What is a ya dom? And why are they popular even among non-Thais?
Thailand is a tropical country, so it’s especially hot. When you’re in a crowded place, somewhere with poor air circulation, or somewhere hot, you feel unwell, and it’s incredibly common for people to feel dizzy or faint. It’s at times like this that Thai people use an inhaler. They’re easy to use, whenever and wherever you want, and they give you peace of mind.
These inhalers are a common home remedy. According to a report from the Ministry of Public Health, they are classified as a type of traditional medicine. Fewer people are studying traditional medicine nowadays, but these remedies contain Thai herbs, so using inhalers is as popular as ever. The most common herbs in inhalers are Borneo camphor, menthol (like peppermint), and common camphor. The different herbal ingredients have different effects. Inhalers are especially effective for dizziness, anemia, colds, blocked nose, and so on. When you first use an inhaler, you might be a little surprised by its effectiveness for things like that. They have a strong smell of mint, so they feel soothing.
In terms of the history of Asia, it was about 6,000 years ago that people discovered herbs and spices in China. Around the same time, people started using herbs in Egypt, and they treated people using herbal aromas. And then that developed into things like inhalers. Later on, long ago in the central part of Thailand, they used pomelo (a Thai fruit) skin and herbs for the first inhalers, to clear away unpleasant feelings and to make you feel better. They kept on changing the types of herbs, and the amounts. That’s why nowadays the inhalers have different smells to the olden days. There are ones with a faint smell and ones with a strong smell, and they say that no matter which of those smells, the effect is the same. Inhalers are available at chemists, convenience stores, shops, and so on. In Thai, everyone will understand you straight away if you just say “ya dom.” As for the meaning of “ya dom,” the “ya” means “medicine” and the “dom” means “smell” or “sniff.”
To Thai people, an inhaler is an indispensable item of everyday life. The English term for them is “must-have item.” Inhalers come in all sorts of different types, packaging, and sizes, but the most popular are the stick inhalers. The large size contains aromas that are gentle on your nose. Sniffing either one of these makes you feel refreshed and recharges your energy level quite a bit, so it is recommended to use them when you have a cold or blocked nose, or you’re tired, or you feel like you’re getting dizzy. They’re very easy to use, you just take the lid off the inhaler, hold it 10 to 15 centimeters away from your nose and sniff to get the full effect. But apart from just sniffing, there are other ways to use them. If you haven’t used a ya dom before, you might not know that you can separate them into 2 parts. Ya doms actually have 2 parts. The upper part is for sniffing, and the bottom part is for applying to your skin if you’ve been bitten by an insect and can be refilled when the scent fades. And some people use it to relax by applying it to their temples and massaging it in a circular motion. Something else Thai people always do is apply some ya dom below their eyes when they feel sleepy!!! I often do that, but there is the risk of getting it in your eyes, so you have to be very careful.
But foreigners who don’t know about inhalers probably wonder why Thai people put inhalers into their noses. They probably think that’s odd. Yep, I do too!! And so popular Japanese TV programs come to Thailand and have some fun doing stories about these amazing things. Since those stories have been shown on TV, Thai inhalers have become more widely known. Visitors to Thailand from Japan, China, and other countries always buy a lot of souvenirs. And a popular item they must buy is inhalers, right!