By Richard Gold, Ph.D., L.Ac.
The traditional medicine of Thailand is the result of a long historical and cultural
development dating back at least 2500 years. As with many indigenous peoples that were
capable of establishing a specific cultural expression, the Thai people created their own
unique synthesis of traditions and techniques. The Thai people were able to reach a level
of societal stability which included the ability to competently treat disease and
disharmony of physical, emotional, and spiritual origins. The medicine developed in
Thailand evolved into four major branches. These are:
Herbal medicine Nutritional Medicine and Food Cures Spiritual Practices
(essentially from the Theravada Buddhist tradition) Physical Medicine: Nuad Bo'Rarn
(Traditional Medical Massage)
Thai medicine represents a coherent traditional medicine that has developed and been
refined over the past 25 centuries. Thai medicine has been strongly influenced by both the
Ayurvedic tradition of India and the traditional medicine of China. Within this synthesis,
there are important components that are purely Thai. Many of the primary techniques to
treat the wide range of disorders that afflict people are contained within the practice of
Nuad Bo'Rarn, the physical medicine of Thailand. Although Nuad Bo'Rarn is often considered
to be a form of massage, it contains elements and techniques that are quite different from
the common notions of massage and would more correctly be categorized as a form of
peripheral stimulation. Contained within these techniques are the direct and clear
intentions of the practitioner to effect the physiology and energetics of the body and
mind of the recipient.
Nuad Bo'Rarn, the traditional physical medicine of Thailand, is practiced very slowly,
with an emphasis on both the practitioner and client being in a heightened or meditative
state of consciousness. Nuad Bo'Rarn is recognized to be a practical application of the
Buddhist concept of 'Metta,' or loving kindness. Nuad Bo'Rarn demonstrates the 'Four
Divine States' of mind that are discussed in Buddhism: compassion, loving kindness,
vicarious joy and equanimity. This form of healing work allows for the fulfillment of the
Buddhist teaching of bringing higher ideals into everyday life and activities.
Furthermore, this style of healing work has always placed an emphasis on the mind/body
connection and has been utilized as a tool in the treatment of emotional and spiritual
Stretching and extending the range of motion of the client's body are an important
part of Thai massage. The stretching often takes the form of double or assisted Yoga. Once
the client has relaxed deeply, the practitioner, with a heightened sensitivity, stretches
the client to his or her comfortable limit.
A vital aspect of the theory underlying Thai Medicine is the importance placed on the
abdominal region. According to Thai Medicine, all the major energy p A vital aspect of the theory underlying Thai Medicine is the importance placed on the
abdominal region. According to Thai Medicine, all the major energy pathways of the body
have their origin in the abdominal region in the vicinity of the navel. Therefore, the
abdominal massage is a crucial component of the healing benefit of this medicine.