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History of Tibetan medicine

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 pratical experience 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.

During the pre-buddhist era, Tibet had religious and cultural influences from the indigenous Bon tradition. There is some evidence to suggest that several forms of medical practice existed at that time. The precise influence of these practices on the evolution of the Tibetan medical tradition, however, is unclear.

Buddha Shakya Muni

The historical Buddha taught the medical text Vimalagotra (Tib: Dri-med Rigs; Eng: Immaculate Lineage) simultaneously with the first turning of the wheel of Dharma at Sarnath on Four Noble Truths.

At the time of the teaching on Jagoe Phungpo'i Ri(Vulture's Peak), the Buddha taught the text gso-dpyad 'bum-pa (One hundred thousand verses of Healing). He also taught gCer-mthong Rig-pa'i rGyud (The Tantra of Bare Vision) to the Avalokisteshvara, Brahma, Shariputra and other Mahayana disciples at Beta Groves. Some believe the OneHundred Thousand Verses of Healing and the Tantra of Bare Vision are the same text with two different names.During the third turning of the wheel, the Buddha taught the gSer-'od dam-pa'i mdo (Supreme Golden Rays Sutra), which contains a chapter entitled "Nad-thams cad zhi-bar byed-pa'i rGyud" (The Ways of Completely Curing Diseases). Buddha also expounded the Gawo mNgal Jug gi mdoj (Sutra of Gawo Entering the Womb in Konchok Tsekpas), VIth Volume. Although Vinaya Sastra (Tib:'dul-ba lung) is a teaching on moral discipline, it contains medical teachings also. In it, Gautam Buddha taught the Sanghas (monastic communities) how to cope with the miscellaneous disorders they faced during their three month summer retreats. It is one of the three basic observances for monks prescribed by Buddha Shakyamuni.


Tibetan Medicine

Tibetan medicine is a science, art and philosophy that provides a holistic approach to health care. It is a science because its principles are enumerated in a systematic and logical framework based on an understanding of the body and its relationship to the environment. It is an art because it uses diagnostic techniques based on the creativity, insight, subtlety and compassion of the medical practitioner. And it is a philosophy because it embraces the key Buddhist principles of altruism, karma and ethics.

Buddhist philosophy states that everything in the universe is in a constant state of flux - that all phenomenon are characterised by impermanence, and that the only permanent feature is impermanence itself. As Buddha said, "No matter whether perfect beings arise or not, it remains a fact, and a hard necessity of existence, that all creations are transitory." It is this impermanence that causes each and every being to suffer at one stage or another. Suffering is thus not accidental but springs from a specific cause, whether from this life or a previous life. Only through proper learning and the genuine practice of Dharma can liberate from the vicious cycle of suffering.

Tibetan medical theory states that everything in the universe is made up of the five proto-elements: 
1. sa ( Earth ) 
2. chu ( Water ) 
3. me ( Fire ) 
4. rLung ( Wind ) 
5. Nam-mkha ( Space )Although all five proto-elements are responsible for the formation of each tissue cell, each element has a specific influence: 
1. sa exerts a greater influence over the formation of muscle cells, bones, the nose and the sense of smell

2. chu is responsible for the formation of blood, body fluids, tongue and the sense of taste 
3. me is responsible for body temperature, complexion, the eyes and the sense of sight 
4. rLung is responsible for breathing, skin and the sense of touch and 
5. nam-mkha is responsible for body cavities, the ears and the sense of hearing

At the Human Potential 360 clinic in Inglewood, we combine both traditional and modern healing practices, to bring you a well-rounded approach to your health – mind and body. One of the services we’re proud to provide is Tibetan medicine, which has stood the test of time for more than 2,000 years. Our Tibetan medicine practitioner is Amchi Kunga Chodak (Amchi means ‘doctor’).

While Tibetan medicine is similar to various Asian medical systems, there are some distinct differences with a Tibetan practice, such as the diagnosis, treatment approach and the philosophy itself. This is a practice that has spanned thousands of years, and is very holistic in its nature.

Treatment includes the prescription of herbal pills prepared according to traditional medical texts, and modifications to the patients diet & behaviours.  Tibetan medicines are composites of various plants and occasionally minerals. Some Tibetan medicines have over 100 components. In each Tibetan medicine herbal formula, some ingredients treat the underlying imbalance and others treat any side effects that may occur.

Tibetan Medical doctors are well versed in a wide range of natural therapies including clinical nutrition, acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, massage and spiritual counselling.

Tibetan medicine differs from allopathic medicine in that it has no concept of illness as such, but rather the concept is of disharmony of the organism. Accordingly, this system of medicine, like many alternative therapies, seeks to achieve a harmony of the self.

What can Tibetan medicine help treat?

Tibetan medicine is beneficial for a number of medical conditions. This type of healing has had success in a variety of areas including chronic health problems, and issues relating to the nervous system and include:

  • Digestive disorders

  • Heartburn

  • Back pain

  • Asthma

  • Arthritis

  • Rheumatism

  • Immune system

  • Chronic inflammation disorders

  • Eczema

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Depression

  • Sinusitis

  • Liver problems/disorders

  • Kidney problems/disorders

  • Poor circulatory system

  • Circulation issues

  • Anxiety

  • Sleep disorders

  • High blood pressure

  • Poor blood circulatory system

  • Stress and tension

  • Allergic skin reactions

  • Sexual dysfunction

  • Overall health and vitality

Experienced Tibetan physicians can discover many of the psychic and physical complaints. Some hidden diseases may be more difficult to reveal. Pulse reading alone may not be sufficient to measure all disorders, therefore physicians also use other examination techniques to discover more hidden disorders, e.g. urine analysis, tongue diagnostic, ear and facial diagnosis and especially consulting you with a review of your health history. These are very important elements of the Tibetan medical diagnosis field.

A practitioner of Tibetan medicine will use three methods to assess your individual constitutional energy pattern and degree of ‘imbalance’ such as:

    • Observation – Looking at your skin and tongue.

    • Asking about your lifestyle, thinking, environment, food, and behavior.

    • Touch – Feeling the radial artery pulse on both your wrists, inspecting any abnormal growths or painful areas/points of tenderness on your body, and checking your skin temperature.

To get the most out of your consultation, tell the practitioner about your health concerns.  Before taking a Tibetan medicine, tell the practitioner if you are on any other medications. Ask what the purpose is of the Tibetan herbal formulas, if there are any side effects, and when you should take it. Also, let your regular healthcare provider know that you consulted with a Tibetan medicine practitioner and are taking a Tibetan medicine.

About our Tibetan medical practitioner, Amchi Kunga Chodak:

Amchi Kunga Chodak is an experienced practitioner of traditional Tibetan medicine, and comes from a long lineage of doctors in Tibet. After fleeing from his home, Amchi Kunga made his way to India where he studied Buddhist philosophy, astrology and Tibetan medicine. His extensive knowledge and training passed down from generation to generation, combined with his intense studies at the monastery, has earned him recognition with the Central Council of Tibetan Medicine, in Dharamsala. He has also presided over many clinics in the Dharamsala, Goa and Ladakh regions of India, and we love having him as a part of our team.

To learn more about Tibetan medicine or to book an appointment with Amchi Kunga (who’s at the clinic Jan 18 & 19), click here. We also encourage you to check out the other holistic healing services we offer, and traditional practices as well.

Amchi Kunga Chodak’s testimonials:

Amchi Kunga has been practicing Tibetan Medicine for decades – here’s a video from his earlier days called ‘Tibetan Medicine in the world today’:

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