When you come in for a Thai massage session you may feel like the room is a little more humid and you may notice the soothing sound of boiling water during the session. That’s the herbal compresses letting you know they’re getting ready to be used. Thai herbal compress or in Thai, luk pra kob, has become one of my most loved tools in Thai medicine and bodywork. They are incredibly effective in releasing tension and restriction in the body. I find the aroma to be relaxing as well as therapeutic.
In most sessions I use a traditional warming compress. These are found pre-made throughout Thailand. The herbs found in these compresses help treat the body’s tissue layer, relax sore and stiff muscles and increase circulation. But you may be wondering how the medicinal properties of the herbs get to the body’s tissue layer? The answer is steam.
My teacher explained to me that herbal compresses are like making a cup of tea. The compress is like the tea bag and the water they are steamed in becomes the tea. Both the water and tea bag contain medicinal properties of the herbs. These properties are transferred to the body through steam coming from the compress. This transfer is known as convection. Convection occurs because the body is colder than the compress so the body effortlessly absorbs the heat. You will feel the compress soften your skin as the moist heat opens pores and relaxes muscles. The convection process transfers the herbal infused steam straight through cloth! In addition, traditional compresses include camphor that acts like a vehicle for transporting other herbs.
Along with traditional herbal compresses, I also make special floral compresses of prenatal sessions and rock salt compresses for post-natal sessions. There are many Thai compress formulas. Some are specially made for paralysis, nerve damage, joints, or an energy boost. I look forward to making and using these compresses too.