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A Thai Herbal
Traditional Recipes for
Health and Harmony

C . Pierce Salguero

Thai 02-5

7/4/03

3:30 pm

Page 15

Chapter II

The Theory of Royal Thai
Herbalism

THE FOUR BODY ELEMENTS

T

he physical body, in the Thai system, is made up of the same four
elements that permeate the entire universe: Earth, Water, Air, and
Fire. The traditional Thai conception of these elements is roughly
parallel to Ayurvedic cosmology. The Thais do not believe that there is
literally a speck of earth, a drop of water, or a flame of fire in each atom
of the universe; each element refers not to physical substance, but to
the qualities of that substance. Substances that are solid can be said to
have the qualities of the Earth element. Substances that are liquid are of
the Water element. Movement is the quality of the Air element. Heat is
the quality of the Fire element.
According to this conception, the organs of the human body can be
broken down into categories.
THE FOUR BODY ELEMENTS, THEIR QUALITIES,
AND THE ORGANS THEY AFFECT
Element

Quality

Organs

Earth

Solid

Skin, muscle, tendon, bone, viscera, fat,
other solid organs

Water

Liquid

Blood, eyes, phlegm, saliva, lymph, urine,
semen, other liquids in the body

Air

Movement

Respiration, digestion, excretion, motion of
the limbs and joints, sexuality, aging

Fire

Heat

Body temperature, circulatory system,
metabolism

Thai 02-5

7/4/03

3:30 pm

Page 16

16 A THAI HERBAL
The constant interaction of the four elements gives rise to the
processes of the human body and is the impetus behind physical life. It
is of vital importance, therefore, to keep the four elements balanced
throughout life. The elements can become unbalanced due to a variety
of reasons. Environmental factors can affect the body, as for instance,
when hot weather causes excess of the Fire element or rainy weather
causes excess...

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