Chinese herbal shops. I've wanted to venture in since my days, just after college, of living at the fingertips of Seattle's international district. It's not that I was afraid; I didn't know a thing about Chinese herbs.
Yesterday, I'm doing a bit of research online about these peculiar red dots in a half-moon beneath each of my eyes. They've been there for a month now, and like the Occupy Seattle tents pitched in the rain atop Capitol Hill, don't appear to be going away any time soon. My reason for wanting these dots to disappear is pure vanity. They don't itch or burn, only accentuate the puffiness of my eyes in the early morning, making me look old. And I don't enjoy looking old.
So I type "red rash beneath eyes" into my browser and, voila! More information than I ever want to know appears, most of it not applicable to me, or at least I hope, because it sounds scary. But I plow through the posts, until I come across a natural remedy that sounds promising. "Magicream." It's this herbal cream from the UK, and it's packaged in a little yellow jar for 15 Euro, plus shipping. I waver, wondering how badly I need this. But they're out of stock.
I'm not deterred, however, because a nice person posted on a discussion thread that he wrote down the herbal ingredients of Magicream and, not being in the UK himself, took them to his local Chinese herbal shop. So I copy them, too, on my scratch of paper:
I drive in the rain to international district and park just down the street from the Pacific Herb and Grocery shop. I'm wearing my black bunny hat and I walk into the bright shop, with the rows of herbs of all colors and textures and sizes encased in jars like candy, and hand the Chinese woman who greets me the list of herbs. She calls her husband over, and he greets me, studies my list for about one minute, then walks behind a counter the length of the store to pull down a thick herbal dictionary from the shelf.
"We don't have that one," he points to the Zaojiaoci, and I shrug and say, "That's fine," like I know what Zaojiacoi is.
He says they have the other four herbs, and I ask for "two handfuls," per the instructions of the nice person online who posted his recipe. All together, it looks like a potpourri of dried mushrooms and twigs and woodsy treasures. At the register, I try the ginseng and licorice tea sample offered to me and pay the exorbitant amount of two dollars.
At home last night, I boil a handful of my herb concoction in water. When it cools, I dip a washcloth in the murky liquid and lay it across my eyes like a compress for fifteen minutes. This morning when I wake up, I look in the mirror and the red dots are still there, but perhaps less prominent than before. But something about the process of visiting the herb store and boiling the concoction and paying significantly less than I would have for the Magicream makes me think the dots are not so bad. In fact, I think they're almost gone.
Thank God for herbal remedies.