Experts called in after Taiwan woman panics, thinks medicinal dried seahorses are plastic

Experts called in after Taiwan woman panics, thinks medicinal dried seahorses are plastic Liu was sure she got a bargain when she bought the goods more than a decade ago. Photo: Liberty Times
  • Thinks she got a bargain for dried goods then plastic worries surface

A woman in Taiwan who stopped consuming traditional Chinese medicinal dried goods because she thought she had been duped and they were made of plastic, has had her fears allayed.

Her worries, which surfaced after the goods had been soaked in medicinal wine for more than a decade, and were emitting a plastic smell, prompted public concern.

This caused experts to inspect and confirm the authenticity of the products.

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On June 3, Liu Xuemei was shocked to find that the ingredients submerged in the wine, including dried cordyceps, turtle shells, and seahorses, had maintained their shape perfectly over the years.

She was cleaning the container at the time and took the ingredients out.

Upon touching the dried goods, Liu thought they were unusually soft. They even emitted a plastic odour when she applied a lighter to them.

Liu had spent NT$8,000 (US$250) at a local vendor for the medicinal ingredients.

She thought it was a good deal because she heard of other people paying more than NT$100,000 (US$3,100) for similar goods.

The seller claimed the items could be used to brew medicinal wine, which is believed to be especially beneficial during winter.

The ingredients Liu bought are widely recognised in Chinese culture for their health benefits.

Seahorses are considered a natural Viagra and turtle shells are thought to regulate energy and blood flow, both are believed to enhance kidney function and treat arthritis.

Cordyceps, a fungus that preys on insects and other arthropods, has been used in Chinese medicine for more than 1,500 years. It is believed to alleviate respiratory, kidney, cardiovascular and liver problems. It is also known for its immune-boosting and anti-cancer properties.

The seller had advised her not to open the packaging, but "simply to pour the contents into the wine", she said.

Liu poured the entire packet into a large glass jar, soaked with 20 kg of rice wine and only occasionally added small amounts to soups to enhance flavour.

The situation took another turn when after cutting open the ingredients and examining their internal structure, they were confirmed to be genuine, according to Lin Chaohai, a Chinese medicine expert.

Lin explained that after being soaked in wine, dried goods do become plastic-like.

Relieved by the clarification, Liu expressed her gratitude and said she was glad she had not disposed of the remaining medicinal wine.

Online observers had mixed reactions to her predicament.

"It's hard to say what the truth is. Did they test it using the same batch?" asked one.

Others found the notion of faking "dried goods" unnecessary.

"Faking this seems too complicated," one person said.

"After all, the ingredients themselves aren't that expensive," added another.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2024. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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