Because “Empress Ki” has 50 episodes, there’s plenty of time for the plot to dwell on some interesting aspects of Joseon-era medicine and beauty treatments.
For example, what is that secret incense that the Empress Dowager has given Empress Tanshiri to prevent her from bearing the Emperor’s child? It’s not exactly magic.
The incense was probably Indian Frankincense or boswellia, which has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities. Although it is not now considered an effective method of family planning, women who wanted children have traditionally been advised to avoid it. Combine the effects of that incense with the fact that the Emperor cannot stand his Empress and it might have been enough to actually prevent a royal conception. And what about the slippery pulse that was read to determine if Lady Park was expecting? Or the lack of a slippery pulse that was used to try and trap the Empress in her evil plot?
Noting the slippery pulse is a traditional method used to determine pregnancy in Chinese medicine. When taking a woman’s pulse, a strong and slippery pulse is one that flows freely and rapidly between the index and fourth finger. It is supposed to feel like water pulsing. But other conditions are said to also cause a slippery pulse, so it’s not a definite sign. In those days, it signaled the need for a woman to be cautious until other symptoms presented themselves.
And what about the tonic El Temur drank every day? El Temur drinks a tonic made of bean broth and licorice as a way to prevent the effects of someone inevitably trying to poison him. It might have been easier not to do the things that make people want to poison you but licorice is not a bad idea either. Recent studies have shown that licorice water can prevent the negative effects of some minerals in the body. So, the dose of poison that might have killed another man left El Temur alive to continue his evil ways.
And what about a sawdust bath as a beauty treatment?
Ha Ji Won recently tried a beautifying sawdust bath. It was the kind of beauty treatment that her character Seungnyang would have undergone when preparing to become a consort candidate. Bathing in fermented sawdust is a treatment used in parts of Asia to improve circulation and deep clean the skin. It’s much like taking a sauna as the enzymes from the fermentation warm the body and make the person sweat, de-clogging pores.
All of these Joseon-era diagnostic tools, treatments and remedies have some basis in fact.
This article was originally published at KDrama Stars: