Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital, in the eastern province of Prachin Buri, is famous for herbal products and traditional Thai medicine. It also comprises a splendid traditional Thai medicine museum, which welcomes many visitors each day for Thai herbal wisdom and traditional healing. Traditional Thai medicine at this hospital is cited as an example of Thailand’s creative economy and culture.
Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Building, which is now a museum of traditional medicine, is a major place of interest in Prachin Buri and was registered as an historical structure by the Fine Arts Depart- ment. The mansion, designed in a Western style, is now 100 years old. It was constructed in 1909 with the personal funds of Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr, the then governor of Prachin Buri, as a residence of King Rama V during his visit to this province. But King Rama V passed away in the following year and never stayed in this building. King Rama VI stayed there during his visit in 1912.
Health tours at Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital have become popular in response to the province’s vision of promoting Prachin Buri as a medical hub of Thailand. A number of herbal products, foods, drinks, and cosmetics make a name for this hospital, which markets them under the Abhaibhubejhr brand name.
The hospital promotes good agricultural practice through contract farming, teaching locals how to cultivate and harvest their herbal gardens to specific requirements. It has developed medicinal plants for healing and treatment since 1983 and promotes the use of herbs for self-reliance in various local communities; it has learned much from the wealth of local wisdom concerning the development of indigenous medicine. The quality of Abhaibhubejhr herbal products has steadily risen to international standards and they are now earning recognition from the international community. The hospital also offers courses for traditional Thai massage and health tours to observe herbal farming and production of medicines.
One of the groups engaged in contract farming with the hospital is the Organic Agriculture Group at Ban Dong Bang, or Dong Bang village, about 16 kilometers from the hospital. There are 200 families in this village, which covers 77 rai of land, or about 30 acres. Out of these families, 11 are involved in growing medicinal herbs and selling them to the hospital, while the rest are involved in growing flowering and decorative plants.
Medicinal herbs are sold to the hospital in the form of dried materials, which will be made into products by the hospital. Each family engaged in growing herbs at Ban Dong Bang earns about 30,000 baht a month on average. The most popular herbs here include Kariyat (Fa Thalai Chon), an excellent treatment to reduce fever and relieve indigestion, and Angel Grass (Beijing Grass, Rolla Rao et Kammathy), proven to successfully treat malign and benign tumors and chronic bronchitis.
Rich in natural resources, Thailand is the home of various species of flora, and the use of traditional herbal medicine has been a part of Thai life since ancient times. The Ministry of Public Health has a policy to promote the use of Thai herbs for treatments in a number of hospitals.
The Ministry has stipulated that medicinal plants be used in more than 5 percent of medicine in general and regional hospitals, while the application of herbs in community hospitals should represent 10 percent. The objective is to reduce heavy dependence on Western medicine, which is very costly.
Herbal drugs can have from two to as many as 40 different ingredients, which are also classified by species and medicinal attributes. Thai cuisine, while famous for its flavors, is also known for its healing properties. In addition to treating various symptoms and ailments, many Thai medicinal herbs are used to spice up various dishes. With the promotion of the use of herbs, local people have also earned more in- come from herbal farming.