Culture History

What are little gold balls Koreans take when fainting? DONGUIBOGAM Korean medicinal bible and folk remedies.

*DISCLAIMER : This article is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

CONTINUED FROM Why do Koreans believe KOREAN GINSENG 고려인삼 gives mysterious power? HONGSAM 홍삼 KOREAN RED GINSENG the super immune booster!


Donguibogam 동의보감: Principles and Practice of Eastern Medicine is a Joseon-era medical book compiled by the royal physician Heo Jun 허준, per the royal order of King Gwanghaegun in 1610. It involved intensive researching and editing of Chinese and Korean medical books, and a total of 25 books were published using wood type in 1613.

It’s a systematic training and prescription book based on the ingredients available on the Korean Peninsula, taking into account the physical, cultural and dietary characteristics of the Korean people. It’s designated as the National Treasure No. 319 and the UNESCO Memory of the World and is considered one of the best medical books in the world. You can retrace Heo Jun’s epic voyage by watching a hit TV drama Hur Jun 허준 (The Legendary Doctor, 1999, MBC).

The Korean medicinal bible contains Korean folk remedies.
Donguibogam 동의보감
Hur Jun 허준 (The Legendary Doctor, 1999, MBC)


Bring the gold balls!!! Quick!!!
Hunjang Osunnam 훈장 오순남 Teacher Oh Soon Nam (MBC, 2017)

In Korean dramas, the main character is at an interview and is about to faint – “His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, there’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti, he’s nervous.” (Homage to the one and only Eminem!). But not to worry – he’s got an ace up in his sleeves.

Gwangdong Woohwangcheongshimwon

He quickly whips out a little ball wrapped in paper, unwraps it to reveal a beautiful gold ball that looks like a Ferrero Rocher, pops it into his mouth, and munches it. After a minute or so, he’s calm as a cucumber, as if nothing happened, and he aces the interview. In another situation, the elderly father passes out when he hears the news that his daughter wants to marry the son of his sworn enemy. The appalled family quickly unwraps the gold ball and carefully puts it in his mouth and helps him take it with water. Moments later he magically gets back on his feet and continues to yell at her ingrate daughter.

So, what’s this miracle ball? Named woohwangcheongshimwon 우황청심원, meaning “a ball made with woohwang (“cow bezoar”) which clears up the mind and spirit,” is a traditional Korean medicine used in emergency situations involving stroke, paralysis, speech impairment, coma, high blood pressure, mental anxiety, acute/chronic palsy, and autonomic neuropathy. In other words, it’s a first aid medicine and psychotropic drug.

Couldn’t find Woohwangcheongshimwon on Amazon so here are some Ferrero Rocher instead. At least they look alike and the latter tastes heavenly…

Chocolate Candy Gold Wrap Ferrero Rocher, 48 Count, Christmas Wrap [Amazon]


The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Pricking Fingers

For severe indigestion, prick the skin just above the root of the fingernail with a sanitized needle, and squeeze out the blood. If the symptom doesn’t improve, do it to all ten fingers. It’s believed to force the blood circulation and the movement of digestive muscles, like jumpstarting a car.

Korean folk remedies
Are you trypanophobic?

Doenjang on Bee Stings

Surprisingly, doenjang 된장 (bean paste) has been used as the first aid treatment for bee stings in Korea (not so much nowadays). The effectiveness hasn’t been tested scientifically, so don’t try this at home.

RELATED: JANG 장 – The Korean sauce and paste (and a popular last name) and the staple of Korean cuisine. As a sauce, it nicely compliments other food such as vegetables and raw fish, and as a paste, it becomes the base of numerous Korean soups and casseroles. Learn the different types!

Korean folk remedies

Rubbing Stomach for Stomachache

Eomma soni yaksonida 엄마 손이 약손이다 – “Mom’s hands are the healing hands.” As Korean moms/grandmas would say, the stomach rubbing is believed to relieve stomach aches. Maybe it’s their love that makes the miracle?

Eomma soni yaksonida 엄마 손이 약손이다

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