Occupying an area approximately 514,000 sq. km., Thailand now inhabits the central large river basin where all its ancient kingdoms were located, the north mountainous areas most of which are still not easily accessible, the northeast plateau (I-san) which could be dated back to the ancient bronze civilization, and the southern which is narrowed by the two coastal lines towards the Malay Peninsular. The society which appears to be homogeneous by all measurements is also regarded as a big melting pot of diversity. Prior to establishment of the first kingdom of Sukhothai on the early of the 13th century, the area was influenced by the Bhramic and Hindu faith which was practiced by the predominating ancient Khmer civilization. Thai has been taken on Buddhism as major practice in daily life since the settlement of Ayudhaya as the second kingdom. Despite the religious freedom, the Buddhist practice has since then contributed greatly to Thai philosophy, life and living attitudes, which in tum permits the existence of other ethnic faiths.
The Indochina Archipelago which the country is located on is the southeastern comer of the Eurasian continent and the southwestern part of the East Asia. Undeniable, it is a land bridge between the two continents, as well as the two oceans. The city of Malacca at the very end of the Malay Peninsula has also been a key port of the maritime traffic connecting the East and the West. Up to the north, there was the Silk Road, a world class inland trail ofancient trade that also linked the East and the West. Omitted the present boundaries, these two routes were complimentary and could get through each other by means of the Mae-Khong River via the northern port of Chiang Saeng, down through the Chaophraya River where all the past capitals were situated, the Gulf of Siam, and all the way to the narrow Strait of Malacca. Consequently, this connection experienced Thai capitals as centers of goods exchange and multicultural societies for centuries.
Being on the belt of tropical rainforest, the Indochina is a fertile territory and home to numerous life forms. Since its land is entirely linked into one, many of the flora and fauna thus are widespread or transferable among the neighboring Southeast Asian countries. The geographical diversity of Thailand also provides different ecological systems contributing to its biodiversity. The wealth of natural resources also flourishes the settlement of Thai, as well as other diverse ethnics, and the development of applications on utilizing these surrounding assets.
For centuries, the country is considered relatively non-violated. Accordingly, its heterogeneous prosperity of all aspects has been integrated into one pot of Thai uniqueness. Their intellectual creativity and traditions are congregated as national heritage. All these features have become a social foundation attributing to the dynamic practice of Thai at present globalization atmosphere.
The Development and Practice of Thai Traditional Medicine
Thai health care system, in terms of traditional medicine and folkloric practice or ethnomedicine, is a reflection of its background. The official mainstream of practice was assumed to employ the system of Ayurvedic, but major differences are noticed by close comparison. Discussed by Chumpon (2002), the fundamental of Thai traditional medicine is likely to stem from the Buddhist concept of life, as it is composed of four basic elements, not five as those of the Ayurvedic and Unani. However, they are similar in the theoretical frame in maintaining the balance of these basic elements with respect to intrinsic and extrinsic dynamic factors, and of disease etiology and treatment.
In brief, Thai traditional medicine is a customized system, based on Buddhist philosophy and selectively merged to other systems of traditional medicine, mainly the Ayurvedic with an addition of the traditional Chinese system, and a blend of westernization as early recorded as the Ayudhaya period of King Narai the Great who actively and successfully involved on international affairs. The wealth of the country indigenous natural resources, climate or environmental factors, and prevalence of aliments have largely added up to develop the uniqueness of Thai traditional system of medicine, as well as to foster the folkloric or household utilization of natural medicines in the rural and remote communities. These two lines of practices had been passed onto the successive generations, however it is unfortunate that many of those valuable records were destroyed in regards to the victory of its neighbor over Ayudhaya in 1767.
After the Ayudhaya, attempts had been made to renovate all aspects of the nation, which include the traditional health care system. As a result, the retrieved knowledge obtained from both the royal and folkloric was inscribed accordingly the royal command onto the wall of the temple of Wat Po and continued to Wat Racha Orot, both of which remained in function as study materials of Thai traditional medicine. Many of the traditional medicine literatures nowadays are derived from these two sites of record. Additionally, Thai medicinal recipes were generally provided as a merit in memory to the provider's late respect or beloved ones. Likewise, the first medical school was founded following the death of an infant son of His Majesty King Rama V, housing the education of both western and Thai traditional medicines. However, the systematic education of traditional medicine declined after it was withdrawn from the medical curriculum. Moreover, the revision ofThai traditional literatures in the following years gave rise to a new edition of the standard volumes of Thai traditional pharmacopoeias, whereas other excluded formularies were left unsupported. A legislation concerning health care practice which was issued in 1923 and categorized or separated the practice into two systems of modern medicine and traditional medicine, further destined the discontinuation of traditional practice which was not included in the system of traditional education. At present, a resurgence of popularity on natural treatment has brought in the systematic and scientific approaches to revitalize the Thai traditional medicine. Included is an establishment of a national committee concerning issues related to the development of natural products as medicines, such as research collaborative circuits, standardization, industrialization, legislation, and management of information system. Education is also available as an applied curriculum, accordingly. However, the practice is still regarded as two separated lines. The first one is a formal Thai traditional medicine whose education is systematic and its practice is recognized as a profession by law. The other is Thai folkloric medicine, the education and practice of which is likely a household self-reliance and is unlawful as an earning profession. Both systems will be mentioned in the following content organized accordingly to the structure of education on the formal traditional medicine.
Annual Report of Institute of Natural Medicine, University of Toyama. Vol. 32, 2005. pp13-15. Varima Wongpanich, ''Thai Traditional Medicine: An Overview and Overtones''.