Growing up with Malaysian parents, we’ve all heard our fair share of superstitions and old wives tales. Most of which we didn’t even realise are merely tales and completely untrue. Omg I’ve been living a lie?!
We’ve all probably been lectured once before because we didn’t adhere to some of these beliefs too. Well, enough is enough! Here are a couple of the most common old wives tales you’ve probably heard of before which are NOT true:
1. Drinking salt water from a Durian husk will help “cool down” your body
We’ve all been told that eating Durian will make our bodies “heaty” and possibly even give us high blood pressure. One common way we overcome this is by using the leftover Durian shells and filling the husks with salt water then drinking the mixture straight from the shell.
Well, apparently, there is some truth to this. In fact, studies have found that drinking a sea salt + water solution has many benefits (but it must be sea salt, not the cheap type of salt that’s like RM1 for 1KG, kay). This includes improving bowel movement, and removing toxins from your body. And so, drinking salt water after indulging in Durian will help flush out whatever toxins came from the Durian too. However, salt is known to dehydrate your body so it does not actually help with the “heatiness” aspect.
Also, there’s no need to drink it from a Durian husk, your everyday glass or mug will do just fine!
2. Showering late at night or sleeping with wet hair will give you “fong sap”
“Fong Sap” is basically what Chinese believe to be a type of rheumatoid arthritis disease that is caused by showering late at night or sleeping with wet hair. However, after a quick research, we found that rheumatism, or “Fong Sap” happens when our bodies’ immune systems mistakenly attack our own body’s tissues, which can lead to painful swelling.
And, contrary to popular belief, rheumatism is often caused by genetics, and other factors including age (40-50 year olds), an unhealthy BMI reading, smoking and gender (women are more commonly affected). It is not caused by how late you bathe during the day or if you blow-dry your hair or not. In fact, if your parents or grandparents have it, you might get it too, regardless how early you bathe. *Touch wood*
3. If you have ulcers in your mouth, that means you have “yeet hei”
“Yeet hei” is basically the Chinese way of saying “heaty”. In other words, it means you haven’t been drinking enough water, or so that’s what our parents tell us. However, this is actually untrue!
Ulcers have nothing to do with how much water we drink, rather, they’re simply caused by trauma, like accidentally biting on our lips or tongue, or it could be an oral condition/viral infection. Some recurrent (or exceptionally painful) ulcers may even be an underlying systemic disease like oral cancer. Either way, drinking more water will not decrease your chances at mouth ulcers and vice versa!
4. For girls, you shouldn’t have cold and/or “leong” drinks close to your period
Beer is categorised as “leong” as well btw.
For the benefit of all you bananas out there (such as myself), when a Chinese person says “leong” drinks, they mean “cooling drinks”, and as strange as that sounds, this encompasses all leong sui related drinks like Barley, Chrysanthemum, Winter Melon, even beer! Although there isn’t a specific reason why, many Chinese mothers believe taking “leong” drinks or food close to your period will increase cramps and blood flow. Pineapples are also believed to cause the same problems. However, this is more myth than fact.
Culturally, Asians tend to believe that hot drinks, like tea, are a good idea for any occasion. Whether it’s a meal, or just drinks with friends, hot drinks are the way to go because it is believed that they aid in a lot of things like digestion and so forth. Hence the belief that cold drinks is bad for period cramps and blood flow. However, this has never been scientifically proven and your cramps or blood flow could be due to a number of other (scientifically proven) factors including a bad diet, stress, unhealthy BMI, and more.
5. Drinking cold drinks will give you gas
Sometimes when we’re eating with our parents, we might even get in trouble for ordering a cup of limau ais or suet cha from the waiter. “Later your stomach gassy you cannot eat your food!”
However, it isn’t actually what you drink that causes a gassy stomach, but how you drink it. When drinking with a straw, for example, you suck in much more air compared to drinking straight from the cup, giving you more gas. Additionally, if you have a tendency to eat quite fast, that too can contribute to a gassy stomach. It’s not the drink (or the food–unless you’re eating beans…) but how you take in these things.
6. Women cannot shower for the first 40 days after giving birth or they will fall sick
For many Malaysian women who give birth, it is a common practice to stay confined at home for the first 40 days and avoid taking any showers at all costs. Some believe it will cause new mothers to catch a bad cold, or give them bad headaches, others believe that a new mother’s skin becomes “loose” after giving birth and this will lead to water seeping into the body causing aches and “fong sap”.
It turns out however that there is no scientific basis for this whatsoever. In fact, according to CNN, a Chinese medicine doctor even stated that women who don’t shower or wash their hair for such a long period of time can lead to unhygienic conditions which can be dangerous. In fact, it’s completely fine to take a shower after giving birth and there is no need to be confined at home for 40 days. If you feel up for it, get out of the house and get some fresh air!
There you have it, just some of the most common, Malaysian old wives tales debunked! Next time your parents lecture you using any of the above pantang larangs, make sure you set the record straight!
Also read: Why Are Malaysian Women Still Earning Less Than Men?