The Thai Traditional Medicine practice of using hot herbal compresses goes back to the ancient knowledge of healing properties of plants and herbs and their application on the body. Herbal Compress Massage is also referred to as Herbal Ball Massage, Hot Herbal Ball Massage, Herbal Poultice Massage, or Herbal Stem Massage. In Thailand, the herbal compress is called Luk Pra Kob.
Thai herbal treatments are typically used to soothe and to relieve pain and inflammations. Important in the application are the selection of herbs with therapeutic qualities, such as prai, ginger, turmeric, kaffir lime, camphor, tamarind and lemongrass. A mix of herbs is wrapped in a compress, then steamed (in bamboo or electrical steamer) and when hot, applied to the body by pressing, gliding or smearing in circular, linear and/or rolling movements.
Herbal compress treatments are very popular in Thailand, can be obtained virtually everywhere, and popularity is rapidly increasing in Western countries. Herbs used are generally cheap and easy to find, and the treatments are effective. It’s the heat, by steaming, that is said to release both the aromatic and medicinal properties of a compress.
It’s believed by some that hot herbal compress massage was first introduced by Indian monks in Thailand at the time of the gradual spreading of Buddhism. Others say that Luk Pra Kob simply originated from local folk medicine and recipes were passed on from generation to generation for thousand of years.
The technique can offer a variety of health benefits such as stress relief, relaxation, alleviation of fatigue, soothing painful, sore or tired muscles, tendons and ligaments, promotion of emotional and physical well-being, improvement of blood and lymph circulation, and internal organs stimulation.
Sometimes the technique is used as an integral part of a Thai Massage or Thai Abdominal Massage treatment to warm up and open up the body before a session and to soothe after a session. Another popular application is to soothe and re-energize the body, abdomen and internal organs of women in the afterbirth (postnatal i.e. postpartum) period.