Tibetan Medicine

Like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Tibetan Medicine views health as a balance of energies. And like these more famous Eastern healing traditions Tibetan medicine is becoming more popular among Easterners seeking alternative therapies.

When any of the three basic energy systems – rLung (wind and referring to movement in the body and mind) mKhris-pa (fire or heat energies that refer to body temperature and metabolic function)and Bad-kan (a cold energy, sometimes translated as “phlegm” that refers to the body’s fluid aspects) – get out of whack, a person can become sick, physically or emotionally.

Tibetan Medicine teaches that health is like the tide. It is a process, not a static or constant, experience. Each individual’s state of energy is continually changing from one moment to the next, rising and falling, increasing and decreasing.

The Tibetan physician assesses the condition of these systems by taking not one, but 12 pulse readings (indicating the state of 12 different organs in the body) as well as examining the patients skin coloring, body type, tone of voice and how fast they talk. They use urinalysis, x-rays and search for the root problem and imbalances causing the problem. Tibetan Medicines are made from a collation of more than 1,500 herbs, plant and minerals. There are 30 different types of fatigues, so one pill won’t work for them all. But, medicines are only one part of treatments. The rebalancing of the three elements is better served wit change in diet, exercise or attitude.

Tibetan medicine defines three main physiological systems, which control all the body’s processes:

  • Wind, creates circulation, such as, circulation of our blood, circulation of the nervous system’s impulses, circulation of thoughts in our minds, circulation of food through our digestive tract and eliminative organs. The mind expressed as attachment or desire is manifested as the system of Wind.
  • Bile controls functions such as metabolism, liver function and vision and allows our mind to function with discriminating intellect. The mind expressed as aggression, hatred, anger or the like is manifested as the system of Bile.
  • Phlegm provides our body’s lubrication, creates the will and allows us to have good memory among other things. The mind expressed as ignorance or incomprehension is manifested as Phlegm.

A disturbance in one or a combination of these three principle systems results in illness. The disturbance can come from diet, behavior or environmental factors. The manner in which these factors can result in illness will depend on the acute or chronic nature of the problem in an individual patient. The diagnostic techniques include visual observation, touch and interrogation.
Visual observation: primarily the practitioner studies the condition of the patient’s tongue and urine.

Secondarily the practitioner checks the patient’s complexion, the color and texture of his/her blood, nails, sputum, feces and other general conditions.


After determining preconditions, the practitioner takes the patient’s pulse by placing the three middle fingers at the patient’s radial arteries.


There are three main elements to a medical interrogation: determining the causative factors; determining the site of the illness; and asking the patient about the sort of food and drink s/he has been consuming, and what kind of physical and mental behavior she/he has been experiencing.

Treatment can involve one or more option from 4 general categories:

  • Behavioral modification can include meditation instruction, spiritual advice, counseling, exercise, or the reorganization of habitual patterns such as sleep habits and eating schedules.
  • Diet may be altered after considering which types of food are harmful and beneficial, the amount of food to be eaten, the number of meals per day and the proper meal times.
  • Herbal treatments range from simple to very complex, in a using anywhere from 3 to 150 herbs per formula. Each formula or set of formulas is prescribed to fit the condition of the individual patient. Herbal medicines often need to be modified at each visit.

Physical therapies such as acupuncture, moxabustion (blood-letting), cupping, massage, and inhalation therapy may be used.

While a full and comprehensive study of Tibetan medicine can take up to 7 years, short courses are also available.

To locate Tibetan Medicine practitioners, check out the International Tibetan Medical Association (ITMA) online at tibetanmedical.com