From the Himalayas with Love: Tibetan Medicine

Is the Western world losing faith in its own scientific progress? With all our antibiotics and MRI machines, why are so many people turning to Chinese medicine, Ayurvedha, and acupuncture? Traditional healing is a booming market, and TIbetan medicine is taking it by storm. Let us take a look at this ancient tradition.

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The ancient theory of energies

Our modern medicine is just a bit over 100 years old. In fact, it was born when Louis Pasteur discovered that most diseases are caused by germs. Until that time, medicine in the West followed the theory of the 2nd-century Greek physician Galen about the four main liquids in the body (blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm), which gave rise to various human temperaments. In this theory, imbalances between liquids cause diseases. Amazingly enough, most ancient medical traditions of the world – Chinese, Indian Ayurwedha, and Tibetan Sowa Rigpa – still follow a very similar system, even though they use different sets of energies (you can find some fantastic Tibetan medical illustrations here).

According to tradition, the first international conference on Tibetan medicine took place in the 8th century, with doctors from India, China, and Persia in attendance. This could explain why Tibetan tradition includes elements from various cultures, such as the three constitutions (pittas) of Ayurvedha, Chinese acupuncture, and yoga. And then there are herbal medicines: the Tibetan plateau is home to an extraordinary variety of plants.

An art of its own

Many people confuse Tibetan and Chinese medicine. The main difference is that in China, the main principle is the duality of Yang and Yin, hot and cold, male and female, etc.; plus, the body is seen as a network of meridians for the energy qi. Tibetan medicine specifies three energies (moving, hot, and cold) and uses a lot of Buddhist concepts, such as karma and the idea of universal suffering. Tibetan meditation, or tumo  and yoga are also highly developed.

What do Tibetan doctors do?

In the West, the practice of TIbetan medicine is restricted by various regulations: for example, in the US practitioners are not allowed to use acupuncture, and many Tibetan remedies cannot be sold legally, because they contain gold, mercury, and lead. Therefore, any experience of Sowa Rigpa will be incomplete. The doctor will study the patient’s face, tongue, and a urine sample, check the pulse and ask lots of questions. Then he or she will prescribe a holistic cure: a combination of lifestyle changes, meditation, and herbal remedies. In Tibetan medicine, many imbalances are corrected by acts of generosity, compassion, and kindness.

Does it help?

Many studies  show the efficacy of medicinal plants against depression, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, and other conditions. Moreover, research proves that many conditions that Western medicine cannot cure, such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, may be alleviated through meditation. Of course, it is wiser to go to a Western doctor if you have any acute disease; but a lot of the physical and mental suffering poisoning our life can be alleviated by the the ancient medical art of Tibet.

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