What is Traditional Tibetan medicine?

Traditional Tibetan medicine (Tibetan: བོད་ཀྱི་གསོ་བ་རིག་པ་, Wylie: bod kyi gso ba rig pa), also known as Sowa-Rigpa medicine, is a centuries-old traditional medical system that employs a complex approach to diagnosis, incorporating techniques such as pulse analysis and urinalysis, and utilizes behavior and dietary modification, medicines composed of natural materials (e.g., herbs and minerals) and physical therapies (e.g. Tibetan acupuncture, moxabustion, etc.) to treat illness.

The Tibetan medical system is based upon Indian Buddhist literature (for example Abhidharma and Vajrayana tantras) and Ayurveda. It continues to be practiced in Tibet, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Ladakh, Siberia, China and Mongolia, as well as more recently in parts of Europe and North America. It embraces the traditional Buddhist belief that all illness ultimately results from the three poisons: ignorance, attachment and aversion. Tibetan medicine follows the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths which apply medical diagnostic logic to suffering. (Source: Wikipedia)

Tibetan Medicine History – The Tibetan medical system is one of the world’s oldest known medical traditions. It is an integral part of Tibetan culture and has been developed through many centuries. We believe that the origin of the Tibetan medical tradition is as old as civilization itself.

Because humankind has depended on nature for sustenance and survival, the instinctive urge to health and accumulated knowledge has guided us to discover certain remedies for common ailments from natural sources. For example, applying residual barley from chang (Tibetan wine) on swollen body parts, drinking hot water for indigestion, and using melted butter for bleeding are some of the therapies that arose from practical experiences and gradually formed the basis for the art of healing in Tibet. The Tibetan medical heritage is based on the book of the Four Tantras (rGyud-bZhi), which remains the fundamental medical text even today.

The era from the beginning of human civilisation to the advent of Buddhism in Tibet, can be termed as the pre-Buddhist era. During that time Bon tradition flourished in Tibet and Bon medical practice influenced and enriched the existing Tibetan Medical knowledge and practice. It has been clearly mentioned in a Bon text titled “Jam-ma tsa-drel” that around 200 B.C., (during the emergence of the first Tibetan King Nyatri Tsenpo) there lived twelve scholars of Bon tradition including a medical scholar who treated diseases through medication and therapy. This indicates that Tibetans practiced medicine and there were Tibetan physicians even prior to the advent of Buddhism in Tibet. (source: The Tibetan medical system)

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