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To Heal What Ails You, Look East

n recent decades, interest in Eastern medicine has grown in the West. Japanese and Chinese varieties of acupuncture, Indian Ayurvedic therapies, and other ancient practices have increasing numbers of Western adherents who are attracted to their holistic approaches, centuries of development, and all-natural remedies.

There is one branch of traditional Eastern medical treatment — Tibetan medicine — that has particularly deep roots in Russia, having been practiced for centuries by Russia’s Buddhist peoples such as the Buryats, Kalmyks, and Tuvans. Tibetan medicine arrived in Russia in the 17th and 18th centuries, brought by Buddhist missionaries from Mongolia. In fact, by some accounts, it is precisely through Russia that Tibetan medicine made its way to the West.

In the mid-19th century, a typhoid epidemic struck a detachment of the tsar’s army tasked with protecting Russia’s eastern border. It was a Buryat, Sultim Badma, who managed to bring the epidemic under control using Tibetan medical techniques. Later on, Badma opened a Tibetan pharmacy in St. Petersburg and took a Russian name, Badmayev. It was members of Badmayev’s family and their descendants who continued to practice Tibetan medicine in Petersburg and ultimately introduced it to Europe.

As Tibetan medicine was spreading in the West, in Soviet Russia its practice, which was closely tied with Buddhist beliefs, was largely suppressed. But since September 2007, Tibet Clinic has made Tibetan medical practices once again available to Muscovites. Affiliated with the Tibetan Medicine and Astro Institute of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, Tibet Clinic draws on the original Tibetan medical traditions as well as the syncretic practices native to Russia.

Stone massage

A synthesis of Chinese and Indian ancient medical traditions, Tibetan medicine is based on a unique balance in each person of three basic humors, or dosha: wind, bile, and phlegm. The combination of the dosha in proportions appropriate to the individual organism signifi es health, while illness is attributed to an imbalance in these human physics. A lack of balance can lower immunity, resulting in infection, while the correct balance can speed recovery and general healing, even of a wound or broken bone. In addition, Tibetan medicine emphasizes preventive care through the maintenance of physical balance in order to avoid the onset of disease.

Following analysis and diagnosis, treatment is prescribed — drawing from traditional herbology, massage, baths, small needles or heat applied to pressure points on the body, even leeches — to achieve homeostasis. In this way, Tibetan medicine can contribute to every aspect of human health — from weight control and combating depression to allergies, arthritis, and heart disease.

Heat therapy

Doctors at the Tibet Clinic come from the parts of Russia where Tibetan medicine is traditionally practiced. In addition to this experience, all are trained and licensed medical doctors, a fact that illustrates the Clinic’s philosophy that Western and Eastern medicine are fully compatible.

When asked about the advantages of Tibetan medicine, the Clinic’s Innokenty Sergeev

Tibet Clinic
Ul. Sretenka, d. 9
Tel. 781-5757

points to the individualized program of treatment developed for each patient as well as the absence of synthetic chemicals that can be found in the pharmaceuticals on which so much of Western medicine depends. Then he mentions the centuries of experience and wisdom that form the foundation of Tibetan medical practice. It’s hard to argue with his logic — aft er all those years, there must be something to it!

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