Obesity is a scourge of modern society but one of China’s most famous specialist hospitals is offering those desperately seeking weight loss hope with techniques as old as this ancient land.

Aimin Fat Reduction Hospital in the coastal city of Tianjin aims to do just what its name suggests with traditional herbal remedies and treatments such as acupuncture, cupping and massage.

“The best thing about the Chinese way of losing weight is that it’s safe and natural,” Chief doctor and hospital director Shi Lidong told Reuters. “While the weight falls away fast, we can also guarantee that all the life indicators are normal.”

The hospital attracts hundreds of overweight and obese Chinese, victims of their country’s increasing affluence, and now foreign patients are making their way there.

American Alonzo Bland, who weighs 290 kgs (640 lb), checked into Aimin in May after winning a contest for one year’s worth of free treatment held by a company that organises trips to China for medical treatment.

Bland, a former social worker from Green Bay, Wisconsin, suffers from numerous health problems and has not worked in a decade because of his size.