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           Care and cure, the Tibetan way
            Tribune, India [Sunday, March 20, 2005 16:55]
Patients from all over the country, and even abroad, are turning to Tibetan medicines, reports Vibhor Mohan from Dharamsala

The Tibetan system of medicine has, over a period of time, become very popular due to its ability to deliver quick results. Patients from across the region wait for their turn in long, serpentine queues at the half-a-dozen Tibetan clinics in Dharamsala. After diagnosis, they continue their treatment by seeking consultation by post or through e-mail. Tibetan practitioners rely on traditional methods of diagnosis to pin-point the cause of the ailmentópulse reading and the examination of the urine sample and the skin. "For us, the pulse is not just a measure of the heart beat, it leads us to the ailing part of the body," says Dr Tsewang Tamdin, Deputy Director of the Men-Tsee-Khang or the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute (TMAI), Dharamsala.. "Our medicines score over allopathic drugs because they do not have side-effects and are not slow acting," he adds.

Therefore, feels Tamdin, it would be wrong to term the Tibetan system as an alternate system of medicine because except for surgery or accident cases, there is a cure for every disease. A seven-year course in Tibetan medicine and astrology is run by the institute. The TMAI has nearly 60 seats in the two batches of medicine it offers and the teaching is purely in Tibetan. Students studying traditional medicine get a five-year Kachupa degree or Bachelor of Tibetan medicine and surgery, while students studying astrological science attain a five-year Tsipa Kachupa degree or Bachelor of Traditional Tibetan astronomy and astrology. The TMAI runs two clinics, one each in Dharamsala and McLeodganj.

Pulse reading is the key to diagnosis

Among the private practitioners in McLeodganj, the Dr. Lobsang Dolma Khangkar Memorial Clinic and Dr Yeshi Dhondenís Tibetan Herbal Clinic draw the maximum patients. Continuing the legacy of Dr Dolma, whose name had once become synonymous with Tibetan treatment, is her daughter, Dr Passang Gyalmo Khangkar. She says most of her patients turn to Tibetan medicines after they fail to get the desired results with allopathic drugs.

"Most Tibetan medicines are made from the same herbs as in ayurveda, the difference lies in the proportion of their use in the formulation. I donít have anything against the modern sophisticated equipment and seek an X-ray report if there are problems establishing the cause," she says.

In fact, she adds, many of her patients bring reports of their medical tests along with their case history. "From common ailments to lung and liver cancer, the Tibetan system has treatment for all diseases. In fact, the number of Indian and foreign patients outnumber Tibetans at my clinic," she says. Dr Dhondun is known for helping cure chronic diseases. A large number of HIV patients come to him for treatment. "Most of these are drivers from Punjab or as far as Nagaland. Several Indians working as drivers in Dubai are also getting treatment for HIV infections after allopathic drugs proved futile," he says. Dhondun needs a translator but he makes it a point to know the patientís lifestyle to detect any behavioral disorders as a part of the diagnosis.

"The reason why the Tibetan system has lived on is the fact that it had a cure for even the most recent diseases like dengue, plague and SARS. Allopathic research for some ailments is still in its nascent stage," he says.

Between six to 70 herbs are used in a medicinal formulation and most practitioners have a choice of up to 300 medicines to prescribe from. "The ability of Tibetan medicines to cure all kinds of cancer is unmatched. We even get patients with oral cancer from Gujarat," says Dr Dhondun, who was formerly the Dalai Lamaís private physician.

A cancer patients, on the condition of anonymity, says that doctors at the local government hospital had virtually given up on her. "They asked me to go home and take rest, which meant I didnít have much time. But thanks to the Tibetan treatment, I have lived a healthy life for five years since then," she says.

Gurdial Singh, a patient of blood cancer from Ferozepore turned to Tibetan medicines after an extended allopathic treatment proved futile. "I hope the herbal medicines work," he says. A day before seeing a Tibetan medical practitioner, a patient needs to have a restricted diet, avoid meat and coffee. He should also sleep on time so that no unwanted indicators are shown in his urine and on the surface of his skin. Although both body and mind are seen as a single unit in the Tibetan system, says Tamdin, the treatment is very specific. "In allopathy, you have only high-grade or low-grade fever. There could be 10 different types of fever as per the Tibetan diagnosis, all affecting different parts of the body. The treatment varies in each case," he says. though the Chinese and ayurvedic systems are based on the same lines, the Tibetan system stands out because it also deals with psychological aspects as well. Along with curing the disease, a Tibetan practitioner would also go into the root cause of the problem," chips in TMAI director Dr Dawa Choedon. "Many Indians come to us with depression due to marital disputes or professional problems, we also provide them counselling," says Tamdin.

As far back as the 4th century, people in Tibet used to apply residual barley from Tibetan beer on swollen parts and knew the benefits of applying hot water in case of indigestion and using melted butter for bleeding.

A qualified Tibetan practitioner is also trained to use astrology in case of doubt. The practice of Tibetan astrology is believed to have begun after the spread of Shri Kalachakra Tantra, which was taught by Lord Buddha at Shri Dhanyakataka in Southern India in 881 BC. The Tibetan astrologers deal with only the external kalachakra tantra, which leads with creation of the universe, its cosmology, the positions of the planets, starts, sun and moon; the five elements and chronological studies.