Patients seeking drug-free cure eye Tibetan medicine

Abhaya Srivastava — Before dawn in the Indian Himalayas, scores of patients clutching small vials of urine queue patiently to see Yeshi Dhonden, a Tibetan monk who became a legend as personal healer to the Dalai Lama. Tibetan medicine, known as Sowa-Rigpa, draws on centuries-old techniques such as blood-letting, cupping, and moxibustion — burning herbs on energy points of the body — to try to heal ailments. The practice draws on aspects of traditional Chinese medicine and India’s Ayurvedic system as well as its own unique theories and treatments. It also features spiritual practises, including meditation and Buddhist prayer.
Today it attracts devotees from all over the globe, hoping for help with conditions from back pain to cancer and degenerative diseases.
“If the sick come to me I will take care of them,” Dhonden said at his private clinic in McLeodganj.
Dhonden relies on his senses to divine what ails patients. “I don’t go for tests like X-ray and all. I trust myself. I just test the pulse and the urine,” he explained.
A touch at the wrist is how he ascertains the health of vital organs and blood pressure.
The urine, held in a white porcelain cup, is stirred with two small bamboo sticks. Colour, bubble formation, sediment and smell can all shape the diagnosis.
Devotees swear Tibetan medicine works, though few scientific studies have been conducted into its efficacy.
The teachings — contained in some 2,000 textbooks and the messages of the Buddha, considered the guardian deity for all spiritual healers — are believed to have originated in Tibet.
Since it features elements of both ancient Chinese and Indian healing practises and is rapidly evolving from a niche tradition into popular alternative treatment, both nations have claimed it as their own.
But like other Eastern health treatments, it is viewed with scepticism among the conventional medical fraternity.
A lack of standardisation and clinical trials means it will be some time before Tibetan medicine can go mainstream, said cardiologist D Prabhakaran from the Public Health Foundation of India.
But even doubters acknowledge the natural treatment appears to assist some patients in certain cases.
“I know of anecdotal examples where people with terminal diseases have lived much longer than predicted after taking Tibetan medicine,” he said.— AFP