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The Art Of Hilot: All You Need To Know

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Nov 24, 2022

The Art Of Hilot: All You Need To Know

Most Filipinos are familiar with the term “hilot.” It is a type of massage therapy that is rooted in ancient Filipino practice. Learn more about the benefits of hilot, and why it is believed to be an all-around remedy for different medical conditions.

What is hilot?

The word Filipino word “hilot” refers to a type of alternative medical technique that involves acupressure and herbal medication. Hilot is performed by a “manghihilot” or a hilot practitioner. At a glance, a traditional hilot may appear like a typical massage you would get from a massage therapist.

However, there are a few key differences between hilot and massage. During hilot, the hilot practitioner may touch certain parts of your body in order to gauge your body temperature and feel for any congestion in your muscles. Hilot practitioners will also attempt to detect any “imbalances” that they can feel within your body. 

Hilot massage therapy may also entail a little pain and discomfort. In fact, you may feel a bit unwell after a hilot session as this period is believed to be when the body purges itself of any imbalances that may have surfaced through the therapy. 

How is Hilot Done? 

Coconut oil is also widely used by hilot practitioners because of its abundance in the rural areas of the Philippines. It is cheap, accessible, and aids the hilot practitioner in kneading the different parts of the body. Coconut oil also helps the practitioner detect the body’s temperature, which can be an indication of any underlying conditions. In addition, coconut oil can also help moisturize the skin. 

Hilot practitioners may even recommend eating certain plants, or drinking concoctions from a mixture of plant extracts. Below are just some of the natural remedies that may be recommended by a hilot practitioner:

  • Lemongrass and bamboo roots: Helps eliminate toxins from the body.
  • Guava leaves: Antibacterial agent for infections.
  • Boiled sweet potatoes: Helps cleanse the digestive system.

Benefits of Hilot

Hilot can be referred to as a hilot wellness massage because of how it is used as an all-around treatment for different medical conditions. The hilot is believed to have the following benefits:

  • Relieves muscle pain
  • Relieves pinched nerves
  • Aids in giving birth, and helps a mother recover after labor

If you are in an area where hilot wellness services and products are not as accessible, but still want to be able to experience hilot, then you may be interested in getting a massage instead. Although some features of hilot may not be applicable during a massage, it is the closest thing you can get to the real deal. 

How is Massage Similar to Hilot?

Massage refers to a variety of techniques that involves the pressing or kneading of muscles, tendons, or ligaments. Just like the traditional hilot, massages involve the manipulation of the skin. However, massages are not meant to be treatments for medical conditions. Although massages can have many potential benefits on your health, it is only recommended as a complement to medication or treatment.

During a massage, a “relaxation response” is triggered. Once the body reaches this state, stress and anxiety levels decrease, while your heart rate and breathing slow down. Due to the kneading and stroking involved in most massage techniques, circulation in the blood and lymphatic fluid also increases.

Why Should You Get a Massage?

Massages do not differ much from the traditional hilot, and may even be more comfortable on your end. Whereas hilot sessions might involve pain, massage therapists take extra precaution to avoid causing discomfort that may do more harm than good.

One of the primary benefits of getting a massage is that it relaxes muscle tissue, which can effectively alleviate soreness or tightness in specific areas of the body like the shoulders, lower back, or legs. 

Massages can also have positive effects on your sleep. If you are someone who suffers from insomnia or sleep disturbances, then massages may do the trick for you. Because of their relaxing effects, massages may help you wind down from a hectic day. A massage will be able to help you fall asleep faster. Massages might even alleviate body pain that is getting in the way of a good night’s rest.

Common Types of Massages

There are different types of massages that make use of various techniques. Some common types of massages are the following:

  1. Swedish Massage: This massage is best suited for first-timers. A Swedish massage involves long and gentle strokes without too much pressure. This is the type of massage you should opt for if you want to relax and unwind.
  2. Sports Massage: A sports massage can make use of massage techniques that can help alleviate or prevent any muscle strain from rigorous physical activities. This is most commonly performed on athletes.
  3. Trigger Point Massage: Trigger point massages involve applying pressure to “trigger points” or tight spots where muscles become overworked due to repetitive movement. You can actually perform trigger point massages on yourself if you are feeling particularly sore or tight in some places.
  4. Deep Tissue Massage: Deep tissue massages are for pulled muscles or other similar injuries that may require more pressure. 

Risks of  Massage

Massages are typically safe for anyone if done by a licensed massage therapist. In rare cases, massages may put you at risk of:

  • Nerve injuries
  • Blood clots
  • Bone fractures
  • Further damage to muscles
  • To prevent injuries during a massage, make sure to make an appointment with a licensed massage therapist from reputable establishments. It is also best to assess the room or area where you will be getting a massage to ensure that you are comfortable and safe. 

    Key Takeaways

    The benefits of hilot are numerous and widely supported in the Philippines. A hilot and massage are good ways to complement medications or treatments, to help alleviate symptoms or even make the treatment more effective. However, both of these practices should not be used as a substitute or replacement for medication prescribed by your physician. It is also best to consult your doctor before booking an appointment with a hilot practitioner or massage therapist.

    Learn more about Herbals and Alternatives here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Written by

    Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


    Updated Nov 24, 2022

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