PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 12:00am

Mark Houston studied traditional acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in Australia, completing his Master's apprenticeship under an American-Chinese doctor in Hong Kong. He runs two holistic centres combining fitness with health therapies: the Spotlight Recreation Club (tel: 2766 9777) and Telford Recreation Club (tel: 2993 6622).

'New legislation about traditional Chinese medicine should be implemented by the end of the year. It will mean that only licensed Chinese medicine practitioners can buy medicinal herbs. You have to be careful with herbs - many of them are toxic and can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. They come in raw or powdered form, and rather than ingesting a single herb - it's not like taking vitamin C - you take a formula.

'For raw herbs I go to Wah Fung Chinese Emporium (395 King's Road, North Point. Tel: 2856 0333), which has been operating for about 50 years. Although it sells basic and dietary herbs to anyone, it won't sell anything that's toxic to non-practitioners. It has a good Chinese herbal pharmacy in its basement and the doctor there can give you a brief diagnosis and prepare a formula for you.

'The emporium also stocks a wide range of ginseng. Chinese ginseng, which grows wild, tends to be older than American and Korean ginseng and has more active ingredients. Chinese white ginseng is good for warming the body and restoring chi (energy) but heat-treated red ginseng is much hotter and even more warming. American ginseng is ideal for removing heat from the body; Korean ginseng is cultivated on farms and is usually quite young - about seven years.

'For powdered herbs I use main suppliers: Edward Kaller (21/F, Southmark, 11 Yip Hing Street, Wong Chuk Hang. Tel: 2895 0888) and Han-Fang Herb Medicine Company (Unit A, 9/F, Hamilton Commercial Building, 558-560 Nathan Road, Kowloon. Tel: 2388 5352). Both offer a huge variety of about 600 herbs.

'Dong gui is one of the most studied herbs in the world. It comes from the mainland and is especially good for women: for regulating menstruation and controlling menopausal hot flushes. It is also good for easing constipation, migraines and thinning the blood. Liquorice is a common herb, great for harmonising the stomach and helping digestion. It neutralises the poisons of other herbs and is used to treat food poisoning. Cinnamon is another common herb, hot in nature and used for yin deficiency and to regulate digestion and warm the kidneys.

'Every acupuncturist has his own technique. I like to use a CW disposable needle because it suits my style. It punctures the skin easily and has a good seal, which is needed to maintain sterility. I buy my needles from Mayfair Medical Suppliers (5/F, Far East Consortium Building, 204-206 Nathan Road, Kowloon. Tel: 2721 0291; Mayfair also has an excellent selection of English and Chinese books on Chinese medicine. Two of the best books are Acupuncture: A Comprehensive Guide by the Shanghai College of Traditional Medicine, and The Fundamentals Of Traditional Chinese Medicine by Yin Huihe.

'Mayfair also sponsors courses and seminars on the subject.'