In Thailand, hot herbal compress massage is one of the traditional treatments used in the postpartum i.e. postnatal period. A herbal compress is a round cotton ball with special medicinal herbs inside, heated (steamed), and applied (pressed, rubbed, rolled, or slid) on the body of the receiver.
The (dried) herbs commonly used for postpartum treatments of the abdominal area are a mix of Plai (Zingiber Montanum), Khamin Chan (Curcuma Longa or Trumeric), Takrai (Cymbopogon Citratus), Ma Grud (Citrus Hystrix or Kaffir Lime), Ma Kham (Tamarindus Indica), Som Poi (Acacia Concinna), and fresh peppers.
The goals of this treatment are to ease pain, swellings, or inflammations, stimulate relaxation, and increase energy flow. In general, the idea is to get the new mother back into her pre-pregnancy state of health. Often, some Thai Massage is also applied during the application of herbal compresses.
Apart from abdominal treatments, herbal compresses may be applied for postpartum mothers with breast engorgement or to stimulate milk production, milk flow, and milk ejection. The most important ingredients of these compresses include Plai (Zingiber Montanum), Turmeric (Curcuma Longa), and Camphor.
Before a treatment, two herbal balls are steamed in a bamboo or electrical steamer for about twenty minutes.
Then, the first herbal ball is wrapped with towels to protect the mother’s skin from burns due to excessive heat. Next, the ball is gently rolled on the breast area — with exception of the nipple and areola areas — and/or on the abdominal area, all depending on the exact goal of the treatment. The contact time is usually about ten seconds for each point.
When the herbal compress is cold enough, the towel is unwrapped and the herbal ball is applied directly to the skin. Subsequently, the first herbal ball is replaced when the second is lukewarm. From then on, the two herbal balls are alternately applied and steamed until the session is complete. A treatment session can take up to thirty minutes.