A Case Study of Tibetan Medicine: Examining Challenges of Establishing the Credibility of Traditional Medical Systems

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Palkyi, Tenzin

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The medical field is seeing a shift in healthcare delivery from a disease-centered model that focuses on curing acute illnesses to a more holistic approach which prioritizes overall well-being and preventive care. With this transition, there has been an increased interest in complementary and alternative medicine- (CAM) based interventions, leading to the emergence of the Complementary and Integrative Health (CIH) field. As CIH interventions like Tibetan medicine (TM) become more widely used, recent research is being conducted to determine these treatments’ potential effectiveness and to address skepticism about their relevance in health care. This thesis intends to explore TM as a case study of traditionally- based systems of care, which consider all aspects of a patient, including mental, physical, and social factors. Furthermore, this thesis will outline the evolution of TM from its inception through recent geo-political changes in addition to the global reach TM has had in Western societies. A non-systematic literature review was conducted to identify current studies available on TM’s effectiveness, explore gaps in TM research, and articulate challenges that traditional medical systems must overcome to further develop its evidence base. Some of these challenges include improving research quality, navigating inconsistent regulations of herbal compounds, and balancing the difficulty of conducting scientifically sound medical research without sacrificing the cultural integrity of non-biomedically based systems of care. Based on this analysis of Tibetan medicine, I propose recommendations that may serve to systematically integrate complementary medicine into future Western medical training. By addressing challenges with tangible solutions, traditional medical systems can further develop their evidence base, build credibility in Western societies, and be more accessible by being safely offered independently or together with allopathic medicine.



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