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What Is Hilot?

By Sonal Panse
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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In the Tagalog language, hilot means a soothing touch or a massage rub. Hilot is a traditional Filipino art of healing that makes use of massage, chiropractic manipulation, and herbal medication to restore mental and physical health. The exact methods of this folk medicine are passed down from generation to generation, and the healers do not usually share these. This traditional medicine form was popular in the Philippines before the advent of modern medicine, and it has seen a resurgence in recent times as people seek non-invasive and safe alternative medicine avenues.

The underlying belief in the hilot practice is that most illnesses and troubles are brought on by an inner imbalance and disharmony. The hilot practitioner uses a touch diagnostic method to identify the root of the problem, and then decides on a suitable treatment to help the patient. The treatment session generally begins with ritual chants that are intended to invoke and acknowledge divine and natural healing powers, and in the course of the treatment, the healer will make use of coconut oil, banana leaf extracts and various other herbal preparations.

The coconut oil is used in the massage to help knead the body and help relax tight muscles and pinched nerves, and revive the internal energy. This type of stress healing is often recommended for overworked people, and it can also be safely used on pregnant women. The massage can be used to ease the rigors of child birth, and in certain cases, when necessary, the masseur may also be employed to bring about abortion.

The hilot practitioners also treat sprained joints and set dislocated bones. It is common, in modern times, to get an X-ray done and then, with the doctor's agreement, have the masseur resolve the problem. This treatment can be rather painful at times and the healer may give the patient herbal brew beforehand to alleviate the pain. Many people are willing to endure the discomfort of the massage as the body appears to heal faster after it, and there are no negative side effects.

The duration of the hilot massage depends on the type of health issue that is being treated, and a specific round of massages may be necessary in some instances. People who have had the massage are generally advised to not bathe for at least a day after it. Apparently, this is to give the skin the chance to properly absorb the coconut oil used in the massage.

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Discussion Comments

By bluespirit — On Sep 28, 2011

Hilot seems like something they should try in the United States. They may already do this at some salons, but if so, I obviously do not know about it. This seems very neat that it is passed down from generation to generation and only hilot practitioners know the ancient secrets and ancient beliefs.

Coconut oil seems like it would be very beneficial in the healing process, along with the other herbal medicines given. It seems kind of odd though that people are given a natural pain reliever before they undergo this massage therapy, because a massage is supposed to be healing all by itself. I do understand that some chiropractic techniques do hurt though, so this does make some sense.

This Filipino healing art seems to fit it's description, except for the abortion part. I don't see anything healing or artistic about abortion. There are so many loving people that want babies, so people should give them up for adoption, not abort their baby.

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