Categorization and Branches of Thai Traditional Medicine

Published: Aug 19, 2020 | Revised: Jan 26, 2024
Edited by: Marce Ferreira

Categorization and Branches of Thai Traditional Medicine

It’s perhaps typical Thai, but the facts are that many things in Thailand are often “same same, but different.” This also goes for the definition of Thai Traditional Medicine (TTM).

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It means that if you would look up what branches are considered to be part of the TTM realm, you will find quite some differences in the ways TTM is categorized (or classified).

According to the “Protection and Promotion of Thai Traditional Medicine Knowledge Act B.E. 2542” (1999), TTM by Thai law is described as: “The medical processes dealing with the examination, diagnosis, therapy, treatment, or prevention of diseases, or promotion and rehabilitation of the health of humans or animals, Midwifery, Thai Massage, as well as the preparation, production of Thai traditional medicines and the making of devices and instruments for medical purposes. All of these are based on the knowledge or textbooks that were passed on and developed from generation to generation.

The above is a high-level, general definition of TTM, and in this post, we’re going to give you an overview of some of the most commonly used categorizations. Of course, in the end, all classifications of Traditional Thai Medicine cover more or less the same topics and realms, but well, as already remarked “just differently classified.”

Further below then you’ll find six types of classifications of TTM:

Categorization 1 – TTM divided into 5 branches

  1. Thai Medical Practice (diagnosis and treatment of diseases or symptoms).
  2. Thai Pharmacy (medicinal materials derived from plants, animals or minerals, and the art of compounding those ingredients into various dosage forms and recipes).
  3. Traditional Midwifery (care for mother and baby during pregnancy, and during and after childbirth).
  4. Traditional Massage (therapeutic Thai Massage).
  5. Buddhist Rites and Rituals (for mental health care).

Categorization 2 – TTM divided into 3 branches

  1. Herbs, Diets, and Nutrition.
  2. Buddhism, Shamanism and Animism.
  3. Energy Work (this includes, for instance, Thai Massage, Thai Foot Massage, etc).

Categorization 3 – TTM divided into 5 branches

  1. Internal Medicine (herbs and diets).
  2. External Medicine (applied to the external body, such as Thai Massage, Herbal Compress Massage, and so on).
  3. Spirit Medicine (amulets, incantations, shamanistic rituals).
  4. Divination (astrology, numerology, palmistry, and such).
  5. Buddhism (for mental health care).

Categorization 4 – TTM divided into 4 branches

  1. Medical Practice (diagnosis, prescription, and compounding).
  2. Traditional Midwifery.
  3. Orthopedic Treatments.
  4. Massage Treatments.

Categorization 5 – TTM divided into 4 branches

  1. Spiritual Practices.
  2. Herbal Remedies.
  3. Nutritional Remedies.
  4. Thai Massage.

Categorization 6 – TTM divided into 3 branches

  1. Spiritual Practice.
  2. Herbalism.
  3. Massage Treatments.

A final note: as said already, the categorizations mentioned above are just some examples, and although these are the most common TTM categorizations to be found, it’s certainly not an all-inclusive summary.



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