Kinmen is a small Taiwanese island on the west side of Taiwan, about 300km away from Taiwan mainland but less than 30km away fom China. This has always made it a weak point for Taiwan from a defence point of view.
Kinmen has three famous products. Kinmen Kaoliang Liquor, is made from sorghum with up to 66% alcohol content. The second is cleavers made from artillery shells fired over from China during the 1950s. The steel in the artillery shells makes great quality knives. And third, a pain reliever ointment made from a plant called flemingia macrophylla.
The Chinese name of flemingia macrophylla is called Yītiáo gēn 一條根 which literally means one piece of root. Here's a local farmer at Kinmen with his harvest of the roots.
The story goes that a few hundred years ago when the soldiers from the north were stationed on the island, many suffered from rheumatism as they were not used to the climate. The locals taught the soldiers to collect the roots from a certain plant, sun dry them and then bottle them in wine. After the soldiers drank the wine for a period of time, their rheumatism got better. Was this the plant, or was it the wine?
This plant, was the flemingia macrophylla, and apparently its efficacy is very diverse.
The whole plant can be used to expel wind and remove dampness, strengthen sinews and bones, activate blood and resolve toxins. It can be used to treat wind dampness obstructive pains, strain of lumbar muscles, weakness in the four limbs, traumatic injuries and pain from a swollen throat.
Years later, the locals used the root of the plant, to make a pain reliever ointment. They added other herbal extracts like ginger, mint, eucalyptus, rosemary, juniper, so it's a herbal based ointment. Depending on your pain, the ointment itself can be quite effective. I've had some issues sleeping recently, resulting in a pain in the neck (yes, literally!!) and have been using it. It has a lovely fragrance from all the herbs, and have a smooth texture. You don't feel much when you first apply it, but after a few minutes it suddenly heats up quite intensely for about five minutes and gradually cools off again.
The reason I want to talk about this ointment, is not so much about the effectiveness of the ointment itself, but rather its packaging.
The first time I unscrew the lid, this is what it looks like inside. There's a button like thing in the middle and a hole in the center. There was no applicator in the box for me to scope out the ointment, and when I tried to dig my finger in it (which was obviously too big!) I discovered the hole was actually closed. After a bit more exploring, it turns out I could remove the button and there was a hole underneath. I squeezed the sides to squirt the ointment out, the container was really hard and nothing happened. I tipped it over, still nothing happened. I was wondering, how on earth does one get to the ointment?
Then I thought, how about pressing the top? And something started to squirt out. It was genius! At least for me as I've never seen any packaging like this. This is how you get the cream out. It's not exactly the most user friendly way to be honest as you literally need both hands to exert pressure on the container so you're short of one finger to scope up the ointment when it squirts out.
I continued to use the ointment and didn't give much more thought about the mechanism of the packaging until I got to the end of my first jar and opened up the second. I compared the old to the new, and it was only then that I noticed the top of my old jar had sunk to the bottom. All along I hadn't noticed the change because the sink was so gradual.
It turns out that as I was exerting pressure to squirt the ointment out, I was also pushing the top down until it had got to the bottom and there was nothing more I could squeeze out of it.
A bit like when you get to a Friday afternoon and the office has squeezed out every bit of energy from you. Good thing Friday is coming tomorrow.