“I made some mistakes so you don’t have to…” Natasha de Grunwald from London Institute of Thai Yoga Massage explains.
Balms and liniments are integral to a Thai bodyworkers toolkit for giving a Thai Yoga Massage. Applying them directly to the skin (which is an organ of elimination and absorption) is an easy way to get the medicinal properties of the herbs directly into the body during a Thai Yoga Massage. For example, they are very necessary when treating injuries, drawing toxins and stagnation from the body, for bruises and scar tissue, to release muscular tension and to get deep into the Sen.
But making them takes a lot of patience and is costly.
First you will need to source a decent Asian supermarket and hope they stock everything on your list for the recipe you are making. Most of the formulas use dried herbs apart from the odd one, which uses fresh herbs. Mostly they don’t mix dried and fresh in one formula as they have very different shelf lives.
When you get your herbs home be very clear that this is a slow project that involves a lot of time, effort and love. Clear a day and dedicate it to making your balms and liniments. It’s an enjoyable and rewarding creative process and the benefits (for anyone you use them on) from your labour of love are huge.
Make sure you have all your equipment before you start. This will include glass conserve jars that seal properly so that they don’t let water or condensation in. and you can turn them if you need to. Make sure you have enough of them, and that they are the correct size for the batch you are making.
A deep pestle and mortar. It will need to be deep so that the herbs are more likely to stay within the mortar and not spilling out each time you pound them (this still happens with a deep one, but less so).
If you would prefer to use a coffee grinder, buy one specifically for this use, It isn’t good to use a grinder for your coffee after certain herbs have been ground in it! Get one that has various settings so you can make a fine powder when your recipe stipulates this.
You may also need additional equipment such as a pan, muslin, sieve.
Carrier oils vary; depending on what the balm or liniment is for. It could be raw sesame, safflower, castor or coconut oil. If it’s a balm its generally made with a stabilising plant based wax and it will solidify. A liniment will be made with oil, vinegar or alcohol.
Mistakes are very costly and it can be really upsetting if everything goes pear shaped. You will have put a lot of time, money and healing love into your project. (Believe me you won’t undertake this if you are not dedicated to making something that will be really integral to your healing arts work and providing an outstanding Thai Yoga Massage).
When you are pounding herbs, don’t do what Natasha did!
So, don’t think you will save time and effort by putting a few different herbs in your pestle and mortar at the same time. What happens (and she can tell you this is NOT fun) is that some of them grind down quickly whilst others do not. So you end up getting chunks of some and a fine dusting of others, this isn’t ideal at all when they need to be all approximately the same size. Also, it takes a lot of time to then have to go through the mix and take out the fine herbs to carry on grinding the bigger chunks – VERY time consuming (and not a good use of your efforts).
When heating herbs you must do it SO slowly to prevent them burning, this means standing over them with a watchful eye and stirring, being very present and focused. Your sense of smell will be needed, remain acutely aware of what your eyes and nose are telling you. You do not want to spend hours grinding herbs, heating them, adding them together to make a mistake, then realise your error too late – Natasha has seen how upsetting this is when another of her teacher’s students did this. A huge jar of liniments was ruined and then thrown away.
Natasha hopes these tips are helpful as you progress with your Thai Yoga Massage journey. If you have any questions please do get in touch and Natasha will try to help answer them. Enjoy!