Tourism Authority of Thailand
License Number: 11/2802
A massage to restore balance among the elements. A herbal sauna to cleanse and rejuvenate the body. A herbal pack to calm nerves and redirect the energy.
Last Modified On: Tuesday, 05/December/2006 21:40:27pm
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A massage to restore balance among the elements. A herbal sauna to cleanse and rejuvenate the body. A herbal pack to calm nerves and redirect the energy. All this may sound very New Agey in the West, but it has been part of daily life here for centuries. Before the arrival of modern medicine, herbalists filled the dual role of doctor-pharmacist. Originally, village doctors were monks or former monks, since Buddhist temples were the center of learning, not only of religion but of more worldly matters like astrology and medicine as well.
Thai traditional medicine holds that the body has four elements: wind, water, earth and fire, and ill health results from an imbalance between them. To remedy an ailment, the village “doctor” would make a herbal pack for the patient to ingest, rub onto the skin, or add to a steam compress. Another major component of traditional medicine is energy. When the energy lines are blocked, the individual will become ill, physically or emotionally. A massage or sauna would be prescribed.
Traditional Thai massage is a proven physical therapy that dates back to ancient India sometime before the lifetime of Buddha. It has been practiced here for centuries, and many swear by it as effective cure for common ailments such as aches and pains, fevers and nervous strains.
Traditional massage reached the peak of popularity in the early 18th century. King Rama III, great-grandfather of the present monarch, had all available knowledge on the subject gathered and inscribed on stone slabs. These now stand on a corner of the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho), along with stone figures of rishis demonstrating various massage postures. You can try this ancient therapy in its original form at the temple; masseuses trained at Wat Pho massage school offer their service seven days a week at very reasonable prices.
Most hotels rated three stars and above offer traditional massage as part of their health and fitness services. All the spa resorts include it in their therapy programs. Despite common misconceptions, clothes stay on the whole time. If you are interested in learning the techniques, Wat Pho’s massage school offers a 10-day course that costs 6,000 baht. Contact the school, in the temple’s compounds, Chetupon Road, or call (662) 225-4771.
Herbal sauna is no newcomer to Thailand. For many centuries people with just about any kind of affliction would visit a sauna, where herbal packs formulated just for the ailment would be added to a water heater. The resulting steam would be absorbed both through the nose and the skin. The heat also sweated out toxins and cleansed the pores. As recently as the beginning of this century, hundreds of these saunas existed in Thailand, but with the arrival of modern medicine most of these went out of business. But even today, home-made herbal sauna—along with a diet regimen packed with herbs is the post-natal therapy Thai women, especially those living in the countryside still swear by. Herbs also dominated Thai women’s beauty and skincare regimens. Sour tamarind worked wonders as a body scrub, for example, while crushed turmeric would be rubbed onto the skin to keep it soft and smooth. With the recent revival in holistic therapies, indigenous herbs are being discovered anew for their health and beauty benefits. Discover Thai-style herbal experience at the following facilities, or at the spas.