LUK PRA KOB is the Thai name for Hot Herbal Compress, a treatment used in conjunction with Thai Yoga Bodywork or Traditional Thai Massage (Nuad Boran). This treatment has been used in Thailand for over 400 years. The literal translation of Luk Pra Kob is “pressing herbal sphere” or herbal ball, called samunphrai in Thai. This technique is used to stimulate the Chinese Meridians, or sen lines in Traditional Thai Medicine, the same lines used in the treatment of acupuncture.
These herbal compresses are prepared with a variety of dry herbs, typically lemongrass, eucalyptus, ginger root, ginger powder and peppermint. Other fresh herbs, such as galangal or turmeric root, may be added to enhance the therapeutic quality of the compress. In addition, flower tips such as rose tips, lavender tips or chrysanthemum tips may be added to enhance the aromatherapy quality of the compress. And finally, freshly crushed ginger root, kaffir lime and fresh lemongrass may be added to the mixture of dry herbs to give the compress an overall medicinal or healing property, including anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial characteristics.
After the herbs are mixed thoroughly, the compress is prepared by placing the herbal mixture in a muslin cloth bag, and then wrapped in a cotton towel to form of a ball at the base and a handle at the top. The compress is then placed in a standard vegetable steamer to heat the compress thoroughly. From the steamer, the compress is applied to areas of bare skin or through clothing, as well.
The steaming process of the herbal compress releases essential oils that have aromatherapy benefits that improve colds, coughs, allergy issues or respiratory problems, and may also help relax and clear the mind. Additional benefits of the compress may be useful for the treatment of pain, inflammation, skin diseases or improving overall skin complexion, as well as detoxification.
After the compress has been steamed, it may be used for either hot or cold applications. The hot application is most common and adds a calming effect to the Thai Yoga Bodywork session while increasing blood flow, relaxing muscles, stimulating nerves and improving circulation. The cold compress can be used to reduce fevers, minimize headaches, or first aid for bruises and sprains.
Some Thai therapists may use the Luk Pra Kob technique during the Thai Massage session to enhance the range of motion, improve circulation, or reduce muscle tension; sometimes it may be used at the beginning or end of a session for relaxation benefits. The therapist typically will use the compress as a massage tool to tap, knead, twist or press the muscles to improve circulation, minimize painful knots and release blocked energy. Sometimes the therapist will gently place the compress on the client for a couple of minutes so the herbs can work their magic. If used on bare skin, the coarseness of the compress cloth may cause some skin exfoliation from the friction on the damp warm skin. It is recommended that the client not take a shower for at least a couple hours after the session to get the full benefits of the herbal mixture.
Luk Pra Kob is not encouraged for those clients with skin sensitivities to heat or chemicals, recent burns or radiation therapy, recent wounds or scarring, high blood pressure, diabetes or varicose veins. The modality is highly recommended for individuals looking for new longevity techniques, deep relaxation, and for those who enjoy facial treatments and bodywork involving heat. Since the compress is not used again with another client, the compress is given to the client at the end of the session to be taken home and used as an herbal bath infusion.