Thai Massage Intro -08 Early Sources
Animism shaped the knowledge of health in Traditional Thai Medicine. It is a belief system that attributes spiritual significance to natural objects and phenomena. In the context of Thai medicine, animism influenced the understanding of health and illness, as well as the methods of treatment. Practitioners believed that health resulted from maintaining a harmonious balance between the physical body and the spiritual world. They believed that illness was caused by disruptions in this balance, which could be caused by malevolent spirits or negative energies. This understanding led to a holistic approach to healthcare, where physical, mental, and spiritual aspects were considered equally important. Practitioners used various techniques to restore balance and promote healing. These techniques included herbal medicine, massage, and energy healing. Herbal medicine involves using plants and natural substances believed to possess spiritual properties. Nuad Boran, known as Thai massage, released blockages and restored the body’s energy flow. Energy healing techniques like Reusi Dat Ton focused on manipulating and balancing the body’s energy channels.
The Mon people, an ethnic group from Myanmar, added their knowledge of herbal medicine and healing techniques to the Thai people, greatly influencing the progression of Thai medical practices. Additionally, the Kmer, an ancient civilization from present-day Cambodia, also introduced their expertise in massage therapy, which became an integral part of Thai medical treatments. Indian Ayurvedic medicine and Chinese Traditional Medicine greatly influenced Thai medical practices, particularly herbal remedies, acupuncture, and energy healing. These diverse influences from the Mon, Kmer, India, and China have shaped the unique and holistic approach of Traditional Thai Medicine.
Think of Traditional Thai medicine as a “Soup” with a robust Animistic foundation. The recipe draws from the regional practices of people who occupied the region we now know as Thailand before the migration of people from southern China who also contributed to the stew. Adding strong flavor to the “Soup” is the Indian medical knowledge coming through the area because it exists along popular trade routes between India and China.
Throughout history, Thai medicine has experienced several revivals. It has been brought back to prominence many times by different leaders after falling out of favor. In the early 1900s, this Traditional Thai Medicine was outlawed and considered medical quackery, favoring Western medicine. However, by the mid-1990s, TTM was again being supported as part of the Seventh National Economic and Social Plan for 1992-1996, stating that “the promotion of people’s health entails the efforts to develop traditional wisdom in health care, including Thai traditional medicine, herbal medicine, and traditional massage, to integrate it into the modern health service system.
In 1993, under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Health, the government of Thailand created the National Institute of Thai Traditional Medicine. The goals of the institute are to “gather knowledge, revise, verify, classify, and explain traditional Thai medicine knowledge,” “systematize and standardize the body of Traditional Thai medicine,” to “compare and explain the philosophies and basic theories of traditional Thai medicine and to produce textbooks on traditional Thai medicine.”
So, as we can see, only recently has this knowledge been codified.