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Historical Tibetan Traditional Medicine

Traditional Tibetan Medicine

With a history of more than 2,000 years, Tibetan Medicine had already developed into a branch of the medical filed. According to the records, Tibetan had realized the functions of the herbs, animals and minerals on the people’s health since that time.

History: Tibetan medicine dates back to about the 7th century AD at which time the Tibetan ruler, King Songtsen Gampo summoned his court physicians from China, India, and Iran to develop this medicinal system.

During this time, one of the famous Tibetan kings, Songsten Gampo, hosted what is now recognized as the First International Conference on Tibetan Medicine in Samye, the original capital of Tibet. He invited many doctors, scholars, and researchers from neighboring countries including Afghanistan, China, Greece, India, Nepal and Persia to exchange valuable knowledge. Since that time, TM also has been considered the essence of medicine because wisdom and unique features of other healing traditions such as Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, and Greek medicine, contributed to TM.

However, TM has continually developed its own healing system and methodologies based in part on Buddhist philosophy, Bon religion, and the unique culture and environment of Tibet. Although little known for many years, Tibetan Medicine has gradually become more widely practiced throughout the world. More and more westerners realize that the healing art of Tibetan Medicine has relieved suffering and sickness for millennia and is based on a profound, theoretical and experiential understanding of the body. However, TM is still a relatively new healing modality in the United States.

The TTM is highly integrated into the practical utilization. The TTM is categorized in accordance to their distinct natures, tastes and functions including 8 natures, 6 tastes and 17 functions. The use of multiple medicines in a single prescription constitutes another important characteristic of TTM: some TTM contain about 25 ministerial medicines; for some others, the number of ministerial medicines even exceeds 100. In most cases the TTM has its substitute in an attempt to remedy the inadequacy of some precious raw materials. For each sort of TTM there may accordingly go along some substitute or the medicine of the similar nature and use. The TTM emphasizes the appropriate combination of different medicines and special attentions are also drawn to the relevant processing.

Unique to Tibetan medicine is its philosophical view based on Buddhism in which the body/mind relationship is interconnected to all phenomena. This holistic view informs the Tibetan medical tradition which uses sophisticated diagnostic techniques of pulse diagnosis and urine analysis in order to determine systemic imbalances—both mental and physical.

As early as the 6th century BC, the Buddha taught using illness as a central metaphor for suffering, and healing as the primary intention of the Buddhist path to liberate beings from ignorance, the source of all suffering. This philosophical view of Buddhism permeates all aspects of Tibetan culture including Tibetan medicine which continued to evolve according to the teachings of the Buddha in a richly informed philosophical base not shared with other indigenous healing traditions. Thus, the Tibetan medical system developed into a sophisticated body of knowledge, which encompasses mental and spiritual factors, not just physical, in the diagnosis and treatment of disease and the promotion of well-being and a healthy balanced life.

In traditional Tibet Medicine theory, medicines of different sorts and origins are arranged in four directions of north (top), south (bottom), east (right) and west (left) accordingly. The medical raw materials were obtained beyond the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Coral and crab shell from the ocean, for instance, were also included. At that period of time, the TM indeed belonged to the category of Buddhist medicines derived from temples.

There was a Manbacang, or a Medical School, in each of the then temples. In those temples lamas should study the TM for at least 10 years before they formally accomplished the doctor qualification. This unique doctor education and training system provided an environment in which the medical lamas were disturbed by no distraction from family and other lay world affairs. Despite being a blending of multiple medical philosophies and schools, the TM itself constitutes an independent medical school and system.


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