There is a rich history and cultural identity associated with the diverse plant biome in the equatorial region that is Thailand. A mind-boggling and diverse cuisine emphasizes herbs, spices, rhizomes, fruits and vegetables. As with food, herbalism can hold the same overwhelming mystery and magic. While the Thais like it hot, perhaps the Cantonese prefer a more mellow brew. The Chinese are famous for herbal medicine, and if you understand Chinese tea at all, you will know they have a deep understanding and relationship with tea as do the French with wine.
Increasing evidence points to the importance of diet and food ingredients in wellness. Thais have many forms of traditional herbal medicine, or “ya”. Some forms are made by extraction in ethanol – “yadom” is an alcohol extraction and meant to drink. (Yadoms do use certain species of wood in extraction blends – consider how Scotch, Bourbon or wine aged in oak barrels extract essences of the wood). Some medicine is meant to be inhaled like a snuff. Some is ingested. Some is meant to be brewed as a tea, and some is meant to be applied to the skin.
The Traditional Approach
Asia, and in particular Thailand, has no shortage of muscle and joint relief “balms”. Go to a local convenience store in Thailand and find 50 balms before you. All are generally greasy, smell strongly of camphor and menthol and aren’t particularly expensive. Most remind me of my high school athlete days, and the pungent odor will alert all around you of your presence. Rest assured that young Thais and Asians don’t want to smell like an aging NBA player at the office. They steer clear of these traditional formulations. As always, they wait until too late, and use the stuff as a last ditch effort to regain motion.
In the United States, if you spend any amount of time in the “topical pain relief” area of your local store, you will find two common ingredients – camphor and menthol. A third, Capsaicin, or hot pepper, has become more prevalent in some brands you may see. All three of these ingredients are isolated from plant material, purified and later blended into many types of products. The three are often classed as the “active ingredient” for these OTC products. They are called “counter irritants”, which are non-analgesic, non-anesthetic substances used to treat pain. The theory is the “counter irritant” may distract you from your pain and inflammation. When you stand, mystified, in this area, hoping for relief, you will see these ingredients in common. There are other ingredients moving into the fore which likely to provide legitimate inflammatory relief or may reduce swelling. The FDA and the larger pharmaceutical organizations which lobby the government wield power and control in this multi-billion dollar area of medicine. You will find little relief for yourself, but high profit margins for the few that control this shelf space.
On the flip side, you can go to the pain relief supplements area of your drugstore and find turmeric pills; arthritis pills containing MSM, glucosamine and shrimp shells; and countless other supplements which claim to relief pain inflammation, joint swelling, arthritis and more. There is certainly evidence that these materials are efficacious, and there is certainly evidence that they offer nothing more than a placebo effect. Their competition is the NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, diclofenac, naproxen, etc. The latter are clinically trialed drugs, and FDA approved for treatment or relief of symptoms. We all know the latter come with baggage – bleeding of the stomach or intestine, stroke, cardiovascular risks and more. Should pain and inflammation be severe and consistent, we may be tempted to turn to opiates or opioids. We know what can happen should be move down this path.
So, What is the “Modern Approach”?
We don’t need to put herbs in muslin, steam them and rub vigorously into the skin over a two-hour application. There isn’t consistency, it isn’t convenient and who has the time? We really don’t need to smell like a 1970’s or 1980’s athlete when we need relief from a strain, a sprain, muscle tension, or arthritic pain and inflammation. You can buy pills containing turmeric and other herbs, but if the site of the irritation is known to be between your shoulders, your back, your ankle or your wrist, should you be ingesting a pill that is diluted throughout your body? Should you read of chemical ingredients on the label that seem to have no purpose other than as a cash stream for refined crude oil production? NO, we do not need to settle for these types of products. ApplaiTM products are all a natural herbal solution to the above issues.