The Thai Herbal Compress, an Ancient Aromatherapy Technique


Combining the benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy into spa practices has a long tradition, especially in traditional Thai medicine. For example, the Luk Pra Kob or Thai Herbal Compress has been used for 4000 years in Thailand and variations of this practice can be found in other traditional forms of medicine throughout Asia. You may be thinking that the Thai Herbal Compress is a kind of massage with essential oils, but that is far from the case. While it does involve the use of herbs and them soaking into the skin along the lines of energy or sen lines, it is markedly different than getting a Thai massage that uses aroma therapeutic oils. 

Let's discuss the Luk Pra Kob and what it brings to your holistic wellness.

What is in the Thai Herbal Compress?

The Luk Pra Kob translates to "pressing herbal sphere" and is a mixture of specific herbs in a muslin cloth bag, wrapped in a cotton towel. What herbs are in the Thai Herbal compress depends on the goal of the treatment. For example, at Moontree Spa we use a combination of plai, ginger, turmeric, and lemongrass for pain relief as well as calming inflammation. 

After the medicinal herbs have been gathered and wrapped in the bag and towel, it is compressed and steamed to bring out the essential oils of the herbs. Now that the Luk Pra Kob is prepared, the practitioner will apply it to your skin in small circular motions. Where on your body depends on what the goal of the treatment is, as well as if the Thai Herbal Compress is hot or cold. Each way of using the Luk Pra Kob has different benefits. 


What is the Luk Pra Kob Used For?

As mentioned earlier, the Luk Pra Kob can be used to treat a variety of conditions from headaches to muscle tension and inflammation to skin complexion. It all depends on whether the Thai Herbal Compress is hot or cold and what essential oils are used in aromatherapy. Also, the Luk Pra Kob can be used in traditional Thai massage to better help circulation and range of motion throughout the session. Let's go over some of the benefits for a hot and cold Thai Herbal Compress as well as when it's used in a Thai massage.

Hot Luk Pra Kob: this form of a Thai Herbal Compress is more commonly used and is known to have calming effects. Much like using a hot compress, it can help relax muscles, stimulate nerves, improve circulation, and increase blood flow. Think of it a suped-up hot compress as the essential oils soaking into your skin do the heavy lifting in the treatment. 


Cold Luk Pra Kob: the cooler Thai Herbal Compress isn't as common as the hot one as many used the Luk Pra Kob for muscle tension but it has benefits of its own similar to a cold compress. This manner of application is used to help reduce fevers and headaches as well as used to heal bruises and sprains. It should be said that while heat is better at opening pores, your skin will still receive the essential oils from the Thai Herbal Compress because it was still steamed during its construction.

Luk Pra Kob in a Thai Massage: while the Thai Herbal compress is a traditional treatment in and of itself, the hot Luk Pra Kob is also used frequently in Thai massage as a helpful tool. It is sometimes used at the beginning of the session to help relax the muscles more, thereby allowing a better range of motion for the various positions, or at the end to help mend the body after an intense session. The herbs chosen for the Thai Herbal Compress will most likely reflect a need for circulation and muscle tension, even leaving the compress along sen lines and allowing the essential oils more time to soak into the skin.

Ancient Aromatherapy


As mentioned before, the Luk Pra Kob is a 4000-year-old practice that has aided in holistic wellness for all manner of people. It's a staple of traditional Thai medicine and is a must-do when visiting a Thai spa and sauna. Ask to have it involved in your Thai massage or as a follow-up to it, even as a treatment itself. You can see how it will bring a cornucopia of benefits to your overall health, besides leaving you smelling incredible from the essential oils coming from the Luk Pra Kob. 

Essential oils aren't always distilled and bottled, sometimes they're steamed out and soaked into the skin directly. That is the Luk Pra Kob. 

Teerawat Jutamontree

Managing Director of MOONTREE | Elemental Spa

Patong | Phuket, Thailand