Author: Shachi Suvas Prabhu Mahambre
4th Semester, MSC Life Sciences (Ayurveda Biology)
Thailand, or The Kingdom of Thailand as is its official name, is a big country in the middle of southeast Asia. It is called “the land of smiles”, and really lives up to that expression as the people are extremely friendly and welcoming. Recently in October, I had an opportunity to visit Thailand as a part of our MSc Life Sciences (Ayurveda biology) curriculum.
Boarding on an educational journey like no other as we delve into the captivating world of Thai traditional medicine and explore Thai culture. I was amazed by the rich history, time-honoured practices, and innovative medical advancements. By knowing Thai Traditional Medicine strengths and limitations, the integrative approach is a ray of hope that in India we can bring back the Ayurvedic practice along with allopathy.
We visited ‘Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital’ which comes under the ministry of public health and is an integrated hospital which runs smoothly and has around 30,000 patients in a month. The referral system in this hospital is interesting. Thai traditional healers known as ‘Mo phun bun’ have basic education, they live in monasteries where they learn to read and write. So, it becomes easy to guide people. The herbal medicines in this hospital are procured from farmers who use organic methods to cultivate the plants. This helped the hospital foundation in quality control at the level of harvesting. The same material goes to Laboratory quality control measures to ensure their medicines are effective.
On the second day of our tour, we headed towards Ban-lang-tham village to perceive and understand the medicinal herb cultivation and harvesting process. Antechin, her husband and a few more people welcomed us and offered us tasty butterfly pea flower juice and snacks. This 2-acre farm was owned by Antechin where she grew three different plants that are Cissus quadrangularis, Andrographis peniculata and Orthosiphon aristatus. She shifted to organic farming because she suffered through sickness for a long time due to use of pesticide after which she never turned back. She was trained by Abhaibhubejhr for organic agricultural practices and is certified by the foundation after training. This helps the farmers to know better and helps the hospital in quality control of the drug. Antechin showed the plants that she grows and taught how to propagate them. She assisted me in propagating one plant of Cissus quadrangularis. They harvest the herbs and do primary processing with utmost care to reduce the chances of contamination and for decreasing the wastage of herbs. They wash, chop, weigh, dry and pack in bags and store the herbs. The herbs are taken to the manufacturing unit the next day. They keep the record of every step, which helps for cross checking.
There are 700 such farmer families which are trained and certified to grow medicinal herbs used for preparation of medicines at Abhaibhubejhr hospital. It builds trust among the community as well as they earn a living out of it. The farmers are paid more than the market price. There is no middle man in this process so the whole amount goes to the farmer.
This immersive experience showcased the remarkable dedication of Antechin and the community to cultivate medicinal herbs sustainably. Witnessing the shift to organic farming, guided by Abhaibhubejhr's training, highlighted the commitment to quality and reduced environmental impact. The meticulous care in harvesting, processing, and recording at each step not only ensures high-quality herbs but also strengthens trust within the community. Empowering farmer families, offering fair compensation, and eliminating middlemen emphasize a sustainable, ethical approach benefiting both health and livelihoods. This holistic process intertwines care for the environment, quality healthcare, and community well-being, embodying a model that fosters trust, sustainability, and shared prosperity.