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Tibetan Medicine

Source: The American Tibetan Medical Association

Four modes of treatment are employed in Tibetan medicine: 1) diet recommendations, 2) lifestyle and behavioral advice, 3) oral and/or topical medicine, and 4) external therapy applications.

If the illness is not serious, we only provide advice for dietary and behavioral modifications.  Generally the patient with excess rlung must try to eat foods which are rich in nutritional content, such as lamb, butter, alcohol, milk, soup and broth, chicken, garlic and onions.  The patient with excessive tripa will be advised to eat beef, vegetables, fresh butter, fresh low fat cheese, cow’s yogurt and buttermilk, drink weak tea and spring water and have less oily food.  The patient with excessive béken will be advised to have honey, mutton, fish, barley, wine and plenty of hot water and cooked vegetables.

For behavior, the rlung patient will be advised to relax in dimly lit, warm places like next to a hearth fire; with quiet surroundings, beautiful scenery, and good company, such as close friends and loved ones.  The patient will be advised to rest both physically and mentally minimizing any worries.  For excess tripa patients, lifestyle advice focuses on cold baths and showers, sitting in shade, walking by the sea and using cooling fragrances such as sandalwood. The béken patient is advised to have lots of sun, warm fires in their home, and engage in regular exercise such as prostrations, walking and running.

Medicinal formulations in Tibetan medicine consist of ten different forms: liquid, powder, pill, medicinal paste, medicinal butter, medicinal ash, concentrated liquid, medicinal beer, precious substance medicine, and herbal compounds. External therapeutic techniques include purgatives, forced vomiting, nasal medication, suppository, enema, and vessel cleansing techniques.  Medicine is identified by its taste and functions.  There are six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent.  There are eight functions, namely, heavy, oily, cool, blunt, light, coarse, hot and sharp.  In general, patients with a rlung disorder will be treated by sweet, sour, and salty tastes; those with a tripa disorder are treated by medicines with sweet, bitter or astringent tastes;  and patients with a béken disorder will be treated with medicines with bitter, sour, or astringent tastes. Patients who have rlung problems should be treated by medicines which contain oily and heavy functions; those with tripa disorders should take medicines which have dull functions; béken patients should have medicines with sharp, coarse and light functions.  Patients who have rlung problems should be treated by medicinal butters and mild suppositories; patients with tripa disorders should take liquid, powered medicine and purgative medicines; béken disorder patients should be treated with pills, powdered medicine and emetics.

The final treatment approach is external therapies, which are divided into smooth and rough types. Smooth physical therapies indicated for rlung patients, which include massage with year-aged butter and oil compresses. Rough physical therapies indicated for rlung patients are hot moxibustion applications on selected rlung points (e.g., crown of head, and first, fifth and sixth vertebrae of spinal cord, sternum, etc.). For tripa patients, indicated smooth physical therapies comprise water therapies that induce sweating and sitting beneath waterfalls. Rough procedures indicated for tripa patient include bloodletting.  For the béken patient, an indicated smooth physical therapy is hot fomentation; and an indicated rough physical therapy is moxibustion.


This study says:
Tibetan medicine is the most comprehensive form of Eurasian healthcare and the world’s first integrative medicine. Incorporating rigorous systems of meditative self-healing and ascetic self-care from India, it includes a world-class paradigm of mind/body and preventive medicine. Adapting the therapeutic philosophy and contemplative science of Indian Buddhism to the quality of secular life and death, it features the world’s most effective systems of positive and palliative healthcare.

This study looked at 3 case studies:
All 3 of the identified cases were given consistent advice regarding diet and lifestyle. They were advised to eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, fresh seasonal local fruits, and vegetable soups; to thoroughly cook or boil food; and to drink several cups of green tea each day. They were also advised to avoid meat and foods that are fatty, raw, cold (refrigerated), sweet, acidic, or leftover for long periods. Regarding lifestyle approaches, they were advised to par-ticipate in daily moderate physical exercise such as brisk walking, daily mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises for 15 to 30 minutes, and enjoyable hobbies and activities—all intended to alleviate stress, distress, and agi-tation; attain a peaceful and calm mind; and promote sleep. No documentation on accessory therapies was identified for these cases.

Case 1: Gastric Carcinoma

The first case is a 47-year-old man who, in September 2001, presented with dyspepsia, vomiting, weight loss, elevated white blood cells, high protein in his urine, and a distinct, firm stomach mass. In December 2001, the patient under-went radical distal gastrectomy surgery followed by com-plications resulting in a temporary tracheotomy.

Diagnosis.  Pathology revealed a diagnosis of poorly to mod-erately differentiated adenocarcinoma of the stomach infil-trating the submucosal and muscular layers. Two out of the 8 lymph nodes tested positive for cancer. Diagnostic stage was determined to be Stage IIIA (T2, N1, M0).

Treatment.  Several doctors recommended chemotherapy. Because of the extremely difficult postoperative course, the patient had refused chemotherapy and all other biomedical treatments.

He first saw a Tibetan medical doctor in February 2002, and he received a Tibetan medical diagnosis of stomach cancer (Tib. pho’bras) with badkan as the predominant nyespa and ma-zhu-wa (ie, gastric metabolic disruptions) conditions. He continued only on Tibetan medicine, taking herbal compounds and precious pills for over 20 months with no additional Tibetan medical accessory therapies. He received the following Tibetan compounds: Sangdak Dharyaken, Gawa Chudruk, Dashel Sodhuen, Gurgum Chusum, and Yukar + Khyunga. Dosage and durations of each of these medicines are described in Table 1, and the medicine compound ingredients are described in the appen-dix. Among the precious pills, the patient took Rinchen Tsodru Dashel and Rinchen Mangjor Chenmo, alternating these on a weekly basis. (Of note, activities of the Tibetan medicines common to all 3 patient cases are listed in the appendix.)

Clinical Course.  Abdominal computed tomography (CT) scans showed no evidence of cancer 29 months later. As of February 2004, 30 months after diagnosis, he described an excellent quality of life. In a note written and signed by the patient (found in his medical record), he stated,

I was in a very serious state surrounded by death from all sides. . . . My weight was down from 76 kg [sic] to 53 kg. Many doctors recommended chemotherapy, otherwise 3 to 6 months to live. . . . I started your [Tibetan] medicine and began improving . . . my weight is now 78 kilograms and all CT scans are clear.

See also:
Tibetan Medicine: A Systematic Review of the Clinical Research Available in the West.

Cancer Treatment Options

Updated 2024

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