Today we get the pleasure of an exclusive interview with Debby Ngyuen regarding her new book, “Pills, Teas, and Songs: Stories of Medicine Around the World”! This book is filled with stories from various people and professionals who use traditional medicine regularly, regarding its application and healing uses in their experiences. In addition to being an author, Debby is also studying to be a Doctor of Pharmacy at Northeastern University.
Currently residing in Boston, Massachusetts, Debby fondly remembers her home in Vietnam and how traditional remedies are an integral part of her lineage. As a student of modern medicine with an upbringing in traditional medicine, Debby brings a unique perspective to the Western world and how we’ve been brought up treating the body! To learn from these perspectives in-depth, grab her book here as paperback or via Kindle! In the meantime, here is an exclusive interview with Debby:
What inspired you to write this book?
My book started with a research paper I wrote for my Modern Art History class on Traditional Chinese Medicine packaging design. I saw how different Asian pharmacies in Boston are compared to a CVS, for example, and wanted to share this with others. I didn't expect to write a book, but I felt so moved by how diverse and beautiful medicine is in different cultures. Reading about Chinese medicine, I immediately thought about my childhood in Vietnam and my family's history with medicine. I realized I never properly researched traditional Vietnamese medicine even though it's part of my identity. The more I read, the more I wanted to know more about the cultures and people behind unique medicine traditions around the world beyond my Asian heritage -- and now we're here!
What about this book are you most excited for?
I’m most excited to share my writing with everyone, especially during this moment in time where traditional remedies are becoming very popular in the West but there is not enough educational materials out there to increase cultural understanding. I can’t wait to connect with more readers and other experts in the field to continue increasing my knowledge.
What do you hope others will gain from your book?
I hope readers will be inspired to continue learning about the diversity of healthcare practices after reading my book. It’s impossible to encompass all traditional remedies in a single book; the stories I’ve written are a starting point to encourage others to be curious and inquisitive when it comes to adopting different medicinal practices/products. In my book’s conclusion, I’ve also included a list of further recommended readings so people can keep on learning!
What sets your book apart from other books in the natural remedy niche?
I believe there are not enough books in medical anthropology, or books discussing traditional medicine, that are written by authors of color or include stories of lived experiences from cultures written about. By centering all of my chapters around primary interviews of immigrants, academic researchers, midwives, and healers from all backgrounds, I hope that my book tells stories in a way that’s most authentic and respectful.
What has the impact of generationally-tested remedies been in your life?
Personally, generational remedies have been my anchor, keeping me connected with my family. When I moved to Boston for college, my mom gave me a bottle of dầu xanh (medicated oil) for colds or stomachaches. Being far from home, remedies like these are not only treatments for illness, they remind me of my cultural lineage as the fifth generation in my family to be studying medicine/pharmacy.
Debby's book is a must-read! You can grab a copy of it here as a paperback or Kindle eBook.