Brief History Of Traditional Tibetan Medicine

The Tibetan medical system is one of the world’s oldest known medical traditions, with a history going back approximately 2500 years. There are many well-established practices, such as applying residual barley from Chung (Tibetan Beer) on swellings, drinking hot water in the case of indigestion, and using melted butter for bleeding and wounds. These practices developed from experience and formed the basis for the development of the art of healing in Tibet. During the pre-Buddhist era, there were also religious and cultural influences from the indigenous Bon tradition.

4th century

The renowned Tibetan physician, Dungi Thorchok, was born early in the century. He became eminent in his field and later served as personal physician to the 28th Tibetan King Lhathothori. Under his reign the famous Tibetan physician, Yuthok Yonten Gonpo, was born.

7th century
This period marks the beginning of two centuries of Tibetan dominance of Upper Asia. King Songtsen Gampo (617-650) invited physicians from India, Nepal, Persia and China to Tibet to discuss their medical systems. The result is believed to be a collection, in Tibetan, of their combined medical knowledge.

8th century

During the reign of King Trisong Deutsen (755-595), the first International Medical Conference was held at Samye, in Tibet. Physicians skilled in the medical systems of India, Persia, Nepal, Greece, China and other neighbouring countries debated and shared their knowledge. After the conference, the elder Yutok Yonten Gonpo, synthesised the essence of the various Asian medicals ystems and rewrote the Four Tantras, known as the rGyud-bZhi (pronounced Goo-shee). He founded the first Tibetan medical school in Kongpo sMenlung, Tibet in 762.

12th century

Yuthok Yonten Gonpo, the Younger, wrote eighteen other supplementary works on the rGyud-bZhi, the teachings on which Tibetan Medicine has since been based.

13th – 14th century

Jangpa Namgyal Dragsang and Zurkhar Nyamnyi Dorjee wrote many books on medicine and astrology.

17th century

Tibetan medicine underwent further development at the hands of Desi Sanggye Gyatso, an influential politician, scholar and renowned Tibetan physician. He was founder of the Chogpori Medical Center, in Lhasa, Tibet.


The 13th Dalai Lama established the Men-Tsee-Khang in Lhasa, Tibet.


His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama in exile re-established the Men-Tsee-Khang in Dharamsala, India.

Current situation

Tibetan Medicine which has been highly respected throughout Asia for many centuries, is now engendering great interest all over the world.

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