The origins of Tibetan Medicine and Constitution Doctrine

The beginnings of the Tibetan Medicine and Constitutional doctrine are in the pre-Buddhist era of the Bön religion. The animistic healing practice of Bönpas was taught several centuries before our time by Shenrab Miwo. She included individual healing practices, dietary roles, and a rudimentary pharmacology.

The shamanistic practices and the naturopathy of the Bönpas were reformed and developed in the first half of the 7th century AD under the Tibetan King Song Tsen Gampo.

At the suggestion of his two wives, the Nepalese Princess Bhrikuti and the Chinese Princess Wencheng, King Song Tsen Gampo invited doctors from India, China, Iran, Nepal, and Kashmir.

The Tibetan script was further developed, and various medical texts were translated into Tibetan.


Under King Tri Song Detsen (755-797 AD), a medical conference in Lhasa was convened to which doctors from all adjacent areas were invited.

As a synthesis of the represented medical knowledge systems, Yuthok Yonten Gonpo, a Tibetan doctor, wrote the first version of the four medical tantras, the Gyüshi [rGyud-bZhi].

Based on this and other medical writings, Yuthok Yonten Gonpo, the younger, wrote in the 11th century AD today’s version of the “Gyüshi”, the fundamental work of Tibetan Medicine. In it, 84 000 diseases are classified, and 2 293 medicinal ingredients are represented.


In the 17th century AD, traditional Tibetan Medicine evolved into classical maturity. His Holiness, the V. Dalai Lama, initiated the construction of the Potala Palace and founded the Chakpori Medicine Institute in Lhasa.

His regent, Sangye Gyamtso, revised the Gyüshi and published a famous comment, titled “Blue Beryl.”

He also arranged for the production of 79 paintings, the medicine Thangkas (role models), which illustrate the contents of his commentary.

Today, the Gyüshi, the “Blue Beryl” comment, and the 79 Thangkas are the basics of Tibetan Medicine. The training of Tibetan doctors was heavily geared to the practical treatment of patients.


In 1916, the 13th Dalai Lama founded the second school of medicine and astrology in Lhasa, the Men-Tsee-Khang. This institution was open to monks and lay people.

The training of Tibetan doctors was heavily geared to the practical treatment of patients.

Applying Tibetan Medicine was not confined to Tibet, but spread to Mongolia, China, to the Buddhist regions of Russia (E.g. in the Siberian Buryatia), and to Central Asia, as well as Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Ladakh.

In the Russian Empire of the 19th century, the reputation of the effectiveness of Tibetan Medicine even reached the court of the Tsar in St. Petersburg. There, Tibetan doctors, originally from Buryatia, opened the first clinic and pharmacy for Tibetan Medicine in Europe.


Before the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, there were two medical centers in the capital Lhasa: Chakpori and Men-Tsee-Khang.

The Chakpori and many precious scriptures were destroyed during the Chinese cultural revolution.

Through the deaths of many doctors, part of traditional practical knowledge was irretrievably lost.

The Men-Tsee-Khang in Lhasa has survived, and now, Tibetan Medicine is once again taught and practiced in Tibet.

In 1961, the newly founded Tibetan Government in exile in northern India founded the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute.

Its aim is to preserve and promote the traditional knowledge of Tibetan Medicine and astrology and to develop it.

Today, there are many affiliate clinics in India. Also, the Chakpori Institute was founded again in India.


H.H., the XIV Dalai Lama is committed to the development of Tibetan Medicine and securing it in the western world.

On his visit to PADMA AG in August 2005, the Dalai Lama called for a bridge between Western and Eastern medicine:

“It is very useful for the further development of our medicine, that there are countries with freedom, legislation and a tradition of objective and scientific research.

That is very important and useful. So, I rate your work you are doing here especially high.

Quite wonderful.

I therefore hope in future our medical center in Dharamsala will keep in close contact with you. And by this, I mean that some of our doctors come here every once in a while, to discuss their work and also carry out joint research projects.

(…). For a long time, already, I feel that the Tibetan Medicine system itself is a combination of medicine traditions of different countries. (…). There has been also previously a close cooperation between this (Tibet) and other medicine traditions (China, India and others). And today, in the 21st century, we should continue this cooperation, for the benefit of all mankind.”


Today, there are around 2 000 trained Tibetan doctors around the world. Despite the relatively small number of Tibetan doctors practicing, Tibetan Medicine in Asia goes far beyond Tibet, for example, in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia, and Russia. In parts of Russia, Tibetan-Buryat medicine has established itself alongside traditional western medicine.


In the center of Oriental Medicine in Ulan Ude, Tibetan doctors try to find new ways. They want to simulate pulse diagnosis using computer techniques.

The most important place of Tibetan Medicine is and remains the Men-Tsee-Khang Institute in the Indian Dharamshala. Since 2009, the “Sowa rigpa”, the Tibetan knowledge of healing-in addition to the Ayurveda medicine – has been fully recognized by the Indian state.


Some Tibetan doctors have moved to Europe, the United States, and Canada. These doctors have contributed to the spread of Tibetan Medicine and Constitution in the West with their knowledge. Often, however, they may not be allowed to practice in the West as “Tibetan Doctors.”

They pass their knowledge about health and nutrition on to patients (for example at the Tibetan Medical Center in Spain, at the New Yuthok Institute for Tibetan Medicine, or at the International Academy for Traditional Medicine [IATTM], both in Italy].

The Tibetan Medicine and Constitution Rules are striving to gain official recognition in the West, like in other countries. Only scientific research and documentation of their effectiveness can secure such recognition in the long-term.


Switzerland occupies a leading position in this respect, because the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products, Swissmedic, recognized the complementary medical category “Tibetan Remedies” and approved the first drug of Tibetan Medicine in the seventies of last century.

Actually three Tibetan Medicines are approved in all of Switzerland, and two, named PADMED, are reimbursed by health insurance.


Tibetan Medicine and Constitution Doctrine is a holistic medicine and nutrition system, based upon the doctrine of five elements – earth, water, fire, wind, and space. The five elements manifest themselves in human beings through the three principles of Lung, Tripa, and Beken. If these three principles are in balance, we feel mentally and physically healthy.
To preserve the knowledge of Tibetan Medicine, PADMA has made an effort, since the beginning and into future, to promote scientific research into the healing properties of Tibetan formulas.