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Why Cooling Water Is Popular And Whether It Can Really Help Fever And Sore Throats

About one million bottles are sold daily in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

Cover image via The Straits Times

If you grew up in an Asian household, chances are you've heard of or swear by "cooling water"

When I was younger, my friends used to tell me that drinking one of these bad boys helps with "heatiness", especially if you have a fever or sore throat.

Cooling water is a traditional Chinese medicine drink that was produced by Wen Ken Group in the 1930s.

Although the packaging has changed over the years, you may recognise the iconic rhinoceros or the three legs logo, which gave it its initial name - 'Three Legs Cooling Water' before it was upgraded to 'Cool Rhino' in 2008.

According to Storm Asia, about one million bottles of this halal-certified cooling water is sold daily in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.  

But if it just tastes like regular mineral water, why has it become so popular?

Cooling water is believed to prevent or reduce ailments such as ulcers, fever, or toothaches. It is also said to help replenish body fluids and relieve body heat.

Some believe that it's great to drink after eating too much fried or spicy food, eating durian, or a long night of consuming alcohol.

Over the years, it expanded its range into other flavours such as lychee, guava, and lime.

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via Cik Rose

First up, the drink is said to be deionised water. This simply means that the water has had almost all of its mineral ions removed, such as cations like sodium, calcium, iron, and copper, and anions such as chloride and sulfate which are commonly found in "regular water".

In other words, deionised water has gone through a certain "purification" process, which removes "most of the bacteria".

The water also contains 'gypsum fibrosum' - a mineral listed under the Traditional Medicine category said to be "cooling by nature". It's a trusted ingredient used in many traditional Chinese medical recipes.

There has long been a debate on whether or not it truly works or if it's just overpriced water

According to Chinese medicine practitioner Chai Jia Yee of Shu Guang TCM Healthcare Centre, the natural mineral 'gypsum fibrosum' (shi gao in Mandarin) is cold in nature and is effective in clearing body "heatiness”, especially lung and stomach heat.

"It is suitable for those who have a high fever, intense thirst, profuse sweating, red tongue, toothache, or swollen gums," she explained to SAYS.

"However, it is contraindicated for those with spleen and stomach deficiency syndrome (with diarrhea or loose stool), Yin deficiency (heatiness in palm and sole), alternating chills and fever, or low fever."

She also added that cooling water is not recommended to be consumed long term or as a prevention drink. "Due to its cold nature, it may affect our digestive system and weaken our immune system."

In other words, Chai states that cold nature herbs are suitable to clear stomach heat, but are not suitable for those with spleen and stomach deficiency.

Gypsum Fibrosum is the natural ingredient traditionally used to reduce "heatiness" in the body.

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Wen Ken Group, however, explained that 'Three Legs Cooling Water' has been tested in University Malaya on safety and toxicity. "It has no toxicity effects or side effects and is proven safe for long term usage."

On the other hand, there are experts who say that there is not enough scientific proof to back up these claims

"As of now, I do not think there is enough scientific and reliable evidence to prove its efficacy in relieving fever. It is best for us to stick to regular drinking water which in itself is able to reduce body 'heatiness' when consumed in adequate amounts, combined with sufficient rest," a dietitian from The Red Clinic revealed to SAYS.

"In fact, individuals on medication should be extra cautious when consuming this to avoid any form of drug-mineral interaction."

Image via FindGlocal

Wen Ken Group told SAYS that their cooling water has been registered with Malaysia National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) under the Ministry of Health (MOH) and is compliant with safety, quality and stability requirements.

"Three Legs Cooling Water, Cool Rhino, and Cooltopia's active ingredient content and the dosage is safe and has no known drug interaction thus far," the company explained.

They also added that their cooling water undertook an Antipyretic Study with University Malaya in 2017, which "proved that 'Three Legs Cooling Water' and 'Cooltopia Cooling Water' can significantly reduce the temperature of fever".

For the first time ever last year, the World Health Organization approved a chapter on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to be included in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems

According to CNN, WHO explained that the reason for including some of these traditional medicine conditions and practices is that it is used by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

However, spokesman Tarik Jasarevic added that the inclusion of traditional medicine was "not an endorsement of the scientific validity of any Traditional Medicine practice or the efficacy of any Traditional Medicine intervention."

The controversial move was not well-received by scientists and medical experts who claimed that there needs to be more scientific evidence to support TCM.

What traditional medicines did you grow up using? Share it with us!

Is the concept of "heatiness" legitimate? TCM and Western medical practitioners share their thoughts:

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