Medicina tibetana (ingles)

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L ONGEVITY, REGENERATION, AND OPTIMAL HEALTH

Tibetan Medicine
A Complementary Science of Optimal Health
Joseph J. Loizzo,a Leslie J. Blackhall,b and Lobsang Rapgayc
a

Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Center for Complementary and
Integrative Medicine; Adjunct Assistant Professor of Religion, Columbia University
Center for Buddhist Studies; Founder and Director,Nalanda Institute for Contemplative
Science, New York, New York, USA
b

Associate Professor of Medicine and Associate Professor of Medical Education,
University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA

c

Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of California Los Angeles
Medical Center, Los Angeles, California, USA

Traditional medical systems arechallenging because their theories and practices strike
many conventionally trained physicians and researchers as incomprehensible. Should
modern medicine dismiss them as unscientific, view them as sources of alternatives hidden in a matrix of superstition, or regard them as complementary sciences of medicine?
We make the latter argument using the example of Tibetan medicine. Tibetan medicine
isbased on analytic models and methods that are rationally defined, internally coherent, and make testable predictions, meeting current definitions of “science.” A ninth
century synthesis of Indian, Chinese, Himalayan, and Greco-Persian traditions, Tibetan
medicine is the most comprehensive form of Eurasian healthcare and the world’s first
integrative medicine. Incorporating rigorous systems ofmeditative self-healing and ascetic self-care from India, it includes a world-class paradigm of mind/body and preventive medicine. Adapting the therapeutic philosophy and contemplative science of Indian
Buddhism to the quality of secular life and death, it features the world’s most effective
systems of positive and palliative healthcare. Based on qualitative theories and intersubjective methods, itinvolves predictions and therapies shown to be more accurate and
effective than those of modern medicine in fields from physiology and pharmacology
to neuroscience, mind/body medicine, and positive health. The possibility of complementary sciences follows from the latest view of science as a set of tools—instruments
of social activity based on learned agreement in aims and methods—rather thanas a
monolith of absolute truth. Implications of this pluralistic outlook for medical research
and practice are discussed.
Key words: Tibetan medicine; integrative medicine; health education; humoral
medicine; philosophy of medicine; history of medicine

Introduction
The term “alternative medicine” has come
to mean any healthcare remedy or system not
generally accepted in modernbiomedicine,1

Address for correspondence: Dr. Joseph J Loizzo, Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, 1300 York Avenue, Box 46, New York, NY 10065. joeloizzo@
nalandascience.org

from Swedish massage to homeopathy, from
macrobiotics to the traditional Asian systems of
medicine.2 Although many patients use forms
of alternative medicine,3 either alone orwith
conventional biomedicine, physicians and researchers in the past have tended to be skeptical of all “unconventional” healthcare. Yet, as
evidence of the widespread popularity of many
of these alternatives has surfaced, along with
documentation of the billions spent on them,

Longevity, Regeneration, and Optimal Health: Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1172: 218–230 (2009).
doi:10.1196/annals.1393.008 C 2009 New York Academy of Sciences.

218

Loizzo et al.: Tibetan Medicine

interest within the biomedical community has
risen. The current consensus is that assessment
of the safety and efficacy of at least some of these
alternatives is warranted. Gradually, reliable
studies are showing some remedies effective—
such as acupuncture for nausea4,5 —while flagging others as potentially...
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