“For centuries, Thai people have had their own system of health care and illness treatments. The value of Thai herbs and their physiological actions can be looked upon as Thai wisdom by the people. Local herbs have long been used as medecines and dietary supplements, they have also been used externally for therapeutic treatments such as steaming and application of poultices.”
Traditional Thai medecine recipes have been handed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years. Which herb to use for an illness, is knowledge that comes about from years of observation, trial and error, and fine-tuning. The use of herbs in cooking and for medicinal purposes has been a part of many cultures through the ages. In the olden days one would go no further than the kitchen to get cures for common ailments. Fresh or dried herbs and spices were items that could be found in everyone’s home apothecary. Many herbs are still being used today as they are e fective and safe. Indian and Chinese influences in the region cannot be denied and the proximity of Thailand to the two cradles of Asian civilization makes it a veritable melting pot where the three cultures, languages and body of knowledge blend, refine and enhance one another.
Relaxing massages, and ceremonies based on a set of traditional beliefs also form part of Thailand’s unique healing system. The healing power of touch and the creation of Thai herbal medicines are deeply embedded within Thai culture, encompassing Buddhist philosophy and wisdom, together with traditional practices in the treatment of illness.
In Chiang Mai, you will be able to discover the power of Thai herbs in the cuisine and also at spas (herbal compresses, herbal steam therapy, natural herbal scrubs and creams) as well as in Warorot Market which offers an array of traditional herbalist shops.
Be it for culinary, medicinal or aromatic reasons, growing a herbal garden can be a rewarding hobby. Thailand’s rich agriculture tradition is a source of unlimited fresh organic products: it is relatively easy to grow tropical herbs, as most of them need less care than flowering plants. These are some of the popular Asian medicinal plants and outline of their therapeutic values so that you can consider including them in your own herb garden.
1. KAFFIR LIME AND LEAVES
With its strong fragrance and flavour, kaffir lime helps cleanse the blood; It also maintains healthy teeth and gums when rubbed on.
Must buy : Shampoo made with kaffir lime; it helps maintain healthy hair and scalp, and it is believed to help prevent hair loss.
Along with ginger, garlic is one of the most useful herbs in Eastern traditions. Garlic is one of the most commonly used herbs in Thai cuisine and it is a key ingredient in many Thai dishes. Garlic helps to prevent cancer, coronary heart disease and diabetes, whilst reducing high blood pressure, gas and phlegm.
Must buy : garlic capsules are widely popular for their health benefits.
Ginger has been used for thousands of years for the treatment of numerous ailments, such as cold, nausea, arthritis, migraine and hypertension. It is used in numerous forms, including fresh, dried, pickled, preserved, crystallized, candied and powdered or ground. Its flavour is somewhat peppery and slightly sweet, with a strong and spicy aroma.
Must buy : ginger herbal infusion.
4. THAI BASIL
A close cousin of sweet basil, Thai basil is frequently used in local cuisine. The lemon scented hairy basil and holy basil are some of the other well-known varieties of the herb grown in Thailand. Basil has powerful antioxidants that help protect the body from damage caused by toxins and free radicals. Thai basil also has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties to assist in the fight against inflammation.
Must buy : taste the famous Thai dish of fried chicken with basil leaves.
5. LEMON GRASS
Lemon-grass has a host of medicinal benefits including anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It helps with the relief of stress and insomnia, it also cuts down uric acid and high cholesterol, while also detoxifying the liver, kidneys, pancreas and digestive tract.
Must buy : lemon grass herbal infusion and mosquito reppellent.
Available fresh, as compressed blocks, dried slices and in paste or concentrate form, tamarind is used extensively in South East Asian cuisine. It contains a good source of antioxidants to help in the fight against cancer. It helps in the treatment of bile disorders, acts as a mild laxative, lowers cholesterol and protects against colds, flu and fevers.
Must buy : tamarind sweets and tamarind paste.
Galangual is a member of the rhizome family and displays similar protuberant segments as turmeric and ginger but has finger-like stems and is known for its pungent flavor. Consuming galangal regularly can aid the digestion process and reduce constipation and vomiting. It has been found effective as a remedy for ulcers and inflammation of stomach.
Must buy : galangal powder to add in your dishes or to drink with hot water.
8. CHILLI PEPPERS
Chilli peppers help lift your spirits. They are good for your heart and help aid blood circulation. They also help fight against colds and flu.
Must buy : ground chilli and chilli paste.