Paola Bassanese is an author and freelance writer. She is interested in healthy living, work/life balance, and the performing arts.
Long, cold nights and short, cold days—all you want to do during winter is to stay in and curl up on the sofa with a hot drink. The need for warmth in winter is natural. Have you ever thought of massage as a way to increase your feeling of wellbeing?
Massage can be helpful if you have:
- Cold hands and feet
- Sluggish circulation
- A low immune system
- Feeling a bit low
Among the physical benefits of massage, feeling uplifted and better equipped to face cold winter months is worth considering.
Dreaming about Holidays
Sometimes, the last thing you want is to take off your clothes at your local massage clinic when it’s cold outside. That is not a problem if you choose, for example, a traditional Thai massage treatment as you get to keep your clothes on, as long as they are comfortable as stretchy (alternatively, your practitioner will supply some pyjamas to wear).
To gain the most out of a massage session, oil-based treatments can really make a difference to your circulation. The use of aromatherapy oils, for example, can have a warming effect on the skin, and this can be further enhanced with the application of warm herbal compresses.
Warm Herbal Compresses
Using warm herbal compresses in massage is an ancient tradition originating from India and popularised in Thailand.
In Thai massage herb compresses make a traditional massage into an aromatherapy experience with all the health benefits from herbal medicine. Mixed herbs are packed into a muslin cloth and gently warmed with steam before being applied directly to the skin. In Thailand herb compresses are called luk pra kob. Most clinics in Thailand will offer warm herb compresses, and other clinics around the world are catching up too, making them available in their treatment menus.
When the gentle heat reaches your muscles they start to relax deeply and you get a nice, comforting feeling. As you close your eyes, you can visualise yourself being in a warm, sandy beach. Can you imagine how wonderful that would feel in the middle of winter? And you wouldn’t even have to take a long-haul flight.
Aching muscles will benefit from the application of warm herbal compresses, as they help soothe pains and strains thanks to their active ingredients.
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The aromatic components of herbal compresses derive from different spices, most commonly:
- Kaffir lime
Clinics use their own personalised herbal blend according to which school their therapists attended (herbal blends are different in North and South Thailand, for example). Each herb has its own health properties.
Composition of Herbal Compresses
Have you ever tried Tiger Balm? The smell of camphor is what you will notice first. Camphor is particularly effective for aching muscles and to stimulate the circulation. Because of its strong smell it can also help breathe better, especially if you have a cold. It has also anti-inflammatory and antidepressant properties.
Cinnamon is beneficial for the skin as it boosts the circulation and it can soothe skin irritation. It is also useful for acne-prone skin because of its antiseptic properties.
Eucalyptus is often used for steam inhalation when you have a cold. It has antibacterial and antiseptic properties, can be useful for healing bruises and minor skin wounds, and its scent can help you de-stress. Eucalyptus is a natural muscle relaxant.
Like camphor, ginger is good for both aching muscles and for the sinuses. It is also useful to boost circulation and to slow down the ageing process. Ginger has antiseptic properties, which help to clear acne-prone skin.
It is a rather unknown fact that kaffir lime is very beneficial for the skin and has anti-inflammatory properties. Its scent acts as an antidepressant and can stimulate the immune system. It can support the lymphatic system by helping the body’s own detoxification process. It also helps fight free radicals thanks to its antioxidants, and can be beneficial for arthritis sufferers.
Lemongrass has anti-inflammatory properties and, like ginger, is useful to combat colds. Lemongrass is a natural skin toner, with antibacterial and astringent properties.
Tamarind is an antiseptic and can support wound healing. It is packed with antioxidants, which help the skin’s own renewal process, and with natural moisturisers.
Turmeric is becoming one of the most important allies for overall health. It has been used for centuries for the beautification of the skin thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, which are particularly useful to soothe acne breakouts. Turmeric also improves the elasticity of the skin thanks to its antioxidants, which stimulate the production of new skin cells.
Health Benefits of Thai Warm Compress Massage
Using warmth and gentle pressure, Thai massage reaches muscles, tendons and connective tissue effectively to release tension and lower stress levels.
Warm compresses can be either used as an alternative to deep tissue massage if some areas are too painful, or alongside different massage techniques to enhance the sense of relaxation.
According to clinical studies, Thai herbal compresses achieve significant results in reducing pain (both muscle pain and osteoarthritis pain). In Thailand herbal compresses are covered by the national health system and offered alongside other medical services. The key health benefits of heated herbal compresses are the delivery of oxygenated blood to tissues and organs, and of aromatic compounds that help de-stress and relax.
In a study on stroke patients, Thai massage with heated herbal compress proved to have a beneficial effect on the patients’ mood, sleep patterns and pain management.
You don’t need to travel to Thailand in the middle of winter to boost your mood; let Thailand come to you. By having Thai massage with hot herbal compress, you can enjoy a mini-holiday without the jet lag.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.