Po Chai Pills: May contain stuff, etc.


So I got me some of them reasonably famous Po Chai Pills here in Hong Kong. The name means “protective aid” pills, but you won’t be able to tell much from that. And the box info deploys the standard ass-covering elusiveness that alternative medicine types have been perfecting over the years: it says that the stuff “is good for relieving” (note, not “is a cure for” or “will relieve“) the following:

fever, diarrhoea, intoxication, over-eating, vomiting and gastrointestinal diseases.

Yep, they’re saying it’s good for relieving intoxication. As opposed to hangovers. Good luck in court with that one.

The ingredients include a hodge podge of common traditional Chinese medicine bits and pieces, including poria, pogostemonis, and, erm, semen coicis (don’t worry, it’s just a plant seed). Worryingly, the ingredients list ends with an “etc.”


This may reflect the fact that a couple of years ago, Po Chai capsules were withdrawn from sale in Singapore and Hong Kong after the government found that they contained a few stray ingredients not mentioned on any boxes.

The capsules were found to contain traces of phenolphthalein and sibutramine. Phenolphthalein is a laxative that causes cancer (now there’s a double whammy and a half) while sibutramine is an anorexiant that causes heart attacks (touché).

The bottled tablet form of the stuff has since returned to the shelves, presumably no longer containing any carcinogenic laxatives, but presumably still claiming to be produced using the traditional recipe and procedure developed way back in 1896. That “etc” sure covers a multitude.


But it’s true what they say on the internet. Po Chai Pills do come in a kick-ass box.

So that’s okay then.

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  1. perhaps its an emetic – that might fit with a liberal interpretation of this benificent product’s effects

    the guy on the box doesn’t look very happy – perhaps the product is just about to take effect

  2. I have taken many types of harmful western medicine such as coactifed (prescribed by my family doctor that caused serious constipation and raising heartbeats) and many types of nasal spray on the shelves for allergy that cause bleeding and damage to your inner nose membranes. People were brainwashed by the advertising and stereotyping that western medicine is always safer and more trustworthy.

    • Western medicine has studies where effects and side effects of each compound are studied. Alternative medicine is just “Look! I found a cool plant! It must be medicinal!”
      There are no studies or anything that guarantee that it works.

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  4. I was first introduced to Po Chai pills in 1989 while visiting Hong Kong. It has worked for years anytime I’ve had a loose stomach. I never travel without a box, and have freely given them to friends and relatives. Some have said it has no effect, but I have found it to be great with stomach flu and a variety of things.

    • I was introduced to Po Chai in Indonesia and I also swear by them. Stomach upsets, bloating, loose bowels, period pain. I know many other people that do also. Im not a follower of fads but these have really proven themselves.

  5. 786 You left out the important consideration of whether they work; and personal experience with them over twenty years has demonstrated to me that they do indeed work, and very well at that.

  6. I just tried may different types of western medicine that did little to help with my norovirus infection. I tried 1 vial of po chai pills yesterday and it really helped. I wouldn’t be so skeptical of this Chinese medicine. I’ll take it over any other type of western aids.👍

  7. faintheart77

    I have found them useful for restoring large intestine to health after taking penicillin antibiotic, which ‘killed’ all the good bugs. Also useful to treat diarrhoea. However, like any other medication, western or otherwise, it may not work for everyone, and some may have an adverse reaction.

  8. I often recommend it to my patients with nausea. It doesn’t work for everyone but for most it works really well.

  9. I have been using these since I was a kid…as far as I could remember for things like heart burn, and any stomach remedy. I have never had a bad result. I give a pack to my adult kids when they travel now.

  10. They are really popular here in Malaysia, but that may be as we have a large Chinese population, I use a few traditional herbal remedies and many are better than the ones bought in regular pharmacies. Many of my friends use PCP even for hangovers 🙂

  11. Extremely lazy article. The incident happened in 2010 between March and
    May. (And this article was published in 2014…A good 4 years after.)

    Singapore authorities re-tested them in 2016. They were found to be safe. The tainted capsule version is no longer made, while the plastic bottle version was unaffected. Singapore regularly tests them, due to a large Chinese population. Please update your article.

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