LTSM - Ladakh Society for Traditional Medicine

PRESERVATION OF AMCHI MEDICINE CONSERVATION OF MEDICINAL PLANTS

Tibetan Medicine, known in Ladakh as Sowa Rigpa, or Amchi Medicine, is a system of healing over 2,500 years old. Embedded in concepts of Tibetan Buddhism, holistic in nature, with maintenance of good health dependant upon the balance of life-sustaining forces within the body, this tradition forms the basis for health care in Ladakh. Although the use of allopathic medicine has increased in recent decades, it cannot treat the full range of medical problems, and a large percentage of the population relies upon traditional medicine. The indigenous knowledge of the Amchi sustains the socio-cultural fabric of village life, and is a trusted, effective, and affordable system of health care.


The survival of this complex system of health, ritual, and belief is threatened with extinction due to the impact of social and economic change, as well as the increased worldwide demand for Ladakh’s potent high-altitude medicinal plants. Many skilled Amchis are elderly, and their knowledge represents the essence of the Tibetan medical texts and a lifetime of experience. Challenges to the tradition today include few young trained Amchis, a decline in Amchi social status, and the difficulty of securing the necessary medicinal plants due to increased commercial harvesting.

Today, in many regions of the Himalayas, a renewed interest exists in this time-tested method of health care. Ladakhi Amchis and non-Amchis concerned with the survival of Sowa Rigpa established the Ladakh Society of Traditional Medicine in 1999.  Initially sponsored by NOMAD RSI (France), today LSTM is an independent Ladakhi non-profit organisation, recognised by the governments of Ladakh and India. LSTM projects play an active role in revitalising Amchi Medicine, insuring the continuity of this important component of Ladakhi life and irreplaceable part of the world’s heritage.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

LADAKH SOCIETY FOR TRADITIONAL MEDICINE
P.O.BOX # 97, LEH, LADAKH 194101,INDIA
Email: lstmleh@gmail.com

*

 AMCHI TRAINING DUSRAPA PROGRAM

Many of the 200 practising Amchis in Ladakh are elderly. LSTM offers a four-year diploma course (Dusrapa Program)on the theory and practice of Tibetan medicine for young Ladakhis from remote and disadvantaged areas to train as future Amchis. As of 2006, LSTM has trained 16 new Amchis, now providing medical services to rural communities. LSTM also provides scholarships for students undertaking a six-year program of study (Katchupa) in Tibetan medicine at the Central Institute for Buddhist Studies in Ladakh.

 

LSTM accepts Dusrapa students based on family (lineage) links to the Amchi tradition, a background in the Tibetan script, and a strong dedication to pursue the profession of Amchi, with the goal of serving their village in this role.

Students learn Sowa Riga, the Tibetan science of healing, based on the traditional Tibetan medical texts. The Dusrapa Program emphasizes the holistic nature of Amchi Medicine and the therapeutic action of medicinal plants and other ingredients, as well as methods of diagnosis, treatment, and the preparation of medicines. The course also includes classes in Tibetan/Ladakhi language and grammar, necessary to read the medical texts. 

Dusrapa trainees spend a one-year apprenticeship with an older Amchi prior to graduation, learning the practical skills of pulse reading, pills preparation, plus the knowledge inherent in generations of tradition. LSTM sponsored Refresher Courses allow Dusrapa graduates to share experiences, learn new information, and consult with senior Amchis.

AMCHI HEALTH CENTERS and HEALTH AWARENESS CAMPAIGN

Since 1999 LSTM has established 16 Amchi Medicine Heath Centers in remote villages throughout Ladakh, where infant mortality rates are high and hypertension and respiratory problems common. Amchi Dusrapa graduates staff the health centers, and LSTM assists the newly trained Amchi in establishing a clinic in his/her house, providing basic supplies, including mortar and pestle for making medicines, storage bottles, and a year’s supply of medicine purchased from Leh. This include a thangka of medicine Buddha, medicinal raw materials and more.

Traditionally, villagers contributed to an Amchi’s support by exchanging livestock, agricultural products, and field labor for consultations and medicine. Today villagers are encouraged to pay Amchis a small fee for their services and medicine as the economic structure changes to monetary.

LSTM also operates an Amchi Clinicin Leh (Changspa Road) for foreign and domestic visitors and Ladakhis wishing to receive treatment or learn about the Amchi tradition. The clinic aids in generating income for other LSTM projects. It is also aimed to help spread the holistic health care system all over the world through visitors.

LSTM visits isolated communities in Ladakh to promote Amchi Medicine and Health Awareness. These campaigns focus on educating villagers and nomads concerning the benefits of Amchi Medicine, and include an emphasis on hygiene, sanitation, and prevention of common diseases.

MEDICINAL PLANT CONSERVATION.

The Trans-Himalayan zone is the source of medicinal plants for many of Asia’s traditional medical systems, and Amchis’ knowledge of the ecology and sustainability of plants is passed down through generations of training. Increased commercial harvesting of the 285 potent high-altitude medicinal plants in Ladakh is causing certain species to become rare, and threatens to damage the unique ecology of the region, impacting genetic biodiversity.

Tourism also places heavy pressure on medicinal plants growing close to popular trekking routes, with both campsites and overgrazing by pack animals taking a toll. Amchis now face mounting difficulties in securing access to raw materials that form the basis of their medicine. Conservation of Ladakh’s medicinal plants is vital to the continuity of Amchi Medicine.

LSTM, through Medicinal Plants Awareness Campaigns (MPAC), conducts a Ladakh-wide program to address the increasing scarcity of medicinal plants through species conservation training at the village level, empowering communities to better manage their natural resources. Working with Amchis and local populations towards the common goal of controlling harvesting and protecting the abundance and diversity of medicinal plants, the MPAC is vital to the protection of Ladakh’s ecosystem.

The first Medicinal Plant Village Management Committee was formed in Sapi village in 2005, and serves as a prototype for villages across Ladakh. Training programs are also held for Amchis and NGO workers under Integrated Medicinal Plants Conservation Project of the organisation.

SEMINARS

Village doctors cannot replace services of village amchis because they do not fulfil the same function, nor come from the same cultural, spiritual and conceptual base.

LSTM hosts annual Seminars and Workshops, providing a unique forum for the Amchis of Ladakh to share information and discuss common concerns, including new diseases and conservation of medicinal plants.

The Health and Social Harmony Seminar, in October 2004, brought together many participants in the heath sector, with the goal of promoting Amchi Medicine and discussing the role of the Amchi in Ladakh and contemporary society. This was witnessed as a key method to strengthen the referral sytem among amchis and bio-medical doctors. Every year a seminar is organised to discuss a highlighted health care issue. Such seminars are considered to be the only common plate form for amchis to share knowledge and experiences.

NEWSLETTER

Amchis across the Trans-Himalayan region have common bonds in the background of Tibetan medicine, but due to geographic isolation sometimes have little opportunity to interact and share information. LSTM initiated the Trans-Himalayan Amchi Medical Education Newsletter (Gang Jongs Sorig Dron Mai) to meet this need. The first of its kind, the Tibetan language newsletter covers the diverse regions of India, Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia, and Tibet-China, creating a trans-national bridge between physicians of Tibetan medicine. This written media plays again a crucial role of plate form to share experiences and knowledge among the amchis all over the world including those serving in remote and under privileged areas.

The newsletter is dedicated to keeping alive the tradition of Amchi Medicine in order to improve the health of rural populations. Gang Jongs Sorig Dron Mai contains articles on a wide range of topics relevant to practitioners. It is distributed free of charge.

Past issues included articles written by Amchis on the importance of Sowa Rigpa, the benefits of hot springs in Tibetan medicine, the importance of astrology, cures for various diseases (diabetes, polio, rheumatism), the changing status of the Amchi in today’s society, reports on Amchi Medicine conferences and seminars, including a workshop on HIV-AIDS, legal protection of intellectual property rights, pulse reading, the three humors, seasonal behavior, cold desert plants, and the LSTM Dusrapa school. 

TREKS

LSTM in association with NOMAD RSI (France) offers a variety of treks through Ladakh’s unique landscape, with a focus on Medicinal Plant Conservation and the Amchi Tradition. Treks vary from one to three weeks, and offer the opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge at the local level through meetings with village Amchis, lectures on Amchi Medicine, and identification of medicinal plants by biologists and trek leaders. For more information please visit the www.lungta.com and www.nomadrsi.org. This component of the project is associated with one of the reputed travel agency, Lungta Tour Operators.

For information about treks in Ladakh, with a focus on Amchi Medicine and medicinal flowers, contact:

LUNGTA Tour Operators & NOMAD RSI

A percentage of the cost of the trek goes directly to support LSTM’s activities related to conservation of Medicinal plants and training of new amchis for remote villages of Ladakh.

BOARD  OF DIRECTORS

President: Thinles Yangjor, a Lecturer at the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies in       Cholamsar, Ladakh. His past experience includes???

Vice-President: Tsering Phuntsog, an Amchi from the …..area, and former president of the Ladakh Amchi Society.

Secretary: Tsewang Gonbo, a social worker from Lamayuru district, and one of the founders of LSTM.

Accountant: Tsewang Norbu, an amchi from the Chuchot.

HOW TO CONTRIBUTE

Allopathic Medicine focuses primarily on the physical body; Sowa Rigpa concerns the body, mind, and soul.

Please make check payable to: Ladakh Society for Traditional Medicine
P.O. Box No. 97
Leh, Ladakh, 194101, India
Email: sorig@sancharnet.in
Phone: 91-1982-251-537

Please let us know if you need a receipt.

For information about treks in Ladakh, with a focus on Amchi Medicine and Medicinal Plants

LUNGTA
NOMAD RSI