At the Russian Market, Madame Phal Ly fans her customers as they pick through the
curious packages lining her stall.
An assortment of herb and plant preparations are helpfully illustrated with little
In one, a baby gurgles in front of a television set, advertising a herbal infusion
to combat fever. In another scene, a couple sits chastely back-to-back.
"That's for syphilis," explains the 60-year-old stall-holder. "You
roll the dried tree bark into pellets and swallow it."
The bark appeared identical to another batch reputed to aid women after birth. Some
medicines, says Madame Phal Ly, "cure everything."
The herbs are gathered from across the country and provide cures for apparently every
ailment. The TB cure shows a delirious man lying in bed as inflamed lungs float above
A deep-red medicine, concocted from crushed roots, is said to cure hemorrhoids the
instant it is swallowed
Many cures are best inhaled. Madame Phal Ly suggested I smoke a piece of pale bark
"to cure headaches."
I then counterbalanced the effect with a puff of a coconut cigar wrapped in coconut
leaf and felt suddenly restored.
The suspicion that you might be consulting a witch at her cauldron is confirmed by
a string of strange-looking dried pods hung around the stall.
These are venomous snakes' pancreases. By eating just a morsel, fevers can be cured.
Strung beside them are frightening, dried up, furry little creatures, stretched out
crucifixion-style with the innards removed. This, it seems, is the miracle cure.
So Kun, 52, swears by it, having cured a troublesome ulcer that no hospital nor conventional
doctor could handle.
He finally resorted to the healing properties of the nocturnal annee, captured in
the forests of northern Cambodia.
"I ate four of them," insists Mr So, who says he first dried, then pounded
the animals to dust and slowly consumed them over a period of two months in a palliative
The honey for sale at the stall had tiny bee corpses floating unappetizingly on the
surface but I bought some to go with a packet of fortifying tea.
It may otherwise have a rather bland taste, but definitely makes you feel better.
Down on Monivong Blvd. the herbalist store run by Muan Vanna is crowded with customers.
From behind a vast array of glass bottles containing colorful and unidentifiable
potions, Dr Vanna produced a remedy with an English label.
"For very thin woman," it proclaimed before explaining: "Warm temperature
in body have shook in chest everyday. It precautions because of to bulge fallopian
I promised to take it three times a day, made my excuses and left.