Thai Traditional Medicine in Thailand | TTM

Published: Sep 21, 2015 | Updated: Jul 30, 2021

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Reusi Datton statue at Wat Pho temple grounds in Bangkok

© Image by Helissa Grundemann

It’s not uncommon that Thai Massage schools, institutes or teachers sometimes omit or forget to tell that Traditional Thai Massage (Nuad Thai) is not an isolated phenomenon in the healing arts of Thailand. And that it’s certainly not only about “Wellness” or “Relaxation.”

In fact, Thai Massage is an integral part of Thai Traditional Medicine (TTM) — a holistic Thai traditional healing system. “Traditional” doesn’t mean forgotten, obsolete, or not used. On the contrary, in Thailand, Traditional Thai Medicine is very much alive.

Since the late 1980s, TTM has seen a remarkable revival and interest. Not only in Thailand. On the contrary — it has been very much adopted by the West as a result of the search after complementary and alternative medicine systems. And this process is still continuing.

The categorization of Thai Traditional Medicine knows some variations, but in this post we use the description where TTM is considered to be constituted of three branches:

  • Herbs and Diets
  • Buddhism, Shamanism, and Animism
  • Energy Work

Seen with Western eyes this could be roughly translated as:

  • Nutrition, Diet, and Medicines
  • Psycho-Analysis and Religion
  • Fitness, Sports, and Bodywork

Apart from the tools, I would say the main difference with common Western healing methodology is the fact that Thai Traditional Medicine is applied holistically.

Instead of “shopping around,” in Thailand one would go to a Traditional Medicine hospital or clinic, get diagnosed (by a Thai Traditional Medicine Doctor) and will subsequently be sent to the different departments (in the same hospital or clinic) to receive the necessary (combined) treatments.

That is, when Thai people choose Traditional Medicine. Conventional Allopathic or Modern Medicine is also widely spread in Thailand and of excellent quality, reasonable costs, and equally often used, if not more.

Another important difference with Western Medicine is that the applied medicines (i.e. herbs) are most likely not chemically produced. Likewise, the diagnostic process in TTM is mostly done the old fashioned way, that is, reading the pulse, checking colors (of hands, eyes, tongue, and so on), feeling the differences in hot and cold of bodily areas, checking range of motion of the various body parts and so on, and so on.

For the moment I won’t dig any deeper into this vast realm of Traditional Thai Healing. The idea is to realize that Thai Massage is an integral part of a bigger healing system, one in which Thai Massage has its place but should always be considered in relation to its counterparts.

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