In any traditional Chinese pharmacy, one of the first things to strike a foreigner is always the ingredients… Frankly, they’re a little strange: dried sea horses, geckos, snakes, worms, a stuffed deer and one lone owl gazing down from above.

Meanwhile, they’re hovered over by serious pharmacists in lab coats, consulting giant medical tomes. It all seems rather incongruous. But this is not “Macbeth.” This is as much a part of China’s history as anything else.

Take, for example, snakes. They’re used for “wind expulsion” and “channel clearance”—which means they’ll do wonders for sagging energy levels and weak immunity.

Back in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), an unnamed villager suffered from a terrible skin disease. Boils and lesions covered his entire body. After drinking from a vat of wine over a period of time, his skin unexpectedly started to clear up. Everyone was shocked—no one could quite work out what had cured his ailments. That is, until a large, rotten snake was discovered lying at the bottom of the barrel. The snake, it was hypothesized, could cure skin diseases!