Why a Chinese medicine supplier can thrive for over 340 years

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Michael Gormly interviews Max Ma, Director of Beijing Tong Ren Tang in Sydney

Michael: Could you give us a brief rundown on your company’s history?

Max: “Tong Ren Tang” was established in 1669 in Beijing during Kangxi’s reign in the Qing Dynasty. From 1723, we were appointed as exclusive supplier of Chinese medicine to the Royal Court and are still a world-leading Chinese medicine supplier from manufacturing to retailing to clinical services.

Michael: What’s the secret of such longevity?

Max: Tong Ren Tang is a global icon in Chinese medicine simply because it provides quality, efficacy and trust.

Michael: What are the features of your products?

Max: Quality control for herbal medicine is more complex than for chemical drugs. Variables include the place of origin, authentication, harvest time, processing, grading and specification, environment control, formulation and manufacturing. We control every step to maximise quality. Most of our products are “Registered Medicines” in China but in Australia they are regulated as “Listed Medicine”.

Michael: Tell us about your services in Australia.

Max: We wholesale to local natural-medicine stores and clinics and provide clinical and dispensary services through our retail outlets. Consultations and treatments are conducted by qualified Chinese medicine practitioners, acupuncturists and masseurs who are accredited by government authorities, professional bodies and major local health funds.

Michael: Is Chinese medicine evidence-based?

Max: Chinese medicine has been refined over a long history of usage and testing. A “pseudoscience” can cheat people for a day, a month or a few years, but not over thousands of years. The world’s first pharmacopeia, dating from 569AD, was Chinese and it has been taught in universities for 60 years in China, Japan and Korea, where a huge amount of evidence has been gathered. Like orthodox medicine, continuing assessment and research is necessary.

Michael: How does Chinese medicine work? Who are your main customers?

Max: Chinese medicine assesses and treats people based on the re-balance of Yin and Yang, the secret code of the universe discovered about 8000 years ago. Chinese medicine separates pathogens into exterior and interior, excess and deficiency, heat and cold, Qi, physical and mental, and so on. This approach is valid, which is why many of our customers are referred by GPs or specialists, and even GPs themselves are our patients. Sometimes customers are not satisfied with the treatments or side effects of conventional medicine and spend their own money with us instead of bulk-billing the government. To this extent, Chinese medicine eases the burden of healthcare for the government.

Michael: Do you have any suggestions for the healthcare industry?

Max: Human illnesses are complex. Conventional medicine cannot solve all the problems, which is why complementary medicines are so important. The patient should always be the top priority and different healthcare approaches should respect and learn from each other, and work together.




More than words

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We all want to be treated equally – but while gender equality has come a long way, there’s still a few miles to go. why not start by thinking about the way you talk to boys and girls?

Until a few months ago, I hadn’t even noticed how differently people, myself included, speak to little boys and girls. That was before I read Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World by Lisa Bloom. Suddenly I noticed how we ask boys how their footy is going. Then we tell girls that their curls are gorgeous. The phenomenon even enters the political arena – do you think the media would have devoted as much space to a male PM’s red hair as that 
of Julia Gillard? Probably not.

As Lisa Bloom says, telling girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice teaches them that their looks are more important than anything else. In her book, Lisa reveals how up to 18 per cent of girls under 12 wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly. In fact, a quarter of young American women would prefer to win America’s Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize!

If you think that’s a little sad, start acknowledging kids for what they do, not what they look like. Teach them that they’re valued for their ideas, thoughts, reflections and accomplishments. And the next time you meet your little niece, ask her what her favourite book is instead of complimenting her on her pink shoes.

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The Girl With The Butterfly Tattoo (Random House, $19) by Dannielle Miller encourages girls to question the limiting messages advertisers, the media and our culture keep pushing: that a girl’s greatest worth is her looks, and beauty comes in only one size and shape. It inspires and empowers girls to find their strength and be true to their own hearts and minds. As Nina Funnell, women’s rights advocate and recipient of the Australian Human Rights Commission Community (Individual) Award 2010, says: “Finally a book for teenage girls that does not patronise or attempt to police them! The Girl With The Butterfly Tattoo empowers teen girls to make their own choices.” Also check out the free Butterfly Effect app that encourages girls by providing daily quotes, self-affirming messages and informational web links.

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STAND UP against bullying

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Nearly one in two young people in Australia are the victims of bullying, with a new study finding cyberbullying is even more damaging than face-to-face taunts. On the positive side, a new anti-bullying program has been shown to reduce the problem by up to half.

A Queensland University of Technology (QUT) study of more than 3,000 students has found almost half of young Australians report being bullied face-to-face, online or both. The study found that ‘traditional’ or face-to-face bullying is twice as prevalent as cyberbullying, yet victims of cyberbullying report significantly higher levels of social problems, anxiety levels and depression.

Cyberbullying can include abusive texts and emails, posting unkind messages or images, imitating others online, excluding others online or inappropriate image tagging.

“Although cyberbullying is less common, it seems to be more impactful on a young person’s mental health than face-to-face bullying,” says lead researcher Associate Professor Marilyn Campbell, from QUT’s Faculty of Education.

“With the 24/7 nature of technology, access to a wider potential audience and the power of the written word and images, cyberbullying has more detrimental effects.”

Taking action

In Finland, a large-scale anti-bullying program called KiVa has been shown to reduce bullying by up to half. The comprehensive school-based program includes experience-based learning, individual and group discussions, and online tools such as computer games.

The world’s first anti-bullying strategy initiated by a government, the KiVa program has been rolled out in 90 per cent of Finnish schools in just three years. 
A team at the University of Kansas is now planning to bring the program to American schools, while Professor Donna Cross from WA’s Edith Cowan University has been working with the Department of Education to introduce similar programs here in Australia.

 “The KiVa strategy is all about encouraging bystanders and witnesses 
to bullying to take positive action, particularly to support victims,” says WA Minister for Education Elizabeth Constable. “The strategy was introduced in Finnish schools in 2009-10 and went on to win first prize at the European Crime Prevention Awards.”


If your child wants to talk about cyberbullying, they can call the Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 or visit Nutrition, lifestyle & health

Top tips to protect your kids from cyberbullying

  • Keep computers in a central place at home and have clear, agreed rules about your children’s use of technology.
  • Know who your children’s friends are, both online and offline.
  • Google your child’s name to see where he or she is mentioned and how public their social media profiles are.
  • Keep evidence if your child is being cyberbullied. You can contact the internet service provider (ISP) of the person doing the cyberbullying.
  • Report it – most of the social media sites allow you to block users or report abuse.
  • Visit for more information or download the free Take a Stand iPhone app to keep tips and advice about bullying close to hand.

Curious fact...

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If you ask a four-year-old child to stand still for as long as they can, the average child stands still for one minute. But if you turn it into a game of make-believe by telling the child to guard 
a factory, they’ll stand still for four minutes!

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Who doesn’t look back to the playful days of childhood with a smile on their face? in fact, play is serious business with kids needing active play to learn important life skills. however, a new study finds nearly half of aussie kids don’t play every day.

The first study of its kind to investigate play habits of Australian children aged eight to 12 years old reveals nearly half are not playing every day. Instead, almost half of kids’ free time is now spent plugged in – watching TV, playing video games or on electronic devices.

The MILO State of Play study was conducted among children, parents and grandparents, and found that while more than 94 per cent of parents and grandparents believe play is not only important but essential for children’s development, it’s rapidly falling off the list of priorities. Experts such as child psychologist and play-based learning expert Dr Paula Barrett warn that unstructured, active play is essential to help kids learn important life skills, develop their imagination and creativity, form habits and cope with change.

Dr Barrett says: “This finding highlights a concerning yet common misperception that many parents share – they don’t think that kids need to ‘play’ regularly after the age of eight. But in reality, active play is extremely important for eight to 12-year-old kids as it’s a critical development stage.

Get creative

The State of Play report identifies that the main enemies of play are lack of inspiration, time pressures and an overreliance on technology. 
So how can you overcome these obstacles to increase playtime in your family?

  • Bring back the board games and organise 
    game nights with the entire family.
  • Unplug the TV and computer for a set period every day.
  • Have a change of scenery – visit a new park, 
    go to the beach or put a tent up inside the bedroom.
  • Dress-up is a great way to encourage play – 
    fill up a “pretend” box with old clothes, shoes, handbags, make-up, pots and pans, pens, paper and sports equipment and see where your imagination takes you.
  • Don’t be afraid of a bit of dirt – play outside in the puddles or mud, or do some finger painting.

State of Play: Key findings

  • 45 per cent of kids are not playing every day.
  • 37 per cent of kids report 
    they don’t have anyone to play with.
  • 55 per cent of kids say 
    they’d like to spend more 
    time playing with their 
  • 37 per cent of children say they have run out of ideas for play so they turn to electronic devices for amusement.
  • 43 per cent of parents struggle to find time to play with their children.

Not just for kids

Did you know that playing is instinctive and fundamental for any human being, not just children? Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, classifies playfulness and humour as emotional character strengths that help us connect with other people. Playing also helps us relax and stimulates our brain and body. In other words, it’s a very fun way to develop your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities and mental health!

In addition to missing out on the fun of play and learning important social skills, parents and children may lose the opportunity for important bonding time that happens during play.

TOP TIP! Need help coming up with fun play ideas for your kids? Visit, a website aimed at parents and carers that has over 50,000 listings of kids’ activities, events and resources to keep children healthy and active.

Go with the flow

Kids’ play is like flow for adults. Just think of a baby playing with a magazine. One week, the baby will be absorbed and thrilled to simply chew on it. A few months later, the same excitement will occur by ripping out pages. And a few years later, a young child might get carried away to a different world simply by flipping the pages. The reason is that we all experience a sense of flow – where we lose track of time and space – when our capabilities match our activities and interests.


My relationship ended… but nothing was wrong

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Are you just not feeling the love anymore? That doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship. Psychologist Emily Scanlan says you could have a change of heart by learning how to regain positivity.

When a couple turns up for therapy, they often provide a list of problems that make a resolution to the global financial crisis appear straightforward. Poor communication, financial stress, explosive anger, intrusive in-laws, parenting problems! Not to mention sex has become as routine as laundry or is as likely as Kevin Rudd making a comeback.

There are plenty of skills and evidence-based treatments to help these couples get back on track, if they are both committed to therapy. But often a newly single client will declare: “Nothing was wrong.”

Increasingly, therapists are seeing relationships break down when none of the typical problems are present. This trend is supported by key research in the field of positive psychology, which suggests a 
healthy relationship is not the absence of problems – it’s much, much more.

When under stress, couples quickly get entangled in a cycle of negativity where they devote very little attention to the positive. As leading clinical psychologist Dr Carol Kauffman explains in the Journal of Clinical Psychology: “Past mistakes loom large, while memories of joy and caring are often obscured.”

The good news is Dr Kauffman’s research at the Harvard Medical School found that cultivating the positive can bring a relationship back into balance.

6 ways to regain positivity

Here are some of the ways therapists will urge a couple to regain positivity. These methods can be used by any healthy couple as a preventive tool. However, if you’re having trouble, see a psychologist first who can help you treat the cause of the pain and negativity before cultivating positivity. These steps will complement most therapy but will not replace it.

1. Connect through play

People relax and their moods lift when playing a game. Your personalities will determine what’s fun for you but be prepared to try new things. Sailing, dancing, cooking, card games or Twister in the nude… just get totally absorbed in it.

2. Be grateful

At the beginning of your relationship you were thankful for meals, lifts, a hot cup of tea, an ironed shirt… then you got used to it. Sometimes couples stop altruistic acts because they’re no longer thanked. Others just feel taken for granted. Open your eyes to the little things and point them out. If you love the way your partner makes coffee, arrives on time, cooks eggs or wakes up with shaggy hair, say it out loud!

3. Acceptance

You’re unique as individuals and as a pair. Accepting yourself is critical to accepting your partner. Clients who fear they’re unlovable or likely to be rejected can find themselves trying to control their partner or foster dependency. While this is to guard against them leaving, ultimately this type of behaviour will facilitate their departure. Other couples mistake closeness for sameness. They find it easier to accept their partner if they’re carbon copies of themselves. A healthy couple will like different activities and have separate and shared opinions on people, music or politics. Disagreeing is healthy. So delight in what you share and accept how you differ.

4. Forgiveness

If you’ve forgiven your partner for something but it comes up every time you fight, then you’re still holding a grudge. Let it go for real. Forgiveness is part of love. A bit of humility always helps. We all make mistakes.

5. Stay in the present

When you’re talking, really listen. When you’re touching, stay out of your mind and inhabit your senses. Notice if you’re rehashing the past or worrying about the future. Put time aside to do nothing but be together without planning or problem solving. Simply connect.

6. Touch

Kissing, sex, even holding hands can release oxytocins in the brain, which feel good. If intimacy and pleasure have become the last thing you do after all the chores are done, try reversing the order. That way 
you’ll still have energy to connect. Pleasure is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. It’s a vaccination against stress and low mood.

For most of us, relationships take time and effort. In fact, there is no perfect relationship. Things will go wrong. Pain and conflict can be expected. But if you make time for playfulness and intimacy, are grateful for the little things and practise acceptance and forgiveness, you’ll recover faster. And while some things are difficult, you’ll find the gratitude to see so much is right.

Emily Scanlan is a Sydney-based Psychologist at CBD Psychology Wellbeing. Visit