Note: The following is not a recommendation. I write about it for information purposes only. It is always best to check with a doctor before taking any medication.
TCM stands for Traditional Chinese Medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine has been around for thousands of years and therefore has quite a number of remedies that we Westerners would normally turn to prescription medication for.
If you are going to be traveling in China and plan on venturing to some locations at high altitudes, you might not have thought to bring along a prescription for Diamox. Diamox is a drug that is prescribed to offset the effects of high altitude sickness. However, it is not available for prescription in China. So if you decide you might need something to help you battle the effects of altitude, you will not be able to procure Diamox once you have arrived in China.
A Local, TCM Remedy
There is something you can take to prevent the adverse effects from altitude sickness. It is a traditional Chinese medicine remedy for altitude sickness that is available from traditional pharmacies throughout China without a prescription. Its Chinese name is hong jing tian (红景天).
Why Use Hong Jing Tian
If you are concerned about the effects of high altitude, then it might be worth trying hong jing tian. While altitude does not usually affect me adversely, I decided to buy some and try it for a trip to Lijiang (2400m) and Zhongdian/"Shangri-La" (3300m).
While it is recommended to begin taking a week ahead of arriving at high altitude, I began taking the pills only five days before I departed for the trip.
The dosage is 2 pills twice a day and I took two pills in the morning and two at night. It did not give me any side-effects that I detected. I felt the altitude in Lijiang only when I was carrying my 3-year-old daughter up stairs but, otherwise, I did not have any adverse effects. Lijiang is located at 2400m above sea level.
After Lijiang, we went to a small village called Tacheng that is located at approximately 2000+ m above sea level. At Tacheng I really felt no altitude ill effects. Finally, we visited Zhongdian (Shangri-La). That was the highest point of our trip. Shangri-la is located at approximately 3300m above sea level. Here one could certainly feel the effects, especially after climbing three flights of stairs to our hotel room. But aside from shortness of breath and mild headaches, the altitude did not slow us down.
Is Hong Jing Tian Effective?
Did the hong jing tian help with the high altitude? I'll never know for sure but I was glad to have had it and taken it. When I am traveling with my children or when I don't have much time to spare (when do I?) I like to have the insurance that, hopefully, I will not suffer when I'm on the holiday. Because the medicine is available over the counter and it isn't expensive, I will probably take it again the next time I travel to a high altitude location.