Staying Healthy in Thailand

Home Remedies and Superfoods

In collaboration with and

The recent coronavirus outbreak in China has raised many concerns about health and safety around the world. And while medical masks are flying off the shelves, we are reminded of an old saying.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure”

Thais have one of their own…

Wan pehn lom, kom pehn ya” which means sweets are useless, bitters are medicine.

In this article, we would like to introduce you to some Thai home remedies, and a few of the abundant natural homeopathic foods, herbs, and spices that Thailand has to offer.

Many readers remember taking castor oil or fish oil when they were younger. Others may recall being forced to finish their Brussel sprouts. Some may be familiar with non-alcoholic hot toddies when they had strep throat or the flu.

Thailand, like every other country and culture, has an array of home remedies. It may seem odd to say, but Thailand has lots of wisdom many foreigners are unaware of. In fact, you could easily start a health/medicine garden in your own home.

Supplements from the “Raan Kai Ya”

If you have lived in Thailand for an extended period of time you are familiar with the green and white signs that indicate a Pharmacy or Drug Store. Some are large and offer a huge variety of medicines, including brand names, from Europe and the US. Others are quite small and stock only the basics.

Kai Ya (ร้านขายยา) shops are one of the benefits of living in Thailand. You can usually find whatever medicine you are looking for, and at very affordable prices. Likewise, you can even buy medicine that would normally require a prescription in places like the US.

For example, Allopurinol.  This medication is used to treat gout. A packet of 20 pills can be purchased in most Kai Ya shops often for less than $10. Furthermore, you can find arthritis medications and heavy-duty antibiotics such as fluoroquinolone in the larger Kai Ya shops. All for very low prices and without a medical prescription.

What is important to know is that most Kai Ya shops have an assortment of herbal and vitamin supplements. Plus the vitamins are typically cheaper than in the US or Europe.

Additionally, there are some vitamins that are not sold in the US but can be found in a Thai pharmacy without any problem and at very fair prices. Ironically, these are vitamins that are necessary to battle the flu and colds.

B6 and B12 vitamins are great at helping your immune system stay strong and focused. They also help with muscular inflammation and joint stiffness. Not only that, but B6 helps cognition and fights anxiety and depression.

Natural Homeopathic and Herbal Supplements…

The advantage of homeopathic –herbal (HH) supplements is that you don’t have to eat the food they come from. For things like fish oil and garlic, this is a real benefit.

Thai Kai Ya shops normally have a good variety of HH supplements. This includes fish oil, Echinacea, garlic, ginger, and even castor oil capsules.

However, we want to focus on some that are more specific to Thailand and could be grown at home. The first is turmeric.

Turmeric is called “Kamin” (ขมิ้น) in Thai. The supplements are called “Ya Kamin Chan”. The capsule supplements are ideal because eating turmeric is not very pleasant. If you have eaten Tom Yum soup you have seen something that looks like a thick slice of ginger in the broth. It’s actually turmeric, not ginger.

The main health benefit of turmeric is an antioxidant compound called curcumin. It has anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties, can reduce stomach pain and indigestion, and can even be used to treat skin disorders. Turmeric has done magic for my knees for me and some friends of mine.

Ever seen Burmese women with the yellow paste/powder on their faces? One of the primary ingredients is turmeric. It even works as a sunblock! Local wisdom in action folks.

The turmeric plant itself is quite beautiful. And can grow rapidly. You might just have some turmeric plants on your property without even knowing it.

Turmeric, Curcuma longa – Siam Pictures

The second very useful herb is “Fah Talay Jon” (ฟ้าทะเลจอน) in Thai. The common name for this plant is “King of Bitters”, and bitter does not even come close to describing the taste. The scientific name is Andrographis Paniculata and is also known as Serpentina.

Most Kai Ya shops will have Fah Talay Jon supplement capsules. For roughly 90THB you can get 100 capsules. This is a great addition to your medicine cabinet at home. Additionally, it can be used as a daily supplement.

Thais have long used Fah Talay Jon to help battle colds, the flu, strep throat, intestinal issues, and fevers for a very long time. Yet, if you live in the cities this herb is hardly known or used with any regularity. Head out the village and you will find the locals know right where it grows and what it can be used for.

This amazing herb has a laundry list of health benefits. It is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-malarial. It’s an antipyretic, antioxidant, and expectorant. It helps to clean the blood, liver, and kidneys. It can lower blood pressure and improve blood circulation. It even can be used to fight and kill worms and parasites in the digestive system.

Again this little wonder drug could be growing in your yard.

Andrographis Paniculata Extract 10% - 30% Andrographolides ...
Andrographis Liquid Extract – Woodland Essence

This can easily be made into a tea. However, you will want to add something, like honey, to help reduces bitterness. It is not called “King of Bitters” for nothing.

There are of course other herbs that help maintain a healthy immune system. Many readers are aware of the soothing properties of lemongrass. Additionally, there is a tree from which you can eat the sprouting leaves called “Sa Dow” (สะเดา) or the Neem Tree in English. It is another bitter medicine many locals often use.

The two outlined above are at the top of the list you should start to consume regularly. Especially, with the recent health concerns circling the globe, boosting your immune system now can help later on.

Thailand Superfoods

It is true there is no agreed-upon scientific definition of “superfoods” at this time. However, the basic definition is foods that are rich in essential minerals and vitamins, while also being excellent sources of antioxidants.

In Thailand, there are plenty of superfoods readily available and very inexpensive. Likewise, many of them can be grown in simple home gardens. They can also be easily found in local markets and grocery stores.

A shortlist of superfoods in Thailand is as follows.

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Mangosteens
  • Papaya
  • Bok Choy
  • Cilantro
  • Tomatoes
  • Chili Peppers
  • Black Peppercorns
  • Pineapple
  • Holy/Hot Basil
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Bananas
  • Kale

This is not a complete list, but it should give you an idea of how easy it is to eat right in Thailand. By eating more of these foods you are helping to strengthen your body’s natural defenses. You are also helping to improve the biological functions of the human body. Kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage) is also considered a superfood as It s full of healthy bacteria, and beneficial lactic acid.

For newcomers to The Land of Smiles, or for those who have been here a while, Thailand offers many simple and affordable ways to stay healthy, fight infections and illness, as well as build stronger bodies. The added benefit is that many of these foods are now being sold in capsule form. You can receive the same health benefits without any unpleasant taste.

Hopefully, this article can provide you with some helpful and healthy hints. Obviously there are other herbal and homeopathic remedies found in Thailand. In the old Korat, you have some reminders of old Chinese Pharmacy (2 or 3 only). We call them Raan Kai Ya Djin. We did even touch on all the magical balms.

There is plenty of local wisdom for health and medicine options. Find some out for yourself if you can. In the meantime, stay healthy, happy, and safe. Wash your hands, sleep well, eat healthy and exercise.

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