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Pandemic Propels Unexpected Renaissance: Traditional Thai Medicine (TTM) Back to Spotlight! Has Health & Heritage Elevated Thai Survival against Covid-19?

The Pandemic Times: Breathing Life into the Resurgence of Traditional Thai Medicine (TTM)

In the swirling midst of the Covid-19 chaos, a resurgence has been quietly taking place in the lane of traditional health practices. Bathed in relevance once more, Traditional Thai Medicine (TTM) sees its roots deeply entrenched in not just the medical, but also the cultural sphere of Thailand – a harmonious synergy of religious sphere, dietary practices, and indigenous wisdom. In the post-pandemic world, TTM has sprung forth into the collective consciousness as an inseparable weft thread in the loom of Thai identity.

The wave of TTM is propelled further by its usage of native herbs, a feature that has witnessed an unparalleled surge in the pandemic times. This phenomenon has found concrete manifestation in the 20th National Herbs Expo led by the Ministry of Public Health. Spread over five days, from June 28 to July 2, this gathering was a hotbed of invigorating exchanges among established professionals, budding entrepreneurs, and intrigued visitors delving into the enchanting world of TTM.

In the pre-Covid world, Thai traditional medicine was relegated to the sidelines as mere dietary supplements. However, the table turned with the lockdown-induced shortage of pharmaceutical medicines. This led to a momentous shift towards embracing traditional therapies, a transition that Pakakrong Kwankhao, the chief of the Thai Traditional and Herbal Medicine Centre at Chao Phya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital, keenly noted. Additionally, young people veered towards traditional treatments following the triumph of herbal medicines in grappling with Covid.

Adisorn Pukanad, from the Thai Traditional Medicine Foundation, sheds light on the allure of TTM – it offers unfettered access, devoid of obligatory hospital visits or mandated doctor prescriptions. “Even if the results are not instantaneous, traditional treatments are more benign to the body,” he adds.

With the market gravitating towards herbal remedies, behemoth companies like Herbal One are witnessing a shift in their consumer base. Traditional Thai Medicine is no longer exclusive to people above the age of 30 – the new generation recognises the merits of going the natural route.

Jua Inthan, a traditional massage therapist, believes that the realm of TTM extends beyond mere herbs – it incorporates techniques like luk prakob, or herbal compress massage therapy. Steaming herbs seep into the skin during therapy, stimulating blood circulation and providing a holistic healing experience.

However, as TTM garners a wider user base, concerns about its efficacy and safety are also skyrocketing. Critics argue that the knowledge base of TTM is anecdotal, primarily deriving from years of practitioner wisdom and historical archives, rather than being anchored in scientific validation.

Dr Pakakrong recalls that four decades earlier, herbal medics formed a negligible 2-3% of the medical practitioner demographic, dim in comparison to Western medicine practitioners. Herbs were more of culinary accessories than potential healers. In an effort to elevate the value of herbs, experts at Chaophraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital are now investing in extensive research to enhance the medicinal potential of these natural reservoirs.

With production increasing to cater to the burgeoning demand, the Department of Medical Science (DMS) also conducts laboratory tests for herb safety. Patamaporn Prueksakorn, a DMS pharmacist, emphasises that persistent research and rigorous certification will facilitate efficient commercial promotion and international export of Thai herbs, thus bypassing quality checks in importing countries.

The final and noteworthy strand in the story of TTM is the crucial role played by the Ministry of Public Health. In 2002, it established the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine with a three-fold objective – protection, promotion, and integration of TTM into the broader landscape of modern healthcare in Thailand.

With its seamless blend of cultural richness and health benefits, Traditional Thai medicine stands as a beacon of resilience and adaptability. The post-pandemic world is just ready to embrace this ancient yet relevant wisdom as we step into an era that deeply acknowledges holistic health and human wellbeing.

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