Experts & Network
Amchi Kunsang , Director of
the Kunphen Tibetan Clinic
in Chettrapatti / KTM
and in Nyalam / Tibet (TAR)
Kunphen Tibetan Clinic (Chettrapatti)
Since twenty-three years, the KUNPHEN (Kunfen)
Medical Clinic was established by Amchi Kunsang in Kathmandu Valley (ie:
Chettrapatti/Thamel, Nagi Gompa, Boddhanath Stupa). It was the first modern
Tibetan medical clinic to be proposed to the population in KTM. Dr.
Amchi Kunsang Pendok received his medical education at the Tibetan Medical
Lhasa / Tibet (China / TAR) and has practiced
medicine for over fifty years.
Every day, some fifty to one hundred patients
come seeking help. Not only do Tibetan people use the clinic’s services,
but also people from India, Korea, Japan and Western countries who join
the local population coming through its door. For the Asia traveller,
treatment at the clinic can help to cope with jet lag, stomach disorders,
high altitude sickness and respiratory infections. For others being more
interested in maintaining general health and well-being, the amchis might
prescribe energy pills, dietary changes, or give information relating to
one’s specific health "character", according to the Tibetan tradition.
Tibetan Medicine is one of the world's oldest
surviving medical traditions. It is unique in its completeness, having
been preserved intact with its original Tibetan native medical knowledge
and subsequently integrated ancient medical systems (ie : Indian, Chinese,
Persian and Hellenic), even though some of these traditions had been broken
and fragmented through their own historical, cultural or political upheaval.
This has been due partly to the history of isolation and guarded secrecy
that still surrounds Tibet, but also to the fact that this is a living
tradition transmitted both orally and textually through a long lineage
of masters and pupils.
It is a truly holistic system with spiritual,
mystical, psychological, empirical and rational roots which encompass human
suffering on all experiential levels. Whilst it may not offer the same
efficacy than modern Western medicine is areas such as infectious
diseases or surgery, it is renown for curing chronic afflictions,
psychosomatic and psychological imbalance .
Although researchs in Clinical Pharmacology ,
on the comparative curative efficacy between the Tibetan system and modern
(allopathic) medecine, is a process which has been launched only recently,
it has proven nonetheless that Tibetan traditional healing is relevant
for most psycho-somatic and indigenous diseases .
Tibetan medecine is basicaly manufactured from
natural herbs and minerals from the Himalayan region, and its healing
and diagnosis process are integral parts of Tibetan Buddhism,
monastic scholarship and the Himalayan Shamanic culture .
( disclaimer: the following text is inspired from selected articles
Tibetan Medicine proposed by Kunphen and Men-Tsee-Khan,
of which copyrights belong to these institutions )
Amchi Kunsang , Director of the
Kunphen Tibetan Clinic
in Chettrapatti / KTM
and in Nyalam / Tibet (TAR)
A SHORT INTRODUCTION
TO TIBETAN MEDICINE
Tibetan medicine is a traditional system of medicine
which has been practiced for over 2500 years and is still practiced today
by Tibetans and Nepalese alike, in the rural and urban areas, as well as
by some informed Westerners. Tibetan medicine is one of the five major
sciences of Tibetan Dharma (Buddhism), and it is called in Tibetan : «
gSoba Rig-pa », namely, the science
It uses rituals, divination, meditation and of
course different kinds of natural herbs or ingredients, such as Himalayan
trees, rocks, resins, soils, precious metals, saps, etc…
However, more than 90% of a usual Tibetan
medicine is based on these herbs, some precious metals are used for
the seven kinds of precious pill known as «
Rinchen Rilpo » ,
or more simply : « Precious Pills ».
While Amchis may become reputed to have efficacy
(depending on their ability for diagnosis and chosing the right medicine)
on all kinds of illness, from a comparative treatment point of view, it
is viewed by most physicians ( PHC Clinics) in Nepal, as being more successful
in the treatment of chronic diseases, such as rheumatism, arthritis, ulcers,
chronic digestive problems, asthma, hepatitis, eczema, liver problems,
sinus problems, as well as in mental health symptoms such as anxiety and
problems connected with the nervous system.
On a general basis, the local health workers use
modern medecine (allopathic) prescriptions and antibiotics for local infectious
diseases such as TB, STD, water-borned viral infections, Cholera …
The basic theory of Tibetan medicine is also based
on the concept of (Karmic) imbalance, namely «
Nyipa sum » .
These factors of influence are : «
rLung » (pronounced loong), «
mKhris-pa » and «
The long-term causative factors of Nyipa sum are
the three poisons (Buddhism) : desire, hatred and delusion .
1. - Nyipa sum
What are rLung , mKhris-pa , Bad-kan
Before these terms can be explained it must
be pointed out that there is no equivalent translation of these tibetan
terms, except into either Nepali or Sanskrit equivalents, original names
The general description of rLung is that it is
a subtle flow of energy and out of the five elements
(ie : air, fire, water, earth and ether or space)
it is most closely connected with air, in the sense of
it being the traditional vital element, not chemistry.
Some Amchis say that the rLung is like a horse,
and that the human mind is the rider, if there is something wrong with
the horse then the rider will not be able to ride properly. Its description
is that it is rough, light, cool, thin, hard, movable.
The general function of rLung is to help growth,
movement of the body, exhalation and inhalation and to aid the function
of mind, speech and body.
rLung helps to separate in our stomachs what we
eat into nutrients and waste products. However its most important
function is to carry the movements of mind, speech and body. The nature
of rLung is both hot and cold.
There are five types of rLung.
The first type is called Srog-'dzin
rLung). Its location is in the brain and its functions are the swallowing
of food, inhalation and spitting, eructation and sneezing, clearing
the senses and intellect, and steadying of the mind.
The second type of rLung is Gyen-rgyu
(upward moving rLung). Its location is in the chest and its functions are
responsible for speech, the increase of bodily vigour and health,
the giving of lustre to the skin and the promotion of mental endeavour
The third type of rLung is Khyab-byed
(all pervading rLung). Its location is in the heart. Its locations is responsible
for lifting, walking, stretching, grasping of limbs, the opening and closing
of the mouth, eyelids, anus etc.
The fourth type of rLung is Me-mnyam
(fire accompanying rLung). Its location is in the stomach and its function
is to promote digestion and the metabolism, and ripen the seven bodily
sustainers known as lus-zung dhun.
The fifth type of rLung is Thur-sel
(downward cleansing rLung). Its location is in the rectum and its function
is to expel faeces, urine, semen, menstruation and the foetus.
As for mKhris-pa,
it is the hot nature within our body and not simply the bile which comes
from our gall bladder.
From out of the five elements mKhris-pa is related
to fire. The description of mKhris-pa is oily, sharp, hot, light, pungent
and moist. The most important function of mKhris-pa is to keep in
balance the bodily temperature. It helps with the digestion of food and
it is what makes us feel hungry and thirsty at the right times. It also
gives lustre to the skin and helps to keep the pores clear. The nature
of mKhris-pa is hot like fire or the sun.
There are five types of mKhris-pa
The first type of mKhris-pa is called 'Ju-byed
(digesting mKhris-pa). Its location is between the stomach and intestine.
Its function is to promote digestion and to break down essential nutrients
from foodstuffs and fluids and then to separate essence and waste.
It promotes bodily heat and helps to provide energy to the other
four types of mKhris-pa.
The second type of mKhris-pa is called sGrub-byed
mKhris-pa). Its location is the heart. Its function is that it anger, aggression
and hatred. It provides the initial driving force behind the minds of desire,
achievement and ambition.
The third type of mKhris-pa is called mdangs-sgyur
changing mKhris-pa). Its location is in the liver. Its function is to maintain
and promote the red colouring of essential nutrients in the blood.
The fourth type of mKhris-pa is mThong-byed
(seeing mKhris-pa). Its locations is in the eyes and it promotes vision.
The fifth mKhris-pa is mDog-sel
(complexion clearing mKhris-pa). Its location is the skin and its function
is to clear and promote skin lustre by giving it a healthy and wholesome
As per Bad-kan
is not the phlegm which comes from the chest, it is all the diseases connected
with the cold nature called Bad-kan. From out of the five elements it is
related to both water and earth. The description of Bad-kan is oily, cool,
heavy, blunt,smooth, steady and sticky.
The main function of Bad-kan is to sustain the
bodily liquids. It helps to mix food in the stomach, steady the mind, and
it helps to keep our joints flexible. The nature of Bad-kan is cold, like
water or the moon.
There are five types of Bad-kan
The first Bad-kan is called rTen-byed
(supporting Bad-kan). Its location is
the chest, and it's function is to support the remaining four Bad-kans.
The second Bad-kan is called Myag-byed
(mixing Bad-kan). Its location is the upper
region and, its function is the mixing of liquid and solid foodstuffs into
a semi-liquid state.
The third Bad-kan is called Myong-byed
(experiencing Bad-kan). Its location is the tongue, and its function is
to sense and experience the six primary tastes.
The fourth Bad-kan is called Tsim-byed
(satisfying Bad-kan). Its location is the head, and its function is to
increase and satisfy the power of the five senses.
The fifth Bad-kan is called 'Byor-byed
Bad-kan). Its location is the joints and its function is responsibility
for the flexibility of the joints.
This were the type, location and function
of the Nyipa sum. When the Nyipa sum are balanced, then what are called
the seven bodily sustainers are also balanced.
The seven bodily sustainers are:
1) Essential nutrients
3) Muscle tissues
7) Regenerative fluid
To show how this process works, when we eat or
drink something, it goes to the stomach, where the Bad-kan will help
to mix it, the mKhris-pa will help to digest it and the rLung will help
to separate the essential nutrients from the waste products. The essence
of the essential nutrients will then form blood, the essence of blood forms
muscle tissue, the essence of muscle tissue forms fat, the essence
of fat forms bones, the essence of bones forms marrow and the essence of
bone marrow forms the regenerative fluid.
With the waste products , there are three eliminating
functions of wastes:
1) Elimination of faeces
2) Elimination of urine
3) Elimination of perspiration
This process shows how important it is for rLung,
mKhris-pa and Bad-kan to be kept in balance.
2. - Imbalance
of Nyipa sum
The long-term causes of the imbalance of
Nyipa sum are the three poisons.
The short-term causes of imbalance are the time
and season, the influence of spirits, improper diet and improper
With regard to the time and season, rLung ariseses
at dawn and in the evening in summer. mhhris-pa arises during the
autumn at midday and at midnight.
Bad-kan arises in the spring, in the morning and
For the influence of spirits there are innumerable
disorders brought about by certain contributory factors
or conditions relating to harmful influences or spirits.
The 360 female spirits
influences are connected with desire and attachment and give rise to
The 360 male spirits
influences are connected with anger and hared and give rise to disorders
The 360 klu (Skt.
Nagas or water dwelling spirits) and
(specific spirits that govern or haunt particular places) are connected
with ignorance and give rise to Bad-kan disorders. If they happen
to be disturbed, all these spirits can cause harm, and people would
have to consult a lama or tantric practitioner for a divination. Through
their help the spirits would be expelled through religious ritual
As for improper diet, if someone eats lots of
light foods such as pork, goats meat, milk and yogurt, strong tea,
strong coffee, soya, vegetables, pulses, skimmed milk continuously,
eating only these kinds of foods every day, they will suffer from
rLung problems. If someone drinks lots of milk and alcohol and eats lots
of meat, full-fat cheese, nuts, sugar, ice cream, lard, butter, chocolate,
cooks with lots of oil - these cause rKhri-pa problems. When someone
eats lots of raw food such as uncooked meat, salad, raw fish, cold drinks,
raw milk they will suffer from problems related to Bad-kan.
With regard to improper behaviour forrLung, if
a person does a lot of fasting and meditation, does not sleep
much, takes meats at improper times, has too much sex, strains or
over controls his bowel and urinary functions, has lots of mental pressure
and tension and talks too much, then rLung will arise.
'nKhris-pa arises through straining the
body such as by crying heavy loads, digging hard dry soil, running in the
middle of the day in the peak of summer, falling through sudden jerks to
the body, such as falling off a horse or a roof and accidents.
Bad-kan is caused by behaviour such as doing no physical exercise,
sleeping for most of the day alter eating a heavy meal, taking cold
showers every day, exposing your body through inadequate clothing, and
working in damp and cold places.
Diagnosis of Nyipa sum when imbalanced
There are three methods of diagnosis through:
Observation is done by urine analysis and looking
at the tongue. A sample of urine must be the first early morning
urine of the patient, and the night before she should refrain from
eating spicy foods, drinking alcohol and having sexual intercourse.
In Tibetan medicine urine analysis is divided
into eight sections; the physician examines the colour, vapour,
odour, bubbles, sediments and albumin's of the urine. The colour
of the urine is determined by the intake of food and drink, seasons
For the rLung patient the urine is very clear
like water and it has big bubbles.
For the mKhris-pa patient the urine is a reddish-yellow
colour, there is much vapour and a very strong odour. For the Bad-kan patient
the urine is white in colour and there is little odour and vapour.
Generally a reddish colour indicates a hot disorder while transparency
indicates a cold disorder.
When observing the tongue, the rLungg patient
has a very red, dry and rough tongue. For the mKhris-pa patient the
tongue is yellow with a thick coating. The tongue of a Bad-kan patient
is white, smooth and wet.
The second method of diagnosis is by reading
the pulse. In Tibetan medicine pulse reading is divided into thirteen
sections. For the Tibetan physician the arts of pulse reading provide an
invaluable source of information because the pulse is like a messenger
between the doctor and the patient.
To read the pulse it is very important for the
patient to be as rested as possible. The physician place the index, middle
and third fingers on the radial arteries. The space between each of the
three fingers is the width of a grain of rice, and the fingers are placed
half an inch from the crease of the wrist. The physician will use both
hands to examine the pulse; the left wrist of a male patient is read first,
whilst for the female patient it is the right wrist which is read first.
The third and final method of diagnosis is by
questioning - asking the patient how and when the problem started, its
location and which sort of food harms or helps them.
There are four methods of treatment:
1) Advice regarding diet
2) Advice regarding behaviour
3) Prescribing medicine
4) Performing surgery
If the illness is not so serious we need only
give advice as to the diet and behaviour. Generally the rLung patient
must try to eat food which has got heavy and nutritional potency, such
as lamb, butter, molasses, alcohol, milk, soups, chicken, garlic,
ginger and onions. The mKhris-pa patient should eat beef; vegetables,
fresh butter, fresh low fat cheese, cow's yogurt and buttermilk, drink
weak tea, spring water and have less greasy food. The Bad-kan patient should
have honey, mutton, fish, barley, wine, ginger decoction and plenty
of hot water and cooked vegetables.
For behaviour the rLung patient should stay in
dark and warm places, the surroundings should be very quiet, and
there should be beautiful scenery. He should have good company such
as lovers and close friends. The patient should also rest both
physically and mentally without any worries. For the mKhris-pa patient's
behaviour she should have cold baths and showers, sit in shaded
places and walk by the sea and use a cool perfume such as sandalwood. For
the behaviour of the Bad-kan patient, he should have lots of sun, warm
fires in his home; he should do lots of exercise such as prostrations,
walking and running.
The third method of treatment is the prescribing
of medicine. It can be administered in various forms. In the form
decoction, powder, pills etc. For the rLung patient various
herbal ingredients are used such as aqullaria agollocha, allium sativum,
myristica fragrans, asafoetida, santalum album etc.
For the mKhris-pa patient's medicine Amchis
use swertia chirata, momordica charantia, holarrhena antidysenterica, aconitum
naviculare, ixers gracilis, chrysosplenium nepalense, swertia hookeri
and berberis asiatica etc. For the Bad-kan patient's medicine Amchis
use chaenomeles, inula helenium, coriandium sativum, meconopsis discigera,
punica granatum, kaempferia galanga and phyllantus emblica etc.
The final method of treatment is surgery - divided
into mild and rough.
Mild surgery for the rLung patient includes
massage with year-old butter and oily compresses. Rough surgery
for the rLung patient is placing moxa on the selected points
of rLung; these are on the crown of the head, the first, fifth and sixth
vertebrae of the spinal cord, the sternum, etc. For the mKhris-pa
patient mild surgery is sitting beneath waterfall and mild purgatives.
Rough surgery for the mKhris-pa patient
is blood letting and cupping.
For the Bad-kan patient mild surgery is
hot fermentations, saunas and mild emetics.
Rough surgery for the Bad-kan patient is golden
needle therapy and the application of heated surgical stylets.
Tibetan medicine is a 1300-year-old tradition
combining components of Buddhist religion with the original Tibetan herbal
medicine, as well as influences from the Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medical
Tibetan medicine’s origins are found in ancient
Buddhist texts with Sakyamuni Buddha as their source. It is difficult to
arrange a precise chronological presentation of medical history as available
texts concentrate more on philosophy and practices than on specific dates.
In Buddhist sutra and tantra texts, Sakyamuni Buddha took form as the "Medicine
Buddha" and taught medical knowledge to his disciples. He also elaborated
medical practices in teachings such as the Four Noble Truths. Sakyamuni
is also said to have taught the "Supreme Sun Rays Sutra.", the 24th chapter
of which contains methods for completely curing diseases. Medicine became
one of the ten branches of learning originally studied by all Mahayana
Buddhist monks. The teaching flourished in the monastic universities of
Northern India (Nalanga).
Tibetan medicine began with the influx of Buddhist
Sanskrit texts into Tibet in the seventh century, A.D. King Songtsen Gampo
convened a medical conference in Tibet, attended by medical doctors from
India, China and Persia. Later, more important conference was held under
the aegis of King Trisong Detsen in the ninth century. Medical scholars
from many lands translated texts into Tibetan and these were then debated
and discussed – this basket of medical knowledge provided the foundation
for the Tibetan tradition.
The most important Tibetan text is the Gyu Shi,
a translation of the Sanskrit Amrita Ashtanga Guhyopadesha Tantra, since
lost in the original. Soon after the great medical conference, Tibet’s
first medical college was established. In time, scores of medical schools
emerged, usually associated with the country’s large monasteries.
Traditionally, the doctor, or amchi, had monastic
training before delving into medical texts. Today students can complete
their medical studies without being a monk or nun, but their under-standing
must encompass Buddhist religion as well as the medical scriptures handed
down through the centuries. In modern Tibetan medical colleges academic
work usually takes about five years to complete and is followed by a three-year
Each individual’s personality and health are influenced
by the body humor which is stronger than the others. For example, a high-energy,
nervous person who has trouble concentrating or relaxing, would typically
be a lung, or wind, person. Lung persons are slim in build, have darker
complexions and their attachment to external objects or events is said
to be strong. Often this type of person has mental problems: insomnia,
loss of memory or headache.
Herbal pills are given to calm the lung and strengthen
the other two humors, to promote a balance among the systems. The person
is advised to increase his or her intake of rich or heavy foods, such as
those which contain milk, fat, oil, eggs, meat or yogurt.
Medicine Bouddha Thangka