Since 1979, Henry Lau of Draline Tong Herbs has been the go-to guy for those seeking help from traditional Chinese herbal medicine in the Oakland area. Located at 10th and Webster, the earthy-smelling corner shop stocks hundreds of different herbs, most of which are direct imports from China.
When you walk into the store, you are immediately greeted by the pungent and unmistakable aroma of Chinese herbs. To the left of the shop stands a huge apothecary cabinet with dozens of small compartments storing a large selection of dried herbs. You can find shelves of packaged herbal products, including teas and syrups, to the right. Usually you can see Mr. Lau making herbal concoctions at the counter or sitting in his back office, where he observes clients’ tongues, checks their radial pulses, and listens to chief complaints to make diagnoses and prescribe remedies. A third-generation herbalist, Mr. Lau came to the US from Hong Kong in 1969, but it was not until 1995 that his shop started to attract non-Chinese customers.
Along with acupuncture, moxibustion, tui na, tai chi, and other practices, Chinese herbal medicine belongs to the complicated system of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which has existed in some form for more than 3,000 years. TCM has its own unique understandings of human anatomy, physiology, pathology, and therapeutics that are fundamentally different from that of Occidental medicinal tradition and modern Western medicine. It is generally advised that one should consult their healthcare providers before using TCM. A consultation with Mr. Lau and a week of herbs will cost you $30.
Conveniently located at the heart of Oakland’s Chinatown, Draline Tong is easily accessible by BART and other public transportation. Street parking and bike parking are also available. The shop does not accept cards, so don’t forget to bring some cash for your visit.