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Materia Medica of Tibetan Medicine – Vaidya Bhagwan Dash

Materia Medica of Tibetan Medicine – Vaidya Bhagwan Dash
Item Code: IHL233
Author: Vaidya Bhagwan Dash
Publisher: Sri Satguru Publications
Edition: 1994
ISBN: 8170303877
Pages: 714 (Illustrated Throughout In B/W)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 11.5 Inch X 8.5 Inch
From the Jacket

Candranandana (circa 8th cent. A.D.), the author of the present work was Kashmirian scholar. The present work is based upon Sman dpyad yan lag brgyad pa’i snin po’i’ grel pa has sman gyi min gi rnam grans (Skt.:Vaidya – Astanga – hrdaya – vrttau Bhesaja – nama – paryaya) by Candranandana (Tib.:Zla-ba-la dga’-ba). The exact title of this work appears to be Sman gyi min gi rnam grans (Skt.: Bhesajanama – paryaya). Keeping in view the phonetics of the title, it is abbreviated as MGND in the present work.

In the 15th chapter of the Sutra section of Astanga hrdaya, 33 groups (ganas) of drugs which are used in the recipes for elimination therapies, etc., are described. A detailed discussion on the identity of these groups is available in the introduction to the Madanadi- nighantu. In addition to these groups, properties of ingredients of food and drinks are described in the 5th and 6th Chapters of the Sutra section of Astanga hrdaya. Basic material for the Tibetan work (MGND) is culled from all these three chapters in the Sutra section of the Astanga hrdaya.

Three editions of Tanjur have been consulted for the preparation of this work. The Narthang edition is taken as the base. Variant readings in the Derge edition (shown in the brackets as (D) and Peking edition (shown in the brackets as (P) are given in indented form. Forcibly and artificially coining and providing Sanskrit equivalents of the Tibetanised synonyms have been scrupulously avoided.

Properties and therapeutic utility of these drugs mentioned before are not available in the Tibetan text. These are culled from Madanadi – nighantu and such other authentic Ayurvedic works as well as from the reputed work as well as from the reputed work on Tibetan Materia Medica called Dri med sel gon and Dri med sel phren by the 18th century teacher Dil-dmar-dge-bses Bstan-dzin-phun-tshogs. The book is illustrated as far as possible for Medicinal plants.

The present work is divided into six sections.
Section I deals with drugs belonging to 33 groups (granas) described in Astanga hrdaya. Section II deals with other drugs collected from different other sources, which included plants, metals, minerals, gems, jewels and some animal products. Section III deals with ingredients of food and drinks; Section IV: It deal with animals and animal products; Section Vdeals with tree etc., their parts and some technical terms used in medicine; and Section VI deals with synonyms and homonyms of the drugs. At the end, four indices dealing with Tibetan, Sanskrit as well as Botanical/English names of drug and their therapeutic properties are provided.

Vaidya Bhagwan Dash has had an outstanding brilliant academic career. In the course of over three decades dedicated to research and practice of Ayurveda. Dr. Dash has attended several international conferences and seminars all over the world. He has to his credit over forty important publications on different aspects of Ayurveda and Tibetan Medicine including the Encyclopedia of Tibetan Medicine a multi – volume work.


Medical science, of late, has made considerable progress in various fields. The era of specialization and the tendency of seeing man as a chemo-physical entity of many separate parts is giving place to a new genre of biological thinking. The new school of thought is directed towards the concept of the man as a whole person with his physical, emotional and spiritual aspects inseparably unified in one living individual.

The place of man as an organic part of the biological and cosmic universe subject to all the immutable and irrevocable lays of nature is being increasingly recognized. This is exactly what the Tibetan Traditional Medicine stands for. In other words, theoretically modern medicine is slowly but reluctantly bending back towards the traditional medicines of Tibet, China and India.

In spite of these profound changes taking place in medical thought, today’s conventional drug approach of modern medicine is unable to solve the catastrophic increase in such diseases as cancer, cardio-vascular disorders, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, AIDS, liver disorders and so forth.

Many of these ailments are declared as “incurable”. People are made to believe that pain killers and steroids which give temporary relief and whose continued use has serious toxic effects are the only way out. The net result of this criminal negligence has left thousands of crippled and unproductive men, women and children all over the world.

The other side of the story is that the practitioners of traditional medicine do have successful treatment for these so called “incurable diseases”. But unfortunately, they are derided as quacks and their achievements are systematically denunciated by the new found audio – visual media.

Development of Traditional Systems of Medicine

(1) Traditional system of medicine are developed in various parts of the world in different ages. A systematic shape was given to them is different ancient Centers of Civilization. Some of these traditional medicines are no doubt empirical. But some others like those in practice in Tibet, China, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka have rational and scientific fundamental principles. The folk – medicine of these countries are also based on for thousands of years not withstanding some political and temporal vicissitudes. Thus, these traditional systems are both “Medicine” itself and “history of Medicine.”

Jivaka’s Profound Knowledge of Nature

The profound knowledge of these physicians concerning the nature and natural laws is still available in written historical works in Tibetan. During the lifetime of Lord Buddha in 6th cent. B.C., Taksashila University (now the location is in Pakistan) used to attract students from different parts of the world to study different subjects of science and arts. Jivaka while seeking admission to the Medical faculty of this University was asked, as a part of admission test, to bring all the plants in the surrounding which had no medicinal property. He returned empty handed and replied that he could not locate a single plant in the surrounding of the University which is devoid of medicinal value, and every thing in this Universe has medicinal value. He was the only candidate admitted to the medical faculty.

It is this Jivaka of Kumara Jivaka, in Tibetan called Tsho-byed Gzon-nu, to whom according to tradition is attributed the authorship of Rgyud bzi which is the basic text followed by physicians of Tibetan Traditional Medicine.

There were several commentaries written on this work by Tibetan physicians. It is again on the basis of this Rgyud bzi, the reputed Mongolian scholar Jam – dpal Rdo-rje wrote his illustrious Materia Medica of Mongolia Medicine.

Purpose of Medical Study

Study of medicine according Tibetan tradition is not for business or financial gains. The main purposes are:
1. Maintaining positive health and prevention as well as cure of diseases;
2. Promotion of longevity by which a person can adequately perform his religious duties, earn livelihood, satisfy sensual desires and attain salvation or nirvana;
3. Making living creatures free from miseries; and
4. Attaining excellence and respect from others.

Definition of Health

Health according to Tibetan medicine is just not freedom from diseases. Along with freedom from diseases, a person should be mentally happy and spiritually elevated to be called a real “healthy” person. In this materialistic world, many people just lead a mechanical life. Most of them do not sleep without a sleeping pill. Religion is relegated to the back – position. It’s practice is considered to be the job of old and invalid persons. Tibetan medicine, on the other hand, emphasizes upon religious practices by all (to which ever faith or religion one may belong to) for physical health, mental happiness and spiritual elevation.

Unique Features

Unique features to Tibetan traditional medicine are as follows:
(1) Holistic approach

A disease may appear in a particular part of the body. Apart from the organ in which the disease is manifested, several other organs of tissues of the body are also affected to cause the disease. Each disease has a site of origin, and the path of circulation for the morbid material to be carried from the site of origin to the site of manifestation. While treating a disease, all these factors are taken into account. Thus, by treatment, the disease is not just suppressed but completely rooted out.

(2) Psycho – somatic concept of diseases

For the causation of a disease, both the physical and mental factors are involved. Anger, passion and illusion (ignorance) form the causative factors of all the physical diseases. Similarly physical factors are involved in the causation of mental disorders. Because of this psycho – somatic concept, traditional physicians prescribe many regiments and conducts including religious practices while prescribing medicines.

(3) Field is more important than the seed

Germs, in traditional medicine, are considered to be secondary factors for the causation of diseases, the primary factors being the disturbance in the equilibrium of nad pa or nes pa, lus zuns (tissue elements) and dri ma (waste products). If the field is barren, the seed, howsoever potent it may be, will not germinate. Similarly, if there is equilibrium of nes pa, etc, then the germ howsoever virulent it may be will not be able to multiply and grow to cause a disease. The aim of traditional physicians is therefore, to give medicines to maintain this equilibrium of nad pa or nes pa etc. and not to kill the germs.

(4) No side- toxic – effects but side – benefits

Invading germs are certainly more powerful than the body cells. Any medicine which is given to kill these germs will certainly produce harmful effects on the body – cells. These harmful effects are called side – toxic reactions. Some time, the patient suffers more from these sides – toxic effects than the disease itself. These side effects are so evident and so common that a specialized branch of modern allopathic medicine is developed for the treatment of iatrogenic diseases. Because of the damage caused to the tissues by these drugs, the person gets the same or other diseases repeatedly.

On the other hand, traditional drugs have no side- toxic reactions but side – benefits. They bring about the equilibrium of nad pa etc., by which germs succumb to their natural death. Because of the equilibrium of the nad pa etc., brought out by traditional drugs, the resistance power of the body or immunity against the disease is increased. This prevents repeated attacks of the same or other diseases.

(5) Every medicine is a tonic

Since traditional drugs do not aim at killing the germ or invading organism but their primary aim is to bring about the equilibrium of body – tissues, they work as tonics. These traditional medicines, unlike modern allopathic drugs, can be given to both the patients and healthy persons. In the former, traditional medicines help in the cure of diseases and in the latter; they promote the immunity system, and thus, work as tonics. Even the other wise poisonous drugs, like aconite, mercury and sulphur work as tonics. Of course, these poisonous drugs including metals, minerals, gems and precious stones are used only after purification for the removal of their toxicity.

(6) Non – toxic nature of drugs

Modern allopathic drugs, specially the synthetic chemicals are marketed after testing them for their toxicity, viz., acute toxicity, sub-acute toxicity, chronic toxicity, terratogenic effects etc. In spite of all these tests, some drugs produce harmful effects and they get banned later. Thus producing a drug and later banning it has become so common that a drug imported for use in one country becomes banned in the country of its origin before it reaches its destination. On the other hand, traditional drugs and their formulations are in use for thousands of years. Had they got any such harmful effects, either the population growth would have come to a standstill or their should have been crippled, physically handicapped and mentally retarted people in different parts of the world.

(7) Use of National Drugs

Raw – drugs used in traditional medicine are natural ones. Synthetic drugs or isolated fractions like alkaloids and glucosides are not used in traditional medicine. In raw drugs, naturally alkaloids, etc., are preset. In the same plant, there are other fractions also which counteract the harmful effects of these so called active principles. In any way, in traditional medicine, a plant is never used for its alkaloid-content etc. It is selected on the basis of its or (taste), etc; which will be discussed later. Preparing medicines from these plants, does not involve any sophisticated & high technology. These are processed only to make them delicious, easily digestible, assimilable, therapeutically more potent and preservable.

(8) Socialistic approach

Collection, processing and storage of traditional drugs do not require high technology and sophisticated equipments. There medicines can be manufactured by the physicians themselves. A medium scale manufacturing unit is enough even to produce traditional medicines in large scale for supply to government hospitals & dispensaries and for sale to private clinics. The man who collects the herbs from the near by forests or fields or who cultivates them, gets the profit. Semi – skilled labourers get benefit by working with the physician or in the factory. The whole manufacturing process is socialist oriented. In is no wonder therefore, that the multinational companies and senior scientists have shown little interest in developing, producing and marketing such drugs so far.

(9) Cheapness of medicines

Since local herbs for the most part are used, and sophisticated technology and equipments are not used, traditional drugs are normally very cheap. Such drugs containing precious stones etc., are no doubt a little costly. But such medicines are sued only in the treatment of very obstinate & otherwise incurable diseases for the treatment of which huge amount would have been spent otherwise. Thus, in ultimate analysis, even such costly drugs become economical.

(10) Environmental protection

Traditional drugs, for the most part, are collected from local flora & fauna. Their preservation, protection and developments is therefore, of great interest to traditional physicians. No big factories, no pollution of air and no pollution of river water are therefore, the basic requirements of traditional medicine.

(11) Emphasis on positive health

Treatment of a diseases after it is manifested is no doubt undertaken by traditional physicians. But the main aim of traditional system of medicine is to prevent occurrence of diseases and preservation as well as promotion of positive health. For this, several regime and conducts are prescribed for different parts of the day and night and for different seasons.

(12) Emphasis of diet

For maintenance of positive health and prevention as well as cure of diseases Tibetan medicine lays considerable emphasis on proper diet. In fact, it is said “with proper diet, the patient needs no medicine and without proper diet, the patient needs no medicine.” In the former case, with proper diet, the patient will be automatically cured and in the latter case when the patient is not on proper diet, he will not be cured in spite of potent medicines.

(13) Interdependability of micro – cosm and macro – cosm

According to Tibetan medicine the micro – cosm or the individual is an exact replica of the macro – cosm or the universe. Every phenomena of the universe takes place in the body. Therefore, he universe controls the individual and vice versa. Here comes the role of mantras or religious incantations through the practice of which one can control the natural phenomena.

(14) Unification of science, philosophy & religion

In Tibetan tradition, medicine, philosophy and religion are put together. Without one, the other two are considered to be incomplete. Religion her does not mean Buddhism alone. One can practice any religion he likes but he should follow these practices faithful to be healthy and happy.


Introduction vii
Key to Transliteration xxi
Section I Drugs belonging to 33 groups (ganas) described in the Sutra section (15th Chapter of Astanga hrdaya. 1-299
Section II Supplementary Plants 300-472
Section III Food and Drinks 473-505
Section IV Animals and Animal - Products 506-559
Section V Tree and Its Parts 560-576
Section VI Synonyms and Homonyms 577-609
I Tibetan names of drugs etc., with their Sanskrit & Botanical/English equivalents 611-337
II Sanskrit names of drugs etc., with their Tibetan and Botanical/English equivalents.639-662
III Botanical/English names of drugs etc., with their Tibetan and Sanskrit equivalents. 663-687
IV Therapeutic indications of drugs.689-694

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