Thai Basil or Horapha is an
anti-bacterial, it also relieves constipation and indigestion as well as cold
symptoms and reduces body fat.
Earth, wind, fire, and water. No, not a band’s name, but the
four elements that must be balanced for a person to be healthy. This is the
basis for Thai traditional healing.
While this theory has its roots in Indian Ayurvedic principles first introduced
in Thailand during the second or third centuries BC, when Buddhist monks arrived
to teach their new religion, Thais must have already been concocting herbal
remedies, as it has always been the nature of man to discover better solutions
The Ramkhamhaeng Stone Inscription is the earliest evidence of Thai ethno
healing, as it describes the royal plant garden. Even before this, though,
during the Khmer Empire that ruled the Northeast, it is recorded that King
Jayavarman VII ordered the establishment of 102 arokaya sala, or traditional
healing hospitals. Much later, in the 16th century, when King Narai ruled Siam
from his seat of power in Ayutthaya, he had both hospitals and the herbal
dispensaries opened. After the fall of Ayutthaya and the founding of Bangkok,
King Rama III began to promote ethno healing, establishing a school at Wat Pho.
However, interest waned as the Government and people turned their attention to,
and put their trust in, Western medicine.
But, in 1938, a project was initiated in the northern province of Chiang Mai to
cultivate the herb cinchona to produce quinine, but it was not economically
viable. With World War II and a lack of sufficient quantities of drugs, the
Government again turned its attention to herbal remedies. They even engaged a
German expert, to establish an experimental medicinal garden in the eastern
province of Chanthaburi. After a short time, the doctor produced a report in
English and Thai listing as many as 400 indigenous plants, their
characteristics, and medicinal values.
After the World Health Organization began to promote national traditional
heritage in 1977, the Thai government added ethno medicine to its five-year
national economic and social development plans. The Foundation for the Promotion
of Thai Traditional Medicine was established and, over the years, the interest
in and importance of herbal healing has continued to grow.
Snuff, inhalants, gargling solutions, teas, infusions, tonics, alcoholic
macerates, oral dosages, pills, capsules, tablets, poultices, ointments,
essential oils, and suppositories - herbal remedies come in a vast variety of
forms. Those taken orally are often classified by their taste - sweet, bitter,
astringent, acrid, nutty, salty, and sour, which then correlate with their
healing attributes. For example, an herb with a cooling flavor will be
prescribed for someone suffering from an ailment caused by a fire element
imbalance, or an acrid taste will restore the wind element to a balanced level.
Traditional herbalists, like Thai masseurs and masseuses, have a guardian spirit
they pay homage to. In addition to Shivaga Komarpaj, the Ayurvedic practitioner
who treated the Lord Buddha and is considered the father of Thai traditional
medicine, Thai homeopaths also pay homage to Phra Mae Thorani, “Mother Earth,”
and will chant a small prayer when they collect the plants. While certain
districts and provinces are known for having superior species because of their
climate and soil, there are also specific times that are best for collection;
for example, the evening flower jasmine should be picked at night or just before
sunrise. Furthermore, it is always best to collect plants during the full moon,
when the elements are at their maximum power.
There are three basic ways to classify medicinal herbs: those taken internally,
applied externally, and inhaled. Many, though, fall under two or even all three
of these classifications. Herbal drugs can have from two to as many as 40
different ingredients, which are also classified by species and medicinal
attributes. Then, there is Thai cuisine, which, while famous for its flavors, is
also known for its healing properties. As the different dishes can kindle and
arouse as well as soothe the senses, the different spices and ingredients are
again included to achieve a harmony of the body’s elements, thus serving as a
preventative or curative of different symptoms and ailments. (PRD)