June 4, 1907: ‘Tiger Fat’ and ‘Nerve Balls’: State Medical Board Charges Chinese Herbalists


Note: This is an encore post from 2006.

June 4, 1907
Los Angeles

After months of inquiries that involved undercover investigators posing as patients, the State Board of Medical Examiners has taken action against Chinese herbalists in Los Angeles. In addition to arresting the doctors in question, authorities charged everyone involved as investors in the companies, issuing warrants for some of the most prominent members of the Chinese community.

“It is alleged that in one case a patient who was charged high prices for Chinese treatment received a bottle that contained simply the juice boiled from alfalfa,” The Times said. “It was contained in a fancy bottle that looked as if anything it held might be good for what was the matter with almost anybody. It was a fine piece of glass with Chinese hieroglyphics up and down the sides and there was an odor about the fluid different from … anything else sold in a pharmacy or doled out by the ordinary physician.”

Although it was sold as an exotic potion, a chemist who analyzed the liquid said it had never been “nearer to China than the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Alvarado Street.”

“Most of these places are beautifully furnished with Oriental draperies, teakwood furniture, Chinese porcelains and other fittings calculated to create an impression of culture and wealth,” The Times said.

In a subsequent story, the newspaper catalogued the treatments to which the investigators subjected themselves. Deputy Nicholas Harris received “vital sparks” from one herbalist, “tiger fat” from another and “nerve balls” from a third.

Still, Harris, who survived the experience, had praise for the dealers.

“These Chinese herb sellers are the most thorough gentlemen I have ever met,” he said. “I never met one in all my rounds who did not treat me in a kindly, courteous manner. This is so different from the crusade we conducted against the white fakers. With those fellows we had to be constantly on guard, but with the Chinese it is different. That is, with the exception of one case.

“At the Wong company on South Main Street, I met Drs. Chan and Young. Both treated me well. They behaved like princes and it is really hard to prosecute such people. We have not the slightest enmity against them. In fact, we find that it really hurts to prosecute them because they are such gentlemen, but we simply want to find out whether the state will permit them to practice their form of medicine without first security a license.”

One of the arrested men, Dr. Tom Leung, was described as a millionaire with offices at 9th Street and Olive who accompanied the emperor of China during a U.S. tour.

Leung died in 1931 at his home at 1619 W. Pico Blvd., at the age of 57. His obituary noted that he was in business for 30 years and was survived by wife; five sons, whom he named for U.S. presidents; and three daughters.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1907, LAPD, Medicine, Obituaries, Parks, Streetcars and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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