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What is Thai Medicine?

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

What is Traditional Thai medicine? Thai Medicine is not as widely known and spoken about as other more common healing modalities in the west but its use is growing here. A little background for better understanding.

Traditional Thai Medicine has five limbs:

Internal medicine, these are herbs, concoctions and foods that are taken internally for healing.

External Medicine, this is the orthopedic sciences, Thai massage utilizing medicated oils, liniments, herbal compresses and tok sen

Divinatory sciences - astrology, numerology, palmistry, understanding tendencies towards imbalances.

Spirit Medicine or Magic medicine the use of mantra, yantra, sak yant, the magical tattooing, incantations and protection and finally

Buddhist medicine, practices and Buddhist concepts used towards eradicating suffering, meditation, precepts, the noble eightfold path.

What links these limbs together is the use of element theory, and the experience of these elements within us.

The element of earth is our experience of solidity, water our experience of fluidity, fire our experience of transformation and heat, wind our experience of movement, such as our busy thoughts, and space our experience of non resistance or spaciousness, consciousness.

When these elements are looked at through the lens of their individual qualities and at our fingertips are the many limbs of Thai medicine, we use that which is most uniquely appropriate for healing the imbalance in those elements. “When I am asked what Thai medicine is, it is both a simple and complex answer. Simply put it is creating balance and harmony within the elements that exist within us through the expression of holding space for healing through movement, breath, connection and nourishment.”

In its exquisite complexities it is the individuation of the elemental disturbances in the body and mind and their qualities. Has the person been neglecting the subtler signs of the lighter elements of ether, and wind are they beginning to identify thoughts as that which can make them suffer or bring joy? If they are not here yet then the application of Thai medicine practice begins with the attention towards awareness ( ether) , using breath practices to calm the mind and nervous system (wind ).

To bring the individual out of the sympathetic nervous system (fight and flight) and into the parasympathetic ( rest and digest ) we work on breath. Using the Ayurvedic Dosha system of determining Vikruti or current imbalance I better understand which breath practice will be appropriate.

If an individual presents with nervous system complexities and physical manifestations of pain and injury, affecting fire, water and earth, then I employ a more hands on orthopedic sciences . In this application Thai medicine creates space both in mind and physical body with the use of pressure point and meridian work and digestive evacuation. One of my personal favorite subtle but powerful practices is the use of moxibustion to bring heat and release to the surface to physical and emotional trauma. It is said that there are more than 1,000 ways to approach an imbalance, and this beautiful individuality is part of the art of Thai medicine practices, it is also why you may never receive the same treatment twice as the individual feels differently on different days and at different times of each day so too my intuition may guide me to adjust what I may have planned. It is poetry in motion, the poetry of healing.

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