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Thai Inhalers: Boost Your Memory & Recall with “Ya Dom”

The power of menthol to boost memory has been making news this week, with a recent study in mice demonstrating the cognitive benefits of menthol aromas. However, the power of scents to increase memory and cognitive performance has long been known in traditional Thai medicine.

For centuries, Thai folk healers created cognitive boosting aromas by mixing various herbs with essential oils. Written records mention “Ya Dom” (ยาดม), meaning “drug aroma,” as far back as the early 1800s and the era of King Rama II, with the actual practice stretching back long before that period.

In the 20th century, these medicinal scents were packaged into inhalers and sold in stores everywhere in Thailand. The most well-known is perhaps the “ya dom” made by Siang Pure (เซียงเพียว), who has been making popular herbal remedies in Thailand since the 1930s.

Students in Thailand have long known the power of menthol, peppermint, and other scents to boost their memory and awareness. High school and university students don’t only use Thai inhalers to sometimes stay awake in class. Many frequently use them when studying for exams to boost their memory and recall.

Over the years, I have known Thai graduate students who swear by the use of “ya dom” when studying for their English exams, stating that it helps them remember key vocabulary.


Siang Pure Oils Formula I and II
Aromatic inhalers in Thailand range in price from 25 baht to 45 baht for dual purpose oils like the Siang Pure Formula I & II inhalers seen above.

Boost Your Ability to Remember Thai Words

I’ve used aromatic inhalers when studying the Thai language, and can say that it does indeed improve my ability to remember Thai flashcards, especially if I am a little tired when studying or otherwise have trouble focusing.

If you would like to test how “ya dom” helps you recall key vocabulary when studying the Thai language, you’ll find lots of choices at your local 7-11 or mom and pop store in Thailand.

If you suffer from any aches or pains, you can try out Siang Pure’s “ya dom” oils and take care of two problems at once — as these oils are both aromatic inhalants and an amazing Thai cure for arthritis and other aches and pains.

Siang Pure has two formulas (both of which contain menthol and peppermint), with the main difference being that Formula 1 also has eucalyptus and Formula 2 also has cinnamon and clove oil. I suggest experimenting with both, or to look for other Thai inhalers (such as Poy Sian) that have similar aroma combinations.

My personal favorite is Formula 2, which has peppermint, menthol, camphor, cinnamon, and clove. Science also suggests this is a powerful combination, with studies supporting the cognitive benefits of these aromas.

For example, Raudenbush et al. (2009) found that peppermint and cinnamon odors increase alertness, decrease fatigue and frustration, and reduce anxiety.

Meanwhile, the research of Moss et al. (2008) showed that peppermint enhanced memory and increased alertness. And camphor and clove are well known to have a stimulating effect, with camphor being a popular ingredient in the medicines of King Narai of Ayutthaya (1656 – 1688).

Thai inhalers with eucalyptus might add an extra boost too, as researchers have found that eucalyptus aroma has stimulating effects on the central nervous system, which can help improve alertness and cognitive function.

So, why not give it a shot, and see if “ya dom” inhalers boost your memory and improve your Thai language learning. All of these Thai inhalers are very cheap. At the very least, they are very effective at covering up any unpleasant smells you might experience during your travels through Thailand.

David Alan