Amchi Tsewang Smanla


Amchi Tsewang Smanla
Smanla Guest House
J&K State

0091 1982 251492

0091 9469 048 756


Young Ladakhi

Tibetan Medicine

Medicinal plants of the Himalayas

Smanla Guest House is run by Tsewang Smanla who is a Ladakhi 'Amchi', which is name for a qualified Tibetan medical doctor. He comes from a family lineage of Tibetan doctors and through the organisation Yuthog Foundation that he founded in 1982 he has continuously worked to develop Amchi practice in Ladakh.

At Smanla Guest house there is a small clinic where guests may consult with Amchi Tsewang. The guest house will also host seminars and workshops on Tibetan medicine with the aim of preserving and promoting this vital aspect of Ladakhi culture. Group workshops on Tibetan medicine or Tibetan Herbal medical expeditions can be arranged.

Introduction to Tibetan Medicine

Brief History of Tibetan Medicine:
Tibetan medicine is an ancient system of medicine which brings together medical wisdom from the Tibetan plateau, Central Asia, China and the Indian Subcontinent. It has an intimate relationship with Tibetan Buddhism. The main medical text, known in Tibetan as the Gyushi, 'The Fourfold Tantra', is said to have been first taught by the medicine Buddha and written down in Sanskrit around the 4AD. It was translated into Tibetan by the famous Tibetan translator Vairocana in the 8th century. In the eleventh century the renowned Tibetan physician, Yuthog Yontan Gompo produced a revised version of the text which forms the basis of all later editions. The text is written in a terse, concise verse form and has been the subject of a great abundance of medical commentaries.

The Five elements and the Three Humours in Tibetan Medicine:
Medicinal plants of the Himalayas One of the basic principles of Tibetan medical theory is that everything in the macrocosmic environment and the microcosm of the human body is made up of various combinations of the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and space. Another fundamental principle is the notion that all psycho-physical processes in the body can be divided into three categories. Each of these series of processes is co-ordinated and maintained by a certain energy, which drawing on Galenic terminology, is commonly rendered as a 'humour'. The Tibetan word nyepa that is usually translated as 'humour' actually means 'fault' or 'wrong doing'; this is due to the strong relationship between Tibetan medicine and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. According to Tibetan medical theory, the 'three mental poisons' of Budddhist psychology are the root cause of the three humours in the human constitution: desire is the cause of wind (Tibetan, lung), aggression is the cause of bile (Tibetan, tripa), and ignorance is the cause of phlegm (Tibetan, peken). The three humours have a dual nature: if they are in their right proportions and locations they generate health and well being; but if by some means they are disturbed, this will result in sickness. Following the Buddhist notion that suffering is innate to all forms of life that exist within the cycle of death and rebirth, the humours are named only according to their negative aspect as 'faults'. The three humours are related to the five elements in the following way: wind has the elemental nature of air; bile that of fire; and phlegm that of earth and water. The humours are referred to in Tibetan by names, which when translated into English denote specific physical referents, but the Tibetan terms lung, tripa and peken refer to much more than 'wind', 'bile' and 'phlegm'. According to Tibetan medical theory there are five forms of each of the humours. Each of these subdivisions is responsible for certain psychological and physiological functions and is also associated with a specific location in the body.

The Cause of Sickness:
According to Tibetan medical theory, health is experienced when the various components of the human constitution, the three humours, the seven bodily constituents (the essential nutriment, blood, flesh, fat, bone, marrow, and regenerative fluid) and the three forms of excreta (stool, urine and sweat) are functioning in a balanced and harmonious manner. For the three humours this means that they remain in their correct locations and proportions. In Tibetan medical theory there are numerous causative factors that can bring about sickness. General causes of disease are related to such factors as negative influences from the environment (such as seasonal changes), poisons, incorrect behaviour, and infection. Specific causes of disease are related to the humour's properties. For example, wind is said to be: rough, light, cool, subtle, firm and mobile. If any factor is present which has any of these properties, and this cause is sustained for a prolonged period of time, this will bring about pathological conditions in the wind humour.

Tibetan Medical Diagnosis:
Medicinal plants of the Himalayas Broadly speaking there are three forms of diagnosis in Tibetan medicine: tactile diagnosis, visual diagnosis, and diagnosis through asking question. Visual diagnosis involves looking at any abnormal features in the body's appearance. Of particular importance here is the appearance of the tongue: a dry, red and rough tongue indicates a wind disorder; a thickly coated tongue denotes a bile disorder; and a pale coloured tongue indicates a phlegm disorder. Tactile diagnosis involves feeling the patient's body for any abnormal features and taking the patient's pulse. After listening to what the patient has to say about his or her condition, and carrying out visual and tactile diagnosis, the Tibetan doctor will ask questions to verify the nature of the disorder. The type of questions asked usually relate to the typical symptoms of specific humoural disorders. For example questions related to aches in the region of the hips, waist and joints, sharp shifting pains, shivering, and anxiety, could indicate a disturbance in the wind humour. Tibetan medicine also has a sophisticated form of diagnosis based on the qualities of the patient's urine.

There are four forms of treatment in Tibetan medicine: diet, behaviour, medicines, and various forms of external treatments such as moxibustion, hot and cold compresses and massage.

Students of Tibetan Medicine in Dharamsala with HH Karmapa

Students of Tibetan Medicine (including Amchi Tsewang Smanla's son) in Dharamsala with HH Karmapa.