Exploring UNESCO’s Protected Health Traditions Around the World

By Ivan PetrenkoMay 3, 2024 14:30 PMNews
Woman wearing sun hat and floral top
Woman wearing sun hat and floral top. Source: unsplash

UNESCO is renowned for safeguarding significant historical sites, but its Intangible Cultural Heritage list also celebrates traditional health practices. From Indonesia’s herbal jamu to the serene art of yoga in India, these wellness traditions offer a unique insight into the cultural and historical fabric of their respective regions.

Jamu: Indonesia’s Healing Elixir

In the heart of Indonesia, the tradition of jamu—a medicinal herbal drink—is carved into the ancient reliefs of Borobudur temple. This traditional beverage, made from ingredients like ginger, turmeric, and lime, is believed to balance the body’s temperature and promote healing. Travelers can delve into the world of jamu through workshops at places like AYANA Bali Resort, where they can learn to craft their own remedies from scratch.

Yoga: India’s Spiritual and Physical Practice

Yoga, a 5,000-year-old practice originating from northern India, combines physical postures, meditation, and breath control to achieve mental tranquility and physical fitness. Recognized by UNESCO for its universal appeal across age, gender, and class, yoga invites travelers to experience its benefits in diverse settings across India—from Himalayan retreats to temple floors.

Nuad Thai Massage: Thailand’s Therapeutic Art

In Thailand, the traditional Nuad Thai massage, a 2,500-year-old practice, is seen not just as a therapeutic physical manipulation but as a spiritual healing art. This practice, which involves massaging to clear the body’s energy pathways, is a staple of Thai culture and offers visitors a deep dive into the local wellness practices.

Acupuncture: China’s Ancient Technique

Acupuncture, with its roots in ancient Chinese philosophy, involves the insertion of needles into specific points on the body to balance life forces and treat a variety of ailments. Tourists in China can explore this practice at clinics like Shanghai’s Body & Soul Medical Clinic, experiencing firsthand the healing and restorative powers of this traditional Chinese medicine.

Sauna: Finland’s Steamy Wellness Ritual

In Finland, the sauna is more than a place to relax and detox; it’s a venue for social interaction and a profound part of Finnish culture. With a sauna for nearly every person in the country, visitors can immerse themselves in this Finnish tradition at various locations, including the urban chic Löyly in Helsinki or amidst the natural beauty of Nuuksio National Park.

These health customs not only offer physical and mental benefits but also provide a connection to the cultural heritage of each country, offering travelers a richer, more immersive experience. As UNESCO continues to recognize these practices, it ensures their preservation for future generations, highlighting the importance of wellness traditions in cultural identity.

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