Tibetan Medicine

Tibetan Medicine

Explore holistic healthcare from the Himalayas

How can Tibetan Medicine nourish you?

Mystical Tibet’s medical system is called Sowa Rigpa or the science of healing. For millennia Tibetan traditions have been treasured for their insights into happiness and health. 

Tibetan Medicine is believed to be based on four texts known as Tantras written by Yuthok Yönten Gönpo the Elder (729-854 AD). These detail diseases, diagnostic techniques, diet, body therapies, herbal medicine and many medical subjects. 

Tibet’s profound healing science has survived turbulent times over 2,500 years thanks to governing bodies including the Central Council of Tibetan Medicine and The Australian Tibetan Medicine Association. In 2011 the Australian Traditional Medicine Association accepted Tibetan Medicine. To be eligible for accreditation in Tibetan Medicine, a practitioner is required to hold qualifications equivalent to an Advanced Diploma including at least 500 hours of tuition in Tibetan Medicine. 

Traditional Tibetan Medicine (TTM) aims to alleviate physical, psychological and spiritual suffering by establishing equilibrium. It blends Buddhist beliefs, Indian Ayurveda, TCM and Persian Galenism to pinpoint problems and prescribe potential cures. 

According to Tibetan Medicine, the origin of all imbalances are attachment (Llung), anger (Tripa) and ignorance (Bakan). These emotions affect the five elements of ether, air, fire, water and earth.  Subsequently 84,000 types of diseases can develop due to one’s early life, present lifestyle, past life (karma) or the influence of spirits. Eliminating ignorance by sharing healing wisdom is the ultimate aim of Tibetan Medicine. Hence Sowa Rigpa can also be translated as ‘nourishment of awareness’.

Tibetan Medicine practitioners employ four main treatment methods including diet, lifestyle, medicine and external therapies. Treatments tailored to individual requirements are focused on prevention, treatment, longevity and education. Advice often encompass self-care regimes, dietary modifications, lifestyle adjustments, medicinal preparations, body therapies and mindfulness meditation. 

Popular treatments associated with Tibetan Medicine

Aromatherapy is the art and science of applying extracted aromatic plant essences for mental, physical and spiritual harmony. An example of a Tibetan Medicine essential oil is Jatamansi oil for healthy hair.  

Astro-Science considers astral influences in the cause and cure of a condition. The planetary influence on the patient, plant preparation and time of treatment are all considered for optimal outcomes.

Cupping Therapy utilises copper or glass cups on the body. This can clear stagnant chi and purify the body. Evidence also supports that cupping can alleviate pain associated with brachialgia, carpal tunnel syndrome and musculoskeletal issues. 

Herbal wraps involve heated herbal poultices dipped in medicinal oil and massaged over affected areas. 

Hot herbal oils is a treatment of herbal infused hot oils applied to the body.

Massage in Tibetan Medicine is a herbal oil massage ranging from soft to deep tissue. It can strengthen tissues, soothe nerves, realign connective tissue and restore energy flow.  

Medicated herbal baths have been prescribed by Tibetan Medicine therapists for a range of reasons including pain, post-stroke limb spasticity, rheumatoid arthritis and skin disorders. 

Moxibustion is when heated herbs are placed close to the body or on the body to dispel blockages thereby encouraging energy flow or chi.

Nutrition involves an individualised diet to balance the three primary energies: movement, heat and cold. Often restrictions are recommended such as minimal alcohol, fried foods and hot spices. 

Herbal, Gem and Mineral Medicine includes the preparation and application of hundreds of medicines, the majority of which are plants. A complex compound may contain up to 157 ingredients. 

Music therapy employs mantras and Tibetan singing bowls crafted from seven metals - gold, silver, mercury, copper, iron, tin and zinc. These can induce healing theta brainwaves. Music therapy has been shown to appease anger, anxiety, depression, fatigue and tension. 

Tibetan Cranial is a body therapy that can balance the cranial plates and encourage flowing fluids throughout the body. 

Benefits of Tibetan Medicine

Thousands of years of clinical empirical evidence supports Tibetan Medicine’s efficacy however more rigorous research and large-scale scientific studies are essential for it to be accepted as a mainstream medical science. Small scale studies have validated the benefits of many specialty Tibetan herbs. In an overview of 40 studies on Tibetan Medicine, 34 had positive outcomes. 

Conditions conclusively improved in these studies included arteriosclerosis, arthritis, bipolar disorder, chronic constipation, chronic dental pulpitis, hepatitis B, insomnia, migraines, multiple sclerosis, respiratory tract infections, and Type 2 diabetes. 

Tibetan Medicine may assist in relieving symptoms related to:

Anxiety Arthritis, rheumatism and osteoarthritis Constipation Depression Detoxing and cleansing Diabetes Digestive and gastrointestinal issues Fatigue, burnout and exhaustion Headaches and migraines Hepatitis Insomnia and sleep disorders Multiple sclerosis (MS) Nutritional deficiencies Pain relief Respiratory and breathing issues Skin, hair and nail issues Stress and tension Stroke Show all

What to expect from a Tibetan Medicine session

A Tibetan Medicine practitioner is qualified not only through their advanced studies but by their qualities outlined in Tibet’s medical texts. According to the second Tantra a physician should be analytical, compassionate, ethical, patient, focused and wise. During an initial consultation the holistic practitioner aims to understand the client’s condition and underlying causes. 

This is achieved through questioning, observing and examining. A Tibetan Medicine expert often checks the eyes, pulse, tongue and urine. Detailed questions regarding one’s mental state, bodily functions, daily habits, diet, and environment are standard procedure. 

After assessing the client’s constitution and current imbalances a therapeutic program is outlined. This integrates the most effective therapies to eliminate root causes and instil enduring relief without negative side effects. 

To ensure efficacy and safety always check a practitioner’s credentials and purchase Tibetan Medicine approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). 


Tibetan Medical informatics: An emerging field in Sowa Rigpa pharmacological & clinical research | Journal of Ethnopharmacology

A Preliminary Study on the Biography of Yutok Yönten Gönpo the Elder: Reflections on the Origins of Tibetan Medicine by Yang Ga | brill.com

Short history of Tibetan Medicine | Tibetan Medicine Education center

Central Council of Tibetan Medicine | tibmedcouncil.org

The Australian Tibetan Medical Association | australiantibetanmedicine.blogspot.com

Minimum Education Standards for Tibetan Medicine | atms.com.au

Tibetan medicine: a unique heritage of person-centered medicine | EPMA journal

Introduction to Tibetan Medicine | australiantibetanmedicine.blogspot.com

Traditional Tibetan Medicine | International Academy for Traditional Tibetan Medicine

Aromatherapy | souladvisor.com/therapy/natural-medicine/aromatherapy

Essential Oils from the Tibetan Shangri-La | Positive Health Online

Relationship between Tibetan Medicine and Astro-Science | men-tsee-khang.org

Evaluation of Wet Cupping Therapy: Systematic Review of Randomized Clinical Trials | The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

Tibetan massage | tibetanmedicine-edu.org

Tibetan Medicated Bathing Therapy for Patients With Post-stroke Limb Spasticity: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial | Journal of the American Medical Directors Association

Tibetan Medicated-Bath Therapy may Improve Adjuvant Arthritis in Rat | Hindawi Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 

Immune function of rheumatoid arthritis treated by medicated-bath therapy in Tibetan medicine | Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zh

Tibetan moxibustion (Metsa) | Tibetan Medicine Education Center

Tibetan Medicine | takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/

Tibetan Medicine | atms.com.au/modalities/tibetan-medicine/

Evaluation of medicinal plants as part of Tibetan medicine prospective observational study in Sikkim and Nepal | Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

Using Tibetan Singing Bowls for Stress Relief | verywellmind.com

The human health effects of singing bowls: A systematic review | Complementary Therapies in Medicine

Tibetan Cranial | Tibetancranial.org

Tibetan medicine: a unique heritage of person-centered medicine | EPMA Journal

Tibetan Medicine: A Systematic Review of the Clinical Research Available in the West | Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

What Happens During a Tibetan Medicine Consultation? | takingcharge.csh.umn.edu

Therapeutic Goods Administration | tga.gov.au

Frequently asked questions

Tibetan Medicine, also known as Sowa Rigpa, is Tibet's traditional medical system rooted in ancient texts known as Tantras. It encompasses insights into happiness and health, offering a unique perspective on healing that includes diagnostic techniques, herbal medicine, diet, and body therapies.

Yuthok Yönten Gönpo the Elder (729-854 AD) is credited with writing the foundational texts of Tibetan Medicine known as Tantras. These texts provide detailed information on diseases, diagnostic techniques, and various aspects of medical science, forming the basis of Tibetan healing traditions.

Tibetan Medicine has endured for over 2,500 years through the preservation efforts of governing bodies such as the Central Council of Tibetan Medicine. Despite challenging periods, the tradition has been safeguarded, contributing to its continued practice and recognition.

To be accredited in Tibetan Medicine, practitioners need qualifications equivalent to an Advanced Diploma, including a minimum of 500 hours of tuition specifically in Tibetan Medicine. This accreditation ensures that practitioners meet certain educational standards in the field.

The Tantras written by Yuthok Yönten Gönpo cover a wide range of medical subjects, including diseases, diagnostic techniques, diet, body therapies, and herbal medicine. These texts serve as comprehensive guides to various aspects of Tibetan Medicine and its approach to health and healing.
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