Relaxing massages at Thai Traditional Medicine Research Institute — Photo courtesy of Thai Traditional Medicine Research Institute
Having a look at alternative health care while abroad can be most enlightening. While the Thai Traditional Medicine Research Institute (TMRI) in Bangkok is not a museum, it is a most interesting place to check out, whether it be for a relaxing massage, a holistic traditional treatment or just to learn something about traditional Thai medicine and its place in the medical field.
Thai traditional medicine is similar to Chinese and Indian medicine, in that it is holistic, seeking to treat the cause rather than the symptoms of an ailment. It looks at the body in terms of elements - earth, wind, fire and water - and seeks to keep a balance within.
However, while the knowledge may be ancient, the practice of Thai traditional medicine is actually somewhat new, as traditional medicine was banned from hospitals and universities in the early 1900s, after Thailand embraced western medicine and the scientific approach. It was not reinstated until the 1970s, when the value of medicinal plants and alternative treatments were finally recognized as valid and cost-efficient.
Herbal medicines on offer at TMRI — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
These days, the TMRI puts plants through its labs, gives alternative training courses and also provides treatments for locals and visitors. Various herbs, hot herbal compresses and traditional therapeutic massages are used to treat various maladies associated with the daily wear and tear on the body. While traditional medicine might not be good for surgeries or advanced diseases like cancer, it is quite beneficial for dealing with ailments like high blood pressure, office syndrome and urban stress.
Even if you don't have a medical treatment here, the downstairs of the Institute now has a spa devoted to relaxation massage, and there is a shop selling medical herbs and treatments, along with herbal soaps and shampoos that do not need any kind of doctor's approval.