LHASA, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Attendees of the first international forum on traditional Tibetan medicine gathered in Lhasa, Tibet, Tuesday to share ideas and celebrate the 100th anniversary of a Tibetan hospital.
Men-Tsee-Khang, also known as Tibetan Medical and Astro Institute, was founded in 1916. It was formally named Tibet Autonomous Region Hospital of Traditional Tibetan Medicine in 1980.
Tibetan medicine, or Sowa Rigpa in Tibetan, is over 2,000 years old. It has absorbed influences from traditional Chinese, Indian and Arabic medicine.
Similar to traditional Chinese medicine and in sharp contrast to biomedicine, Tibetan medicine, which is mainly practiced in Tibet and the Himalayan region, uses herbs, minerals and sometimes insects and animals to treat afflictions. It is particularly well known for its digestive, cardiovascular, and rheumatoid treatments.
Tibetan medicine can be traced back to its roots in the region's monasteries and, even to this day, many of the most renowned doctors are often high monks. It uses a patient's urine to diagnose ailments, as the color, foam, smell and sediment of urine can help with diagnosis and inform treatment plans.
Stephan Kloos, a researcher at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, said Men-Tsee-Khang had been crucial to the development of Tibetan medicine, as generations of Tibetan medics had passed through its doors.
"Tibetan medicine as we know it today has absorbed medical knowledge from China, India and Persia to create something unique from the sum of its parts," he said.
"Its very strength, resilience and dynamism derive from the centuries of exchanges between practitioners and scholars from diverse backgrounds," he added.
Damdinsuren Natsagdorj, professor at Otoch Manramba University of Mongolia, said that Mongolian and Tibetan practitioners had been studying in each other's countries for more than a thousand years. "There is a very close relationship between traditional Mongolian medicine and Tibetan medicine."
"Many people around the world are studying Tibetan medicine, which means it is prospering," he said.
Tibetan medicine was added to China's intangible cultural heritage list in 2006. The ancient practice has also won the support of the World Health Organization, according to Natsagdorj.
At the Tibetan Medicine Committee's annual conference in August, Harvard University's Janet Gyatso expressed her amazement and optimism about the development of Tibetan medicine.
Vincanne Adams, from UCSF School of Medicine, said the biggest challenge is exposing Western medics to Tibetan medical theory, which is very hard to explain in a Western context.
More should be done to promote Tibetan medicine on the international stage and to attract students to this branch of medicine, she added.
Tawni Tidwell, a PhD candidate at the anthropology department of Emory University, said Tibetan medicine is not only concerned with the body but also the mind, which "is needed in the world [today]."
"Tibetan medicine has treatments for afflictions that western medicine does not understand," he said.
"As more new and complicated diseases emerge that Western medicine cannot treat -- chronic diseases particularly -- Tibetan medicine could take a [leading] role," Kloos said.