Born more than two millennia ago from Tibet's harsh environment, medicine from the plateau region is enjoying a comeback around the world
Tibetan medicine has a history stretching back more than 2,000 years. It is a unique traditional medical system formulated and perfected by the Tibetan people and strongly influenced by the region's harsh environment, including severe cold and lack of oxygen.
The Qinghai-Tibet plateau, with its short daylight hours, high levels of natural radiation and cold climate, enjoys only 3 to 4 warm months each year, so plants there have to complete the reproduction cycle within a short period. Strong ultraviolet radiation helps to make the air in Tibet clean and dry, which aids plants in the process of photosynthesis. All these factors endow Tibetan medicine with strong natural powers.
There are more than 2,000 varieties of plants, 159 kinds of animals and 80 minerals in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau that can be used to make medicine. Much of the medicine is used to cure chronic diseases of the immune system, nervous system or digestive system.
According to The Four Medical Tantras, which is regarded as the soul of Tibetan medicine and was written in the 8th century, Tibetan medicine could deal with complicated surgical operations in ancient times, and some operation appliances were almost the same as in modern medicine. The book also recorded the earliest nebulization(steam) therapy invented by Tibetan medicine.
Instead of dividing patients into categories, Tibetan medicine focuses on balance of the whole body. Often it prescribes different treatments to individuals who have the same symptoms with this purpose in mind.
Another attraction of Tibetan medicine lies in its cultural implications. It is a combination of ancient philosophy, mathematics, biology, physics and chemistry, and has a strong connection to Buddhism as well. It is also a reflection of Tibetan history and culture.
Half a century ago, Tibetan medicine's output was quite limited and only available to a privileged few. Now it has entered mass production and is readily available. There are 20 Tibetan medicine production enterprises in Tibet, and almost 100 in the whole country, making more than 300 types of medicine, and producing an annual output of over 500,000 kilograms, with a total value of 310 million yuan ($41million).
With the current fashion of returning to nature in the face of rapid development Tibetan medicine has turned a new page and is gaining increasing attention from around the world.