Amchi or Sowa Rigpa medicine “The science of healingâIs a localized form of Ayurvedic Tibetan medicineIne (Sustainable Healthcare) which is still practiced and preserved in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, India. In layman’s terms, “physicians” or practitioners of Amchi medicine are called Amchi and they usually come from a family with a medical line stretching back several generations, many professing six or more. Due to the remoteness and isolation of Ladakhi villages from the outside world, the Amchis, with their experiential wisdom and knowledge of Himalayan herbs and Ayurveda, have played an important role in providing free medical care to people. needy.
The Amchi system in Ladakh is a traditional medicine practice that is said to originate from Tibet; that is to say the system initially derived from Tibetan medicine. But today the system is also followed in many other Himalayan regions. The actual practice is quite complex and takes years of learning and guidance from a professional Amchi. Usually the practice is passed on to the next generation of the same family and mainly to the sons of the family. Diagnosing and monitoring the treatment of diseases requires great skills and techniques without using current equipment. Checking the pulse, body temperature, and testing for other physiological disorders are all done with the pure expertise of the individual, and no modern equipment is used in the process.
In every corner of Ladakh an Amchi was born to pass on the legacy and help treat diseases where highly equipped instruments are not available and modern highly trained doctors are not stationed. They mainly use plant sources to make their medicines and luckily many herbal remedies are found in the wild in the pristine mountains of Ladakh.
History and legacy
In the past, the Amchis were sponsored by the king and are highly respected in society, however, nowadays; rapid development and globalization have fundamentally changed the social and economic structure of Ladakh society, posing a challenge to the traditional Amchi system. Needless to say, Amchi practitioners hold extensive knowledge of their local traditions, customs, beliefs, kinship networks, not to mention the centuries of accumulated wisdom in Himalayan herbs and Ayurveda that we can learn from. Due to modern education and health care, some of the hereditary lineages have been suspended and much of Amchi knowledge is disappearing in the Himalayas.
One of the advantages of living in a city is having everything and nothing close at hand. From mild fever to serious illness, because cancer is treated in no time. On the other hand, people living in remote areas take longer to realize the issues their body is facing. They go on with their daily way of life without any knowledge of proper sanitation; diet or whatever is essential to keep their body in shape. Where on one side of the world people are far too aware of the in-depth details of their bodies and their health, there is on the other side where people have yet to be educated and taught how to take better care of their health. .
And such a part of this world is located in remote areas of Ladakh where modern technology and its miraculous advantages have yet to reach it. Health facilities must be the priority of any locality. The practice of Amchi becomes a boon for people belonging to these regions. Therefore, the practice should be encouraged and the Amchis should be given their appreciation for making the system available for years to come.
In addition to being expensive for people from poor families, modern medicines and various tests are not easy for them to use. Amchi drugs have always been even more reliable and appreciated by people and are also available at little or no cost to them. As no high-tech machine is required, they can also cover many remote villages. The very inspiring system that helps our society to stay healthy and disease free should be encouraged to broaden its horizons and teach the younger generations as much as possible and generate interest in learning the practice of Amchi.
Punchok Angchuk, a 6th generation Amchi practitioner from the Durbuk Lharje lineage, is a highly respected leader in his community. From an early age he began to learn Tibetan medicine from his father and since then has provided medicine to remote villages on the basis of donations for many decades. Today, he is 65 years old and continues to pass on this ancestral knowledge to his son and grandson.
The Larjey family from Durbuk village have been practicing amchi for many generations now. There is an interesting story behind their becoming an Amchi family. While renovating a stupa just outside their house, one of their great-grandfathers found an inscription on the stone that revealed the Amchi roots. Since then, the legacy has been passed down through the family and practiced with passion by the next generation. Meme Paljor inherited skills from his father, Meme Sonam, but he only had daughters in the family and therefore could not pass them on to his children.
He married one of his daughters at a very young age and taught his son-in-law the practice of Amchi, who was only 12 years old at the time. And likewise, the legacy of great skills and knowledge of the practice has followed their next generations from Meme Sonam Stanzin (the son-in-law) to Meme Tsewang Stanzin and now Phuntsog Angchuk skillfully brings his skills in so much help for people like he could.
Challenges and way forward
Practicing Amchi is no easy task. It takes years to study texts and training can take up to 15 years. They have a strict routine to follow and must recite their scriptures daily. Things are made easier by modern inventions of science and technology, but Amchis has yet to make the diagnosis by checking the pulse and is also the key to treating the disease.
Phuntsog Angchuk, currently serving as Amchi, helps around 9 villages in remote areas of Ladakh without any financial support and does not charge for treatments either. Coming from an Amchi family, he follows the traditional route of medicine and believes that hand-made medicines are more effective than those that are readily available, perhaps made from machines. He collects the constituents himself, roams the mountains of Ladakh for days in search of raw medicinal plants, and then prepares all the medicines himself. Unfortunately, doing all the work on his own, he has to overcome some obstacles that hinder his service. He often runs out of raw materials and since collecting them takes days of hiking in the mountains. Thus, his strong will to provide appropriate treatment on time sometimes remains unfulfilled.
Thus, with the availability of raw materials locally and the expertise of the people who have inherited the know-how, the system can be relaunched and supported for the betterment of the region. This is the way forward and we want you to be part of this movement. We take this opportunity to invite all of you to share your ideas on how we could save this ancient practice of “Amchi” which is not only our heritage but very important for leading healthier and more sustainable lives by keeping and respecting the friendly relationship with nature and providing a sustainable health system.
We’ll update you all with a follow-up article with solutions. Until then, keep sharing your ideas and we will make sure that it comes to a logical conclusion and that the best possible solution is implemented.
This story is brought to you by Dorkhul Lharje
Edited by Hitesh Mahawar
You can reach us at [email protected]