Many herbs and spices used in Thai cuisine have beneficial medicinal properties.

*Mace:Thai name is Dok-Chan   *Mace:Thai name is Dok Chan
The nutmeg tree, Myristica fragrans, is special in that it produces two seperate spices, nutmeg and Mace. Mace is the ground outer covering (aril) of the nutmeg seed. A piece of unground Mace is called a blade. The orange outer covering of Nutmeg. Mace is used in making Masaman curry paste. The plant is native to Indonesia.

Asiatic Pennywort : Thai name is Bai Bua Bok  

Asiatic Pennywort : Thai name is Bai Bua Bok
It is a small, annual, slender, creeping herb. It has long-stalked, green reniform leaves with rounded apices that have smooth texture with palmately netted veins. The stems are creeping in nature, green to reddish green in color, interconnecting one plant to another. The flowers are pinkish to red in color, born in small, rounded bunches near the surface of the soil. Each flower is partly enclosed in 2 green bracts. The hermaphrodite flowers are minute in size (less than 3 mm), with 5-6 corolla lobes per flower. Each flower bears 5 stamens and 2 styles. Pennywort's rootstock consists of rhizomes, growing vertically down. They are creamish in color and covered with root hairs. Fruits are small and flattened.

Medicinal Uses : It has been used for wound healing, better circulation, memory enhancement, cancer, vitality, general tonic, respiratory ailments, detoxifying the body, treatment of skin disorders (such as psoriasis and eczema), revitalizing connective tissue, burns and scars treatment, clearing up skin infections, slimming and edema, arthritis, rheumatism, treatment of liver and kidneys, periodontal disease, strengthening of veins (varicose veins), blood purifier, high blood pressure, sedative, anti-stress, anti-anxiety, an aphrodisiac, immune booster, anabolic and adaptogen etc.

Bael fruit: Thai Name is Ma-tuum  

Bael fruit : Thai Name is Ma-tuum
The bael fruit tree is slow-growing, of medium size, up to 40 or 50 ft (12-15 m) tall with short trunk, thick, soft, flaking bark, and spreading, sometimes spiny branches, the lower ones drooping. It is sweet at first taste and then irritating to the throat. The deciduous, alternate leaves, borne singly, are composed of 3 to 5 oval, pointed, shallowly toothed leaflets, and the terminal one with a long petiole. New foliage is glossy and pinkish-maroon. Mature leaves emit a disagreeable odor when bruised. Fragrant flowers, in clusters of 4 to 7 along the young branchlets, have 4 recurved, fleshy petals, green outside, yellowish inside, and 50 or more greenish-yellow stamens. The fruit, round, pyriform, oval, or oblong, may have a thin, hard, woody shell or a more or less soft rind, gray-green until the fruit is fully ripe, when it turns yellowish. It is dotted with aromatic, minute oil glands. Inside, there is a hard central core and 8 to 20 faintly defined triangular segments, with thin, dark-orange walls, filled with aromatic, pale-orange, pasty, sweet, resinous, more or less astringent, pulp. Embedded in the pulp are 10 to 15 seeds, flattened-oblong, about 3/8 in (1 cm) long, bearing woolly hairs and each enclosed in a sac of adhesive, transparent mucilage that solidifies on drying.

Medicinal Uses : The fresh ripe pulp of the higher quality cultivars, and the "sherbet" made from it, are taken for their mild laxative, tonic and digestive effects. A decoction of the unripe fruit, with fennel and ginger, is prescribed in cases of hemorrhoids. It has been surmised that the psoralen in the pulp increases tolerance of sunlight and aids in the maintaining of normal skin color. It is employed in the treatment of leucoderma. Marmelosin derived from the pulp is given as a laxative and diuretic.
Cautious Uses : In large doses, it lowers the rate of respiration, depresses heart action and causes sleepiness.

Bay Leaf: Thai name is Bai Ka Wan  
Bay Leaf : Thai name is Bai Ka Wan
Bay leaves are the dried whole leaves of the bay laurel tree, used to add a pungent, spicy flavor to savory dishes. Discard the leaves before serving. Store bay leaves in an airtight container in a cool, dark place and use within 1 year. Although the Thai bay leaf is not the same as the Western bay, both plants belong to the family Lauraceae and have a similar flavour. Thai bay leaves are used in Mussaman curry and soups.

Cardamom: Thai name is Look-Kra- Vaan  
Cardamom : Thai name is Look Kra Wan
Cardamom is the ground seed of a tropical fruit in the ginger family known as Elettaria cardamomum. The seeds are found in ovalshaped fruit pods that are between 1/4 and 1inch long. An aromatic spice of Indian origin, available as whole seeds, whole pods, or ground. It has a trong, fresh flavor and is an important ingredient of Musaman curry, a Thai dish with a Persian influence.

Phrik Khi Nu
Phrik Chi Fa
Chili : Thai name is Phrik
Chili is an erect, branched, shrub-like herb with fruits used as garnishing and flavoring in Thai dishes. There are many different species. The smallest of the chilies, of which the kind called Phrik Khi Nu suan or bird chili is the hottest.

Phrik Chi Fa are finger size, growing 9-12 centimeters in length, and ether yellow, red or green. Not as hot as the bird chili. There is no discernable difference between the colors. Chilies are available fresh and dried, as flakes and powder.

All chili contain capsaicin, a biologically active ingredient beneficial to the respiratory system, blood pressure and heart. Other therapeutic uses include being a stomachic, carminative and ant flatulence agent, and digest ant.

Chinese Anis: Thai name is Poy Kak  
Chinese Anis : Thai name is Poy Kak
The tan-colored pods with eight points, like stars, come from trees in the Magnolia family. Used in Thailand primarily in dishes of Chinese origin, star anise is unrelated to anise, but imparts a similar licorice flavor to dishes. Commonly found in Five-Spice Powder, it is more often added whole to curries and soups.
Chinese aster or Chrysanthenum morifolium: Thai name is Kek Huai  

Chinese aster or Chrysanthenum morifolium : Thai name is Kek Huai
It is a sprawling, hardy perennial that reaches 3 feet in height when in bloom. The yellow flowers are rather sparse and the leaves are elongated, oval and toothed.

Medicinal Uses : Lower blood pressure, improved sight and help quench thirst. Also uses for reduce the firming of gallstones.

Cinnamon: Thai name is Ob- Choei
Cinnamon : Thai name is Ob Choei
Cinnamon is the dried bark of various laurel trees in the cinnamomun family. One of the more common trees from which Cinnamon is derived is the cassia. Ground cinnamon is perhaps the most common baking spice. Cinnamon sticks are made from long pieces of bark that are rolled, pressed, and dried. Form the bark of a tree, the type of cinnamon used in Thailand is of only one kind, that from the Cassia tree. Cinnamon has a sweet, woody fragrance in both ground and stick forms. It is used in meat dishes and particularly in massaman curry a garnish.

Citron: Thai name is Som-Sa  
Citron : Thai name is Som Sa
Citron (Citrus medica var limetta) is a round dark green fruit. Its thick, very aromatic skin is much used for flavoring. Sour orange juice and orange peel would make the best substitute.

Cloves: Thai name is Kan-Phlu  
Cloves : Thai name is Kan Phlu
Cloves are the rich, brown, dried, unopened flower buds of Syzygium aromaticum, an evergreen tree in the myrtle family. The name comes from the French "clou" meaning nail. Cloves (Eugenia aromatica) are native to the Molucca Islands, now a part of Indonesia. Cloves have been used for thousands of years. One of the earliest references to them says that the Chinese, in order to approach the emperor, had to have a few Cloves in their mouths to sweeten the breath. They are almost as expensive as saffron because crops often fail, they are much used in Western cooking and the oil is antiseptic. Cloves are used in massaman curry and to chew as a relief for toothache.

Coriander seed: Thai name is Med Pak Chee  
Coriander seed : Thai name is Med Pak Chee
Coriander is the seed of Coriandrum sativum, a plant in the parsley family. The seed is globular and almost round, brown to yellow red, and 1/5 inch in diameter with alternating straight and wavy ridges. Coriander seed, with its clean, lemony flavour, is the major component of almost every 'curry powder' or spice mixture used in Thailand, as well as other curries. The flavour of freshly ground coriander is a world apart from that of ground coriander which has lost its fragrance.

Coriander: Thai name is Phak-Chee  
Coriander/ Cilantro/ Mexican Parsley : Thai name is Phak Chee
Cilantro is the leaf of the young coriander plant, Coriandrum sativum, an herb in the parsley family, similar to anise. Coriander is the most common herb used in Thai cooking. The whole plant is used--the root, stem and leaves. The leaves are often chosen for decoration. The seeds are roasted and then ground in a spice mill and used in curry pastes. The leaves are used for their fresh, peppery flavor, and as a garnish. For storage, wash and dry the fresh herbs before placing them in plastic bags in the refrigerator-they will keep for 5-6 days. Dried coriander is not a suitable substitute.

Cumin: Thai name is Yi-Ra  

Cumin : Thai name is Yi Ra
Cumin (pronounced "comein") is the pale green seed of Cuminum cyminum, a small herb in the parsley family. Cumin seeds look like caraway and fennel, but taste quite different and have to be heated to release their aroma. The cumin seed is roasted and then ground in a spice mill before using in curry pastes. Each seed contains a 2-4% volatile oil with a pungent odor, and which is used as a flavoring and condiment.

Cumin's therapeutic properties manifest as a stomachic, bitter tonic, carminative, stimulant and astringent.

Galanga: Thai name is Kha  

Galanga : Thai name is Kha
Related to giner and looks quite similar, but is pinkish and has a distinct peppery flavor. Greater Galanga is an erect annual plant with aromatic rhizomes, and commonly used in Thai cookery as a flavoring. It can be eaten either raw or cooked. It is used in curry pastes, stir-fries and soups, and available fresh and dried.

The approximately 0.04 volatile oil content has therapeutic uses as carminative, stomachic, antirheumatic and antimicrobial agents.

Garlic: Thai name is Kra-Thiam  

Garlic : Thai name is Kra Thiam
An indispensable ingredient in Thai cuisine, Garlic is an annual herbaceous plant with underground bulbs comprising several cloves. It is available in different varieties, some with very white papery skin, some with pink, some with pink and white skin and some creamy in color. Dried mature bulbs are used as a flavoring and condiment in Thai cuisine. To make garlic oil, chop a handful of garlic, and fry it in plenty of hot oil until golden. The oil and the fried garlic can be stored in a jar for garnishing soup and for tossing with noodles and rice. The bulbs contain a 0.1-0.36% garlic oil and organic sulfur compounds.

Therapeutic uses are as an antimicrobial, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, antiflatulence and cholesterol lowering agents.

Ginger : Thai name is Khing  

Ginger : Thai name is Khing
The name Ginger comes from the Sanskrit word "sinabera" meaning "shaped like a horn" because of its resemblance to an antler. Ginger has over 400 members included in its family. Ginger is an erect plant with thickened, fleshy and aromatic rhizomes. Ginger is used in different forms as a food, flavoring and spice. Ginger has a slightly biting and hot note. Its aroma is rich, sweet, warm, and woody. Always choose young fresh, firm, unwrinkled ginger rhizomes and store them in a plastic bag so they don't dry out. It is eaten raw or cooked and is used widely in many Asian cuisines. Young ginger is good too as a marinated for chicken or beef. Ginger's rhizomes contain a 1-2% volatile oil.

Ginger's therapeutic uses are as a carminative, antinauseant and antiflatulence agent.

Hoary Basil: Thai name is Maeng-Lak  

Hoary Basil : Thai name is Bai Maeng Lak
Hoary Basil is an annual herbaceous plant with slightly hairy and pale green leaves. It can be eaten either raw or cooked, and used as a flavoring. It is sometimes called lemon-scented basil but definitely has a peppery taste when chewed. Maeng-lak contains approximately 0.7% volatile oil.

Therapeutic benefits include the alleviation of cough symptoms, and as diaphoretic and carminative agents.

Holy Basil: Thai name is Bai Ka Phrao  
Holy Basil : Thai name is Bai Ka Phrao
This variety tastes rather like cloves, and is just as pungent, which explains its alternative name; hot basil. The leaves release their full flavour only when cooked. Use holy basil as fresh as possible, in fish dishes, and beef and chicken curries. In Thailand it is also sometimes sauteed with frogs' legs.

Kafffir: Thai name is Ma-Krut  

Kaffir : Thai name is Ma Krut
The leaves, peel and juice of the Kaffir Lime are used as a flavoring in Thai cuisine. Imparting a unique flavor, they can be finely shredded and added to salads, or torn and added to soups and curries. Can be substituted with other lemon-flavored herbs, but the best option is to freeze the leaves when you can find them, as they retain all their flavor and texture on thawing. The leaves and peel contain a volatile oil.

The major therapeutic benefit of the juice is as an appetizer.

Kaffir Lime Leaf: Thai name is Bai-Ma-Krut  
Kaffir Lime Leaf : Thai name is Bai Ma Krut
From the kaffir lime, which has virtually no juice these fleshy green and glossy leaves resemble a figure eight. Imparting a unique flavour, they can be finely shredded and added to salads, or torn and added to soups and curries. Can be substituted with other lemon-flavoured herbs, but the best option is to freeze the leaves when you can find them, as they retain all their flavour and texture on thawing

Krachai (No Common English Name)  

Krachai (No Common English Name)
This erect annual plant with aromatic rhizomes and yellow-brown roots, is used as a flavoring. The rhizomes contain approximately 0.8% volatile oil.

Krachai’s therapeutic uses of rhizome are to treat oral cavity diseases such as aphthous ulcer and dry mouth, diuretic, and to treat stomach pain and leukorrhea, antidysenteric

Lemon Grass: Thai name is Ta-Khrai  

Lemon Grass : Thai name is Ta Khrai
An aromatic herb that is used in curry pastes, stir-fries and soups. The base of 10-12 centimeters length of the plant is used with the green leafy part discarded. For pastes and salads, use the tender, white portion just above the root. Young tender lemongrass stalks can be finely chopped and eaten, but older stalks should be cut into 3-5 centimeter lengths and bruised before being added only as a flavoring agent. It is indispensable for tom yam. Lemongrass contains a 0.2-0.4 volatile oil.

Therapeutic properties are as a diurectic, emmanagogue, antiflatulence, antiflu and antimicrobial agent.

Lime: Thai name is Ma-Nao  

Lime : Thai name is Ma Nao
The whole fruit is used. It is an excellent source of vitamin C and is used to enhance the flavor of chili-hot condiments, as well as create some very special salads and desserts, and adorn most dishes as a condiment. Lime is used principally as a garnish for fish and meat dishes.

The fruit contains Hesperidin and Naringin , scientifically proven antiinflammatory flavonoids. Lime juice is used as an appetizer, and has antitussive, antiflu, stomachic and antiscorbutic properties.

Marsh Mint: Thai name is Sa-Ra-Nae  

Marsh Mint : Thai name is Sa Ra Nae
The fresh leaves of this herbaceous plant are used as a flavouring and eaten raw in Thai cuisine.

Volatile oil contents give the plant several therapeutic uses, including carminative, mild antiseptic, local anaesthetic, diaphoretic and digestant properties.

Nutmeg: Thai name is Look-Chan

Nutmeg : Thai name is Look Chan
The nut is enclosed in a very hard brown shell. It is used in the making of massaman curry paste.

Garlic Chives: Thai name is Hom-Yai  
Onions : Thai name is Hom Yai or Hua Hom
Onions are not so popular as shallots in Thai cooking and those that are on sale tend to be fairly small. Yellow in colour, they are quite pungent, with a sweet, peppery flavour. Many Thai dishes are garnished with crisp-fried onion flakes. You can buy these ready-fried onions in tubs from Thai grocery stores.

Pandan Leaf: Thai name is Bai-Toei  

Pandan Leaf : Thai name is Bai Toey Hom
Long narrow green leaves of a herbaceous plant used for flavoring and color. There is no substitute of the flavoring and color. There is no substitute for the flavor but green coloring may be used as a substitute for the color.

Medicinal Uses: Maintains the heart and liver in good condition, relieves fever and soothes sore throat.

Pepper: Thai name is Phrik Thai

Pepper : Thai name is Phrik Thai
Pepper is the dried berry of Piper nigrum. This vine which can grow up to ten feet tall is indigenous to India and Asia. Pepper is actually berries that are picked about nine months after flowering. Black, white and green peppercorn types. Black Pepper has a sharp, pungent aroma and flavor. White Pepper is hotter, less subtle and mildly fermented. Green Peppercorn is milder in flavor and has a fresh taste. Green Peppercorn are available al year round but are best towards the end of the rainy season. Used as a spice and condiment, pepper contains a 2-4% volatile oil.

Therapeutic uses are as carminative, antipyretic, diaphoretic and diuretic agents.

Sacred Basil: Thai name is Ka-Phrao  

Sacred Basil : Thai name is Ka Phrao
Kaphrao is an annual herbaceous plant that resembles Sweet Basil but has narrower and often times reddish-purple leaves. It doesn't store well, so buy just before you intend to use it.

The fresh leaves, which are used as a flavoring, contain approximately 0.5% volatile oil, which exhibits antimicrobial activity, specifically as a carminative, diaphoretic, expectorant and stomachic.

Saw Leaf Herb: Thai name is Pak Chee Fa Rang  
Saw Leaf Herb : Thai name is Pak Chee Fa Rang
Also known as the sawtooth herb, this takes its name from the appearance of the leaves, which are long, slender and serrated. The herb has a similar but rather more pungent flavour than the coriander leaf. Saw leaf herb is used as a flavouring for meat dishes.

Sesame: Thai name is Nga  

Sesame Seed : Thai name is Nga
Sesame Seed is the seed of an annual herb, Sesamum indicum, which grows well in hot climates. Sesame Seed is the most commonly produced seed. The yellowish, red, or black seeds are used in bread products, stir-fries, Jewish and Chinese confectionaries, and Middle Eastern dishes. In Thai cooking, sesame seeds are used for oil and for flavouring. These tiny seeds are rich in protein.

Shallot: Thai name is Hom-Daeng  

Shallot : Thai name is Hom Daeng
Shallots, or small red onions, are annual herbaceous plants. Underground bulbs comprise garlic-like cloves. These small, zesty, Thai red onions are sweet and aromatic. An essential ingredient in many Thai dishes because of their taste and appearance, they can be substituted with European shallots, small red onions or small brown onions. Shallot bulbs contain a volatile oil, and are used as flavoring or seasoning agents.

Therapeutic properties include the alleviation of discomfort stomach, and as an antihelmintic, antidiarrhoeal, expectorant, antitussive, diuretic and antiflu agents.

Malvaceae: Thai name is Kra-Jeab  

Sorrel : Thai name is Kra Jeab
It is also called Roselle. Sorrel possesses twice the amount of Vitamin C than an orange. Food value, nutritionists have found sorrel calyces to be high in calcium, niacin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorous, thiamine, amino acids, citric ascorbic acid, citric acid, d-malic acid, tartaric acid and hibiscic acid.

Medicinal Uses : In Thai traditional medicine, roselle is used for the treatment of various diseases and disorders including hypertension, hyperlipidemea, bladder stone and gastric ulceration (Bunyapraphatsara, 1987). It was demonstrated that roselle could be used as an antispasmodic drink and antihypertensive as well as anthelmintic in taeniasis and anti-bacterial agent (Sharaf, 1962). An aqueous extract of roselle was reported to be an effective diuretic in patients with urologic disorders (Muangmun, 1982).

Sweet Basil: Thai name is Ho-Ra-Pha  

Sweet Basil : Thai name is Ho Ra Pha
Horapha is an annual herbaceous plant. Fresh leaves are narrower and often tinged with reddish purple. In Thailand fresh Horapha leaves are either eaten raw or used as a flavoring, and used in most of Thai curries. It releases its aroma and flavor only when cooked and is used with fish, beef, chicken and pork. Volatile oil content varies according to different varieties.

Therapeutic properties are as carminative, diaphoretic, expectorant, digestant and stomachic agents.

Tamarind: Thai name is Ma-Kham-Peak  
Tamarind : Thai name is Mam Kham Peak
Tamarind is the fruit of a tall shad tree native to Asia and northern Africa and widely grown in India. The large pods contain small seeds and a sour-sweet pulp, that when dried, becomes extremey sour. Tamarind pulp concentrate is popular as a flavoring agent in East Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, much like lemon juice is in Western culture. It seasons full-flavored foods such as chutneys, curry dishes, and pickled fish. It is an important ingredient in Thai cooking, and is available as a bottled puree, crystals or a pulpy solid that has to be soaked, kneaded and seeded.

Turmeric: Thai name is Kha-Min  

Turmeric : Thai name is Kha Min
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family. These small, bright orange roots are used for the coloring in yellow curries. White turmeric, a different type, is used as a raw vegetable. It taste only slightly peppery and has a pleasant tang. Always choose young fresh, firm, unwrinkled rhizomes and store them in a plastic bag so they don't dry out. It is also available in powdered form. The rhizomes contain a 3-4% volatile oil with unique aromatic characteristics.

Turmeric's therapeutic properties manifest as a carminative, antiflatulence and stomachic.

Technical Terms

Anthelmintic: An agent destructive to gastro-intestinal tract parasites
Antidiarrhoeal: An agent effective in combatting diarrhoea
Antidysentry: Preventing, alleviating or curing dysentry
Atiflatulence: Relieving or preventing excessive amounts of gas or air in the stomach or intestine
Antiemetic (Antinauseant): An agent preventing or alleviating nausea or vomitting
Antiinflammatory: Counteracting or suppressing inflammation
Antipyretic : Relieving or reducing fever
Antitussive : Relieving or preventing coughing
Antispasmodic: Relieving muscular spasms
Antistringent : Causing usually local contractions after topical application
Antiscorbutic: Effective in the relief or prevention of scurvy
Carminative : Relieving flatulence
Digestant : Assisting or stimulating digestion
Diaphoretic: Pertaining to, characterised by, or promoting perspiration
Diuretic : Increasing the secretion of urine
Expectorant : Promoting the ejection, by spitting, of mucus or other fluids from the lungs and trachea
Emmenagogue : An agent or measure inducing menstruation
Stomachic : A medicine promoting functional activities of the stomach

Details supplied by the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (TISTR)