garcia d'Orta, Bombaim, Nicol's Printing Work's 1894, pp. 22-25.

(28)"Tratado das Drogas e Medicinas das Índias Orientals (...), Portuguese version with introduction and notes by Dr. Jaime Walter, Corn. Ed. of Cent. Room of the Publ. of "Coloquios dos simples" by Garcia de Orta, Overseas Research Council, Lisbon, 1964, Chap. L. p. 227.

(29) M. H. Bailon - Dictionnaire de Botanique, Paris, Hachette, 1896.

(30)The Aristolochia serpentina L., the virginian species was one of the favourite alexipharmies in Europe in the old times.

(31)Dr. Lúcio Augusto da Silva, Eurasian born in Goa, was sent to Portugal in 1841 to graduate as a Medical doctor, which he did in 1851 with a scholarship granted by the public Treasury. He was also a Ph. D. of the University of Brussels. He was appointed Chief-Surgeon and Director of " Serviços de Saúde de Macau", as decreed per 1-6-1860 law. He took interest in the study of the Chinese medicines used by the Portuguese of Macau and sent some samples, among which was the famous Ocá to the Ministry of Marine and Overseas Affairs to be included in collections which were to be displayed by Portugal at the Colonial Medicine Exhibitions that took place in Amsterdam in 1883.

(32) Arthur Viegas -"Ribeiro Sanches e o Pe. Polycarpo de Souza terceiro bispo de Pekim' in Revista de História. Ano X, nos37 to 40, Lisbon, 1921, p.249-250.

* Prof. of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Univesity Nova Lisboa, anthropologist and researcher.

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