TLC and TCM: Hong Kong mum juggles family and Chinese medicine practice
Cinci Leung is also developing her own line of herbal teas and publishing a book
Cinci Leung Wun-sien has a busy year ahead. Besides building her practice in Chinese medicine, contributing newspaper columns and raising a toddler, she is also developing her own line of herbal teas and natural soaps. And then there's her book on traditional Chinese medicine that's due out later this year.
It's a wonder she manages to juggle everything. But 32-year-old Leung keeps it in balance, limiting her consultations to four days each week.
"That's why they are by appointment only - so I can have a flexible schedule to make sure I have time for everyone," she says. "If I don't have any clients then I go home to play with my son; when I'm busy I focus on work. I write my book when my son goes to bed after 9pm so I still have time for myself."
Leung's route to Chinese medicine came in a roundabout fashion. She developed an interest in sports medicine after her mother sought treatment for a frozen shoulder from a doctor trained in Western and Chinese methods. Nevertheless, she went on to pursue a business degree in the US instead.
It wasn't until Leung saw how tui na (Chinese manipulative therapy) helped her mother that she was inspired to take up Chinese medicine. Continued sessions of the therapeutic technique, which combines massage, acupressure and other body manipulation, gradually increased the range of motion in her mother's shoulder.
Leung quit her marketing job and enrolled in the traditional Chinese medicine programme at Hong Kong University, learning about its principles and application in techniques such as acupuncture and dietary and herbal therapy.
After marrying in 2011, she set up her own clinic, practising out of a small room in her husband's office in Central until she found premises in the same building last year.
Leung also set up a Facebook page to share her knowledge about Chinese medicine and now has some 33,000 followers.
"I started it for people who don't know much about traditional Chinese medicine and don't know about the properties of different food - that there are heating and cooling foods and what they should or shouldn't be eating. That way they can understand that what they eat can affect their bodies."
Her posts sometimes recommended tea remedies for different ailments and when readers began asking where to buy them, Leung decided to come up with her own line of teas under the label Essentials by Cinci.
"The four types of tea are good for office ladies who want to drink something all day," she says. Each is related to what she describes as urban ailments.
"They are good for treating things like insomnia, [fatigue] from working long hours, dry or bloodshot eyes, water retention and stress. For example, rose tea is good for de-stressing and if you drink it two weeks before your period then you will have better circulation and fewer cramps."
An entrepreneurial sort, joining a soap-making class during her pregnancy led to Leung developing soaps incorporating herbs such as dried motherwort, chrysanthemum, honeysuckle, rose and purple gromwell.
"Using soap is the most natural way of washing dustfrom our body, but many soaps and body washes are full of chemicals which our skin absorbs. So I decided to make natural soaps with added Chinese herbs."
People with eczema and sensitive skin have experienced improvements after using the soaps, she says.
While putting the finishing touches to her book, Leung is on track to complete her master's in acupuncture in May. "Acupuncture is good for those who don't want to take medicine. It's especially good if you have anxiety, headaches and insomnia," she says.
The book project is a natural progression from the columns and talks that she has been giving to help make traditional Chinese medicine more accessible to the public.
Too often, books on Chinese remedies or treatments are rambling texts that use terms that most readers are unfamiliar with or don't understand. Leung sees her role as presenting the knowledge in layman's terms so people can grasp it more easily.
"I try to teach them about their body types and preventive medicine, diet and lifestyle," she says. "More young people would be accepting of traditional Chinese medicine if someone around their age explained it to them."
Informally dubbing her Chinese-language book "Chinese Medicine 101" until a title is chosen, Leung says it will be published in time for the Hong Kong Book Fair in May.
Part of the book will discuss the basic physical constitutions that people have and what foods they should eat to improve their health. It will also feature recipes for 60 tonic soups, with a chart setting out the health properties of various ingredients.
If soup or medicine are hard to swallow, acupuncture could be the answer, she says.
Leung likes to cook at home after a day at her clinic. But because her husband enjoys sampling different cuisines and checking out restaurants, she tries to whip up dishes that will pique his interest - especially with vegetables harvested from her father's organic farm in Sha Tau Kok.
She visits the farm with her family on Sundays, where her 17-month-old is free to run around in the space.
Unlike many young parents who set up elaborate schedules of activities for their children, Leung gives son Harry time alone so he can learn to be independent.
She believes such unstructured play gives children the freedom to use their imagination.
"I joke to my friends that my son is the only one in his play group," she says. "I think he'll be fine."