Thailand is home to some of the richest medicinal botanicals in the world. Much like China, Thailand’s culture is steeped in a rich history of homeopathic treatments using the very plants around them. While the the Fintech and pharmaceutical trades may now lead the way across the country, many of its rural inhabitants hold onto the knowledge they possess about the best medicinal plants. So, what are the most utilized medicinal plants in Thailand?
Turmeric has only recently exploded onto the health scene in the western world over the last few years. However, Thais have long regarded the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits it offers highly. It has been used as a treatment for arthritis for many years and continues to remain as popular as ever.
2- Noni (Morinda Citrifolia)
Noni is not exclusive to Thailand, but it has long been held as a treatment for impotence among older Thai men. The Noni plant belongs to the same family as the coffee plant, however, the fruit and leaves have a rather unique and at times foul odor. The leaves are often added to som-tam dishes (papaya salad) and the fruits are dried and ground into powders for supplements.
3- Kafir Lime
Kafir lime leaves are more than just excellent for adding flavor to food. The kafir lime, (Muhkroot) is also used as a tonic to prevent hair loss due to male pattern baldness. It is also used as a tonic to strengthen hair and remove excessive oil. Many of the best hair loss tonics will be mixed with a menthol base to help with better absorption.
Often used to flavor Tom Yum, lemongrass is also grown for its anti-mosquito properties. Lemongrass is often boiled for several hours to extract its distinctive lemon fragrance and then sprayed on the skin as a repellant. Lemongrass is also seen as a good way to calm bloating and flatulence.
5- Bitter Cucumber
Bitter cucumber, also known as bitter melon is found across Thailand and is primarily used to help control Type II diabetes. The compounds found in the fruit lend themselves to a blood sugar stabilizing effect. They are also used to help with gastrointestinal issues, such as diarrhea.
You will find the mighty mulberry tree growing across Issan and the North of the country. The mulberry tree plays host to the silkworm, which is famed for creating the delicate Thai silk. The mulberry tree is much more than a worm farm though, it also provides a source of high-fiber fruits which are thought to help ward off dementia, prevent redness of the face, and boost the immune system.
Wild garlic is one of the most commonly used medicinal plants to help with immune conditions. Garlic is often incorporated into Thai food in enormous quantities. Its powerful flavor goes hand in hand with its powerful immune boosting effects. Garlic can be found growing on just about every scrap of land across Issan and is commonly grown among chili plants. Garlic is also used to help cleanse the blood.
These are just a few of the more commonly grown plants used for medicinal purposes. There are of course much more than this. Take, for example, the Mangosteen tree, Parsley, bitternuts, etc. Thailands tropical climate makes it a perfect place to grow plants quickly and easily, and medicinal plant farming is now becoming big business.
Many plants used in homeopathic treatments come from countries such as Thailand and China, and there are centuries of evidence-based use behind them. It may be easy to head to a pharmacy and grab the treatments you need over the counter, but natural medicine will always have its place in the world.