In practice, a doctor often
uses a synergetic mixture of lifestyle, diet and medication
to bring the patient back to health, sometimes with the adjunct
of the more external treatments to accelerate the process.
The human body is highly-complex
and remarkably adaptable. Yet its adaptability has its limits
and these limits vary from person to person. According to the
way an individual is constituted of the five
elements and three biodynamics,
certain life conditions will be helpful and some harmful. These
conditions concern the places in which they live and work, the
way in which they work, their human relationships, how they
dress according to the weather, whether they smoke or drink,
their work/sleep/leisure patterns and so on and so forth. In
general, the TTM doctor must assess the physical and psychological
environment in which the person exists. This environment, like
the patient's body, is made of the five elements - as discussed
in the five elements section -
and will be constantly affecting the elemental equilibrium of
the body. This in turn will influence the three biodynamics
and they in turn may produce clinical repercussions. Particular
attention is paid to the effect of climate and season on the
Each person is unique. Each
lives in unique circumstances. Thus there are guidelines but
no hard and fast rules. What may be good for one patient may
be harmful for another. The doctor needs the time to know the
patient and to apply all his/her intelligence to detecting what
in the patient's lifestyle may be wrong.
This section of TTM is very
interesting for the West, where irregular, over-stressed, emotionally-unstable
etc. lifestyles are very common and where the environment is
polluted, noisy and sense-intensive. In traditional Tibet, people
had very stable lifestyles and diet and lived with nature. If
one wonders whether then TTM doctors are the best qualified
persons to deal with modern Western life, it is worth considering
the fact that their fundamental understanding of the'elements'
is something which should be universally valid. Furthermore,
the TTM doctor offers the unique chance of a 'view from the
outside' of life habits that become taken for granted. The objectivity
often reveals the obvious that no one has yet seen.
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Diet is another situation of
interdependence: between a patient's particular elemental cum
biodynamic make-up and the elemental nature of his or her diet.
This interdependence is not constant and changes with the seasons
and with the years. TTM doctors with some experience of the
West are aware both of some (to them) obvious things which may
help their patients but also of the fact that things are very
different in the West than in Tibet. Tibetan people are the
result of a lot of natural selection, living in tough conditions
at a high altitude with limited food resources, mainly grain,
dairy products and meat. Their climate is very particular. The
guidelines of diet that TTM doctors apply traditionally are
well-suited to Tibetans in Tibet but these guidelines, as well
as those that come from India in TTM's ancient medical texts,
are only partially suited to the West. Much research needs to
be done as TTM understands underlying principles of diet which
are universally useful and may prove very helpful, once adapted
to other local circumstances.
Dietary advice is of two types:
general and temporary. The general advice is based upon the
doctor's assessment of the patient's constitution and lifestyle.
The temporary advice is particularly prescriptive for the complaint
with which the patient presents. It may be considered very helpful
for a patient to drink beer, eat lamb, avoid salad and tea etc.
for a few days if a wind biodynamic is temporarily out of kilter.
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Sample materia medica
and medical paintings in a Tibetan clinic
TTM has an extremely rich pharmacopoeia. Its medicines
are mostly compounds, made of anything from 5 to 70 substances,
drawn from several thousand figuring in its materia
medica. These take the form of pills, powders,
decoctions, medicinal butters etc. which are very often
prescribed over a period of two or four weeks. Very often
the prescription consists of three or four different compounds,
one for the morning, one at lunch and one in the evening,
with sometimes another before retiring.
Extremely interesting results have been
obtained with TTM's "precious pills". These highly-complex
medicines are its speciality. They result from long, highly-sophisticated
and labour-intensive processes of purification and detoxification
but, being based upon rare minerals and metals, cannot be used
in the West. Some research on them is in under way in China and
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Application of warm herb packs to meridian
moxibustion', using herb cones on meridian points
moxibustion (not practised by TTM doctors in West for legal
acupuncture does not form part of TTM, although some
TTM physicians have trained in it
elsewhere and use it to complement their healing art
or cold fomentations
(not practised by TTM doctors in West for legal reasons)
surgery (not practised by TTM doctors in West for legal reasons).
It is interesting to note that Tibet was one of the first countries
in the world to practise cataract surgery (some thousand years
ago) using a 'couching' method.
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