Tibet has long been viewed as a source of ancient wisdom. Tibetan herbal medicine fits snugly into that category, with various herbs and roots having been used as medicine in Tibet for thousands of years.
As with Chinese herbal medicine, in Tibet they have traditionally focused on healing diseases through the use of plants with particular healing properties, rather than performing surgery. This is one of the most difficult things for people in the developed world to understand when learning about alternative medical traditions.
Differences Between Tibetan Herbal Medicine and Western Medicine
Surgery is quite a Western obsession, and while it can save many lives there's no reason to believe many of the health problems we rush to treat surgically in Western countries can't be treated equally well using time-tested herbal medicines from countries like Tibet. After all, medicines don't stay in use for thousands of years unless they really do some good.
Sowa Rigpa is the traditional name for the Tibetan science of medicine. It's a system based on balancing elements and energies within the human body. Disorders are explained in terms of an upset in the natural balance of the body. This is a far cry from the approach of Western medicine, which focuses purely on biology and physical processes.
But many Western doctors are now starting to 'click' that there's a lot we can learn from alternative medical traditions such as that of Tibet. That said, many Western doctors are still resistant to medicines coming out of Tibet, claiming they have no scientific basis – but in many cases the resistance is due to the ways herbal remedies threaten the profits of big drug companies, rather than the fact that the herbal remedies aren't effective.
While traditional remedies may not adhere to the Western idea of science, they are certainly based on observing what works and what doesn't.
What Kinds of Tibetan Herbal Medicine Is Out There?
Most of the Tibetan herbal supplements available on the market today consist of a combination of ingredients (some Tibetan medicinal recipes call for up to 70 herbs and plants mixed together in the right quantities).
This is partly why Western doctors have a hard time accepting Tibetan medicine – it's difficult to understand exactly why a medicine works when it contains dozens of plant ingredients, each of which contains dozens or hundreds of chemical compounds that may have an effect on the body.
The uniqueness of some of the herbs used in traditional Tibetan medicines is due to the fact that Tibet is such a unique country in terms of its geography – most of the country is at a high elevation, so herbs grow there which grow in few other places around the world.
One of the staples of Tibetan medicine which has gained popularity in the Western world is ginseng. Although it has become something of a 'fad' ingredient in modern energy drinks, traditionally it has many practical medical uses, including being used to help rebalance patients with sexual dysfunctions.