Tibetan medicine is one of the few traditional medicinal systems still in use in the world today, along with Indian Ayurveda medicine, traditional Western medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine, comprising the four main traditional medicinal practices of the world.
Tibetan medicine originates in the seventh century, drawing on elements of the above three types of medicines and possessing a relatively complete theoretical and practical system.
According to CN939.com, a website majoring in traditional Chinese medicine, missionaries to Tibetan-inhabited areas in the 18th century described Tibetan medicine in detail in their travel notes. In 1789, a British surgeon named Robert Saunder published an article introducing the processes of producing Tibetan medicine. The first western company specializing in the production and sale of Tibetan medicine was established in Zurich, Switzerland in 1969.
The Russians have been researching Tibetan medicine since the 18th century, including medical theory, medical products, and effects of pharmacology, covering almost the entire realm of Tibetan medicine. In the 1850s, Russia opened a clinic of Tibetan medicine as well as a Tibetan medical school. Parts of the monumental text on Tibetan medicine, Four Medical Classics, were translated into Russian in 1898.
The United States has begun researching Tibetan medicine since the end of the 19th century. In the early 1990s, Harvard University published an article in the New England Medical Journal about what would later come to be called "alternative therapy", or "non-traditional therapy", making Tibetan medicine and other natural medicinal practices very popular among Americans and promoting the spread of traditional Tibetan medicine in western societies.
Every year there are foreign specialists who visit Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan to study Tibetan medicine. Several countries have established Tibetan medicine research institutions, such as the American Association of Tibetan Medicine, the Academy of Sciences Oriental Institute and National Research Institute of the former Soviet Union, the Tibet Research Institute in Britain, the College of Liberal Arts of the University of Paris in France, Hamburg University in Germany, and the Association of Tibetan Medicine at Tokyo University in Japan.
There is always an exchange of academic theses on Tibetan medicine at internationally held academic conferences on Tibetan studies, such as the "Commemorating Sándor Krsi Csoma academic symposium" (Sándor Krsi Csoma,1784-1842; Hungarian scholar, revered in the west as the father of international Tibetan studies); the "First International Conference On Tibetan Medicine", held in Italy in 1983, at which was discussed academic theses on clinical Tibetan medicine, medicine research, and the history of Tibetan medicine; the "Academic Symposium on Central Asian Literature As Reflected In the History of Classical Tibetan Medicine", held in England in 1986; and the First and Second International Symposium on Tibetan Medicine was held in the U.S. in November 1998 and November 2003 respectively. The current situation and practices of traditional Tibetan medicine, clinical verifications, documentation and literature, psychotherapy applications, and the protection and utilization of resources were all discussed at the conferences, in order to spread the traditional Tibetan medicinal culture and promote the pivotal role that traditional Tibetan medicine could have in mainstream international medicine.
Like Chinese and other traditional medicines, Tibetan medicine is currently faced with the difficulty of being acknowledged on the global stage. Tibetan medicine is usually sold on the market as food products, and you cannot find accurate terms on the principles of Tibetan medicine in western scientific and pharmacological theories.
At the Fifth Beijing (International) Tibetology Symposium in 2012, Zhong Gejia, head of the Tibetan Medicine Research Institute of the China Tibetology Research Center spoke about how Tibetan medicine has been gradually getting more popular internationally as a result of patients both in China and abroad prone to receive treatment based on the concepts of green therapy and returning to nature. At the same time, he said, Tibetan medicine should also learn from some beneficial elements of Western and Chinese medicines so it can be promoted even more in international communities.