Publication Details

Wangchuk, P., Pyne, S. G. & Keller, P. A. (2013). An assessment of the Bhutanese traditional medicine for its ethnopharmacology, ethnobotany and ethnoquality: textual understanding and the current practices. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 148 (1), 305-310.


Ethnopharmacological relevance : This study involves the assessment of the Bhutanese traditional medicine (BTM) which was integrated with the mainstream biomedicine in 1967 to provide primary health care services in the country. It caters to 20-30% of the daily out-patients within 49 traditional medicine units attached to 20 district modern hospitals and 29 Basic Health Units in the country. Aim of the study : This study presents the ethnopharmacological, ethnobotanical and the ethnoquality concepts in relation to mainstream Tibetan medicine and describes the current practices of BTM. Materials and methods : Experienced BTM practitioners (Drung-tshos and Smen-pas) were selected using a convenience sampling method and were interviewed using an open questionnaire followed by informal discussions. The corpus of BTM, Tibetan and scientific literature was obtained and the information on ethnopharmacological, ethnoquality and ethnobotanical concepts and current practices of BTM was extracted. Results : This study found that the BTM shares many similarities in terms of materia medica, pharmacopoeia and the principles and concepts of ethnopharmacology and ethnobotany with its mainstream Tibetan medicine. However, the resourceful Bhutanese Drung-tshos and Smen-pas have adapted this medical system based on the local language, culture, disease trend, health care needs and their familiarity with the locally available medicinal ingredients making it particular to the country. A number of notable distinctions observed in the current practices include a code of classification of diseases (only 79 of 404 types of disorders recognized), formulations (currently used only 103 of thousands formulation types), usage of medicinal plants (only 229 species of thousands described) and selected treatment procedures (golden needle and water therapy). This BTM was found to cater to 20-30% of daily out-patients visiting 49 modern hospitals and basic health units in the country. Conclusions : The BTM has been evolved from the Tibetan medicine. While the pharmacopoeia, ethnopharmacology, ethnobotany and the ethnoquality aspects shares commonalities with the mainstream Tibetan medicine, there are some practices unique to BTM. Such uniqueness observed in the current practices of BTM include formulations, medicinal plants collection and usage, and the treatment procedures including golden needle and water therapy. This could be a promising source of information for the rediscovery of useful remedies, the development of modern phytotherapeutics and the establishment of efficient quality control measures.



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