Ethnic Medicine

The PaO People of Inle Lake

The PaO are an ethnic group living in Southern Shan state, south of Inle Lake. They regularly use plants to cure themselves and in fact, one of our staff (Khin Oo), is from Shan state and has PaO ancestry who confirmed these plants are still used today to cure ailments. In most PaO villages there is no conventional medical help available and plants are known according to different medical purposes. The plant to stop bleeding is the ‘kyauk ma naing’. You pick and crush its leaves before pressing them on to the open wound to help it coagulate. The tea to reduce hypertension is ‘yar gone’. The leaves to apply on a sprained muscle before fixing a bamboo cast on top are ‘kan lane too’.

The pictured packets with vintage designs contain all natural products that have been dried and reduced to powder. This medicine is made according to precepts of traditional PaO preparation. Interestingly at the back of the packet, instructions and ingredients are usually translated in 3 languages: PaO, Shan and Burmese. A few PaO families have developed a deeper understanding and knowledge of powdered plant medicine, creating packets with secret recipes that have been passed down through the generations. Destinaiton Asia can organize a special visit a traditional PaO medicine family workshop on request (as the days of operation are not fixed we need to make special arrangements) where they can learn to make their own medicines under the guidance of a knowledgeable plant-person.

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