TTM and Tara Rokpa

Dr Akong Tulku Rinpoche

Kagyu Samye Ling



  Mission statement
  The Tara Rokpa College of Tibetan Medicine
  Statutory self-regulation
  Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)




Tara Rokpa Edinburgh's initiative for Tibetan Medicine is two-fold:

   To support the best of Tibetan Medicine in Tibet.
   To make Tibetan Medicine, its theory and practice, more available in the West.



Although Tibetan Medicine is held in high esteem throughout Asia, it also faces real and present danger of extinction, even by its very popularity, with the breakdown of traditional Tibetan culture. Preservation of the highest standards of medical scholarship, training and practice are in urgent need of support. Rokpa International, a Swiss-based humanitarian organisation, already has a number of on-going initiatives for Tibetan medical education, preservation of medical knowledge and provision of clinics in remote areas. Tara Rokpa Edinburgh propose to support a factory for the production of purely herbal Tibetan Medicines which will meet UK and European Good Manufacturing Process (GMP) standards as well as the traditional Tibetan ones (see below - section on Good Manufacturing Process).

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The Tara Rokpa College of Tibetan Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland, was established in 1993 by the Rokpa Trust, in conjunction with the Institute of Tibetan Medicine in Lhasa. Rokpa Trust was founded by Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche and is based at Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan Centre, Dumfriesshire, Scotland.

Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche is a Tibetan lama and doctor who came to the West in the 1960's. He was recognised at an early age for his gifted qualities and was trained and educated to become abbot of Drolma Lhakhang, a small but distinguished monastery and retreat complex in a very high and desolate part of eastern Tibet. He was also educated as a doctor of Tibetan Medicine, as the previous abbot, the first Akong, had been known for his healing ability.

Once in the West, Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche co-founded Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan Centre, which has since grown to become a large monastery and retreat. From there Rinpoche developed the Rokpa Trust, a charity with three major activities:

   the preservation of Tibetan Buddhism,
   humanitarian aid at a wordwide level, and
   Tara Rokpa.

Tara Rokpa is concerned with the healing arts, both in terms of psychotherapy and medicine. The Tara Rokpa College of Tibetan Medicine offers both training and clinics.

The College has taken two groups of health care professionals through a 6-month in-depth introduction to the principles underlying Tibetan Medicine, with some of the most knowledgeable and prominent teachers visiting from Tibet, chief among them Khenpo Troru Tsenam, one of the most highly respected and eminent masters of Tibetan Medicine in Tibet.Over a period of four years the students spent six weeks each year at Samye Ling, where they were taught by the highest qualified Tibetan doctors.The teachings were translated into English.The doctors were seconded from their teaching posts at the University Hospitals.

Currently the curriculum is being revised.A possible format for the next courses might include two condensed 10-day modules per year over a two-to-three year period.Alternative and orthodox health care practitioners will be invited to attend.There will be a written core text which will be taught in English and given to the students beforehand.Each day there will be extensive question and answer sessions with the teaching Tibetan doctor and a translator regarding the topics covered that day.Each module will cover a specific topic from the vast source of knowledge and practice of Tibetan Medicine.

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Tara Rokpa also holds clinics with visiting doctors of Tibetan Medicine inEdinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Kagyu Samye Ling (Dumfriesshire), and London. Doctors working in the UK have chosen a special set of purely herbal remedies fromthe whole tradition which are appropriate for use within the legal framework.The present doctor, Dr. Lobsang Dhonden, was trained at the Tibetan Astrological and Medicinal Institutes in Lhasa, Tibet, and in Dharamsala, India, the foremost institute outside of Tibet. The Tara College of Tibetan Medicine is concentrating on refining the translation of core texts in the light of the academic and clinical commentaries given by visiting doctors of Tibetan Medicine.While the work is going on, the Tara College of Tibetan Medicine is not offering courses, and the Clinics of Tibetan Medicine, which are being promoted and administered by Tara Rokpa Edinburgh, have become our main focus.

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The Report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology on Complementary and Alternative Medicine(CAM) is the first comprehensive enquiry into complementary and alternative medicine in the UK.Tara Rokpa Edinburgh fully supports the conclusions of this report. In particular Tara Rokpa Edinburgh supports Statutory Self-Regulation (SSR).This must include training standards which ensure a very high quality of training for doctors of Tibetan Medicine working in the UK/EU. This should include the necessary training in Western clinical science and clinical treatments so that the practice of Tibetan Medicine can happen within the proper context of practice within Western society. Tara Rokpa Edinburgh supports the integrated approach envisioned in the document, where conventional and CAM can work side by side.In order to meet the standards set in House of Lords Report, TRE plans to address such key issues as training, research, self-regulation and appropriate accreditation. We see herbal Tibetan Medicine fitting within category 3a. Tara Rokpa Edinburgh is already beginning to address necessary parts of SSR, including the establishment of a Tibetan Medical Association which would have an accreditation as one of its subcommittees.This will set standards of training, continuing professional development and will oversee standards of clinical practice and ethics.

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Training in Tibetan Medicine traditionally took a full twelve years.Students studied grammar, astrology, philosophy, ethics, and Buddhist studies as well as the theory and practice of Tibetan Medicine.In recent times shorter three-year courses at provincial colleges have been a common form of training in Tibet, as the infrastructure within Tibet broke down during "The Cultural Revolution".Those who have the resources can go on to the universities and study for a further five years.While there is extensive training of doctors within the Tibetan Medicine system, there is a need for it to integrate fully in the UK and EU.With this in mind, Tara has been working closely with the EPHA and is in agreement with the setting of a core curriculum for all practising herbalists in the UK/EU situation.We support the suggested Core Curriculum:
1. Human Sciences
2. Nutrition
3. Clinical Sciences
4. Plant Chemistry and Pharmacology
5. Pharmognosy and Dispensing
6. Practitioner Development and Ethics
7. Practitioner Research
8. Module specific to each herbal tradition
9. Clinical Practice

Tara Rokpa Edinburgh is committed to bringing its core curriculum in line with new regulations being formed at UK and EU levels.It is clear that some grandparenting procedures will be required for medical herbalists currently practising within the UK.Tara Rokpa Edinburgh will work with the UK Government, the European Herbal Practitioners Association (EHPA) and other concerned bodies to bring about core training standards which will be essential to proper Statutory Self-Regulation (see above).

Tara Rokpa Edinburgh has hosted some twelve different forms of psychological and physical therapies at our headquarters in Edinburgh.These therapies have been offered by therapists properly trained and accredited in their respective disciplines. We have also offered two six-month modules of introductory training in the foundational theory of Tibetan Medicine. All of this work has as its underpinning a commitment to the highest standards of clinical care for our patients. All practitioners at Tara must adhere to our code of ethics and standards of best practice. Any Accreditation Committee set up by the Tibetan Medicine Association will maintain and oversee the clinical practice of doctors of Tibetan Medicine both in terms of ethics and best standards of practice. Continued Professional Development(CDP) is seen as essential for all healthcare professionals.We will require CDP as part of continued practice of Tibetan Medicine.

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We envision three tracks for research into Traditional Herbal Medicine.The first of these, which has already begun, is basic data collection for patients attending Tara Rokpa's clinics.This includes: 1. Side-by-side comparison of Western diagnosis, where known, with the Tibetan diagnosis, and 2. Tracking of changes in patients' condition over the course of treatment. The second track is continued monitoring of patients during and after treatment.At present this is happening with an eye to safety, but only based on patient self-reports.In future, we would like to establish research protocols which confirm both safety and efficacy of treatment.Particular attention might be paid to fluctuations (laboratory assessed) in the function of major organ systems (eg. liver and kidney) during the period of treatment. The third track will be rigorous efficacy studies which aim to prove effectiveness for Tibetan Herbal Medicine beyond placebo.For example preliminary research indicates diabetes might be a good place to begin.Once we have achieved an adequately stable organisational structure we aim to begin randomised clinical trials.We also intend to establish procedures for monitoring possible drug interactions between Tibetan Medicines and Western prescribed medications.

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Tara Rokpa Edinburgh is cognisant of GMP and to this end is concerned with best practice in the cultivation and harvesting of herbs and the compounding of herbal medicines.In Tibet, meticulous attention has traditionally been paid to the particular growing conditions and harvesting times and techniques for herbs and plants.However to bring this into line with contemporary manufacturing standards we are currently setting up a specially designed factory in Xining under the direction of Dr Karma Tso-nyi, who is one of the Tibetan doctors who has taught and practiced under the auspices of Tara Rokpa Edinburgh in the UK. Attention will be paid to the organic growing conditions of herbs, ensuring that there are no contaminants from fertilisers, insecticides, chemical waste nor any incidental contamination which might occur during the grinding or compounding of medicines.Hygiene is a modern insight which is now being incorporated and vigorously monitored for all stages of the manufacturing process.We feel that it is very important to set up laboratories, both in Tibet and in the UK, using gas chromatography to ensure the purity of our herbal preparations.We also intend to follow and incorporate storage, packaging, labelling and distribution guidelines as laid down by European Directives.