Thai Medicine for the New Mama: Part 3

Latest posts by Pamela Herrick (see all)

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Postpartum Recovery in a Tea Cup

When my son’s Papa was a young monk in his rural Thai village, he learned

to gather wild and cultivated herbs for his Abbot’s daily tea. Luang

Pau (roughly “Great Father”) taught him the medicinal uses of the local herbs. Each day the Abbot drank one cup of tea which the young monks made from lemongrass, kaffir lime skin and phrai (a Thai ginger). It was his daily health tonic.

After my son was born in Chiang Mai, my Thai family made this same tea for me. For the first ten days at home with our newborn, they kept our little pot replenished with fresh herbs and brought me a cup of tea three times a day. It was astringent, bitter and lemony in a pleasant sort of way. Because it had the sanction of Luang Pau and my husband’s grandmother Khun Yai, a midwife and massage therapist about whom I have written before, I happily submitted.

On the second day, I was sitting in our front room chatting with a Thai massage student about options for study in our little school (newborn in arms), when I realized I was sweating. Now, in hot season in

Thailand, even in the more moderate northern climate of Chiang Mai, you sweat every day. After a few years, you get used to it – even come to like it (miss it, actually).

You are always a little damp, but your skin glows and is beautifully clear. And, you conscientiously hydrate with water and a squirt of fresh lime. (In modestly posh cafes that tourists frequent, a fresh orchid is likely to rest on the rim of your glass. Heaven.)

On that particular day, day two home from the hospital, I noticed tiny beads of sweat on the backs of my fingers. I asked our student if she were unusually hot. Not particularly. It was hot, mind you, but I was a tad more than damp. I have never sweated like that before or since.

I asked my family if it was the tea. Indeed, this concoction is a diaphoretic (it

makes you sweat!) and diuretic. In small doses, as with the Abbott’s one cup per day, it is a natural anti-inflammatory, blood purifier and can control high blood pressure.

At three cups a day, the tea eliminated the fluid of pregnancy, which my body no longer needed. Mind you, I hydrated carefully, ate good food, rested (really rested thanks to my beautiful family), and breast fed my son, all of which helped me recover and thrive as a new mama.

Ten days after my son was born, I and my little Thai family all trundled off to the hospital in a song tau (pick-up truck taxi) for our first check with the obstetrician. I and the little guy were doing great, and I had lost all of my baby weight. When I see photos of myself from that time, it is remarkable how clear and bright my skin and eyes are. Radiant new mama with a generous dose of Thai herbs!

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Here’s Why It Worked

Lemongrass is a diuretic, an anti-inflammatory, and induces perspiration. The ethnic Hill-Tribes who live in the mountainous north of Thailand also use it as a tonic for sore muscles (had those, yup!).

Kaffir lime skin is bitter tasting and used as a blood tonic. After birth, it supports blood building. It is also given to women to promote regular

menstruation, and it is this uterine support that assists the natural process of clearing the uterus after delivery.

Phrai is used by some Hill-Tribes to help new mothers recover after childbirth because it supports uterine function, in the same way as kaffir lime skin. It is also used to treat injury to internal organs and can be used topically as an antiseptic.

Last fall, back here in the Hudson Valley of New York, I cooked up a pot of herbal tea with lemongrass from my garden and the skin of a kaffir lime which I found on a visit to the city (yay!). Sadly, phrai is impossible to come by here, so I did without.

I expected the same result as my postpartum experience, but no. My tea was very bitter without the gingery phrai, and no sweating to speak of. At first, I was puzzled. Without excess fluid in my body to begin with, however I had no need for a big sweat. Hmm… interesting compared to my first experience.

In the next post, a Thai herbal bath for the new mama.

Here are Parts One and Two of this series on Thai Medicine for the New Mama, if you missed them!

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