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Can Tibetan Herbs Be Replaced by European Herbs?


· Florian Ploberger ISTB, University of Vienna (Vienna, Austria)


07/27 | 15:30-15:50 UTC+2/CEST


This presentation seeks to explore potential boundaries that researchers might create or overcome when combining methods of textual analysis, ethnography, and clinical experience to address questions of Sowa Rigpa pharmacology in a European context. When does an analysis of Tibetan medical pharmacology benefit from using methods of different disciplines and when are they disadvantageous? Specifically, I will analyze potential ruptures of cross-disciplinary methods when addressing the question: “Can Tibetan herbs be replaced by European herbs?”

On a practical level, when making Tibetan formulas in Europe, it should not only be possible and beneficial for patients and doctors to replace Tibetan herbs with European herbs, but also cost-effective. Replacement is a common solution, but difficult to understand and research, since ideas on what can be replaced with what and why differ considerably among texts, practitioners, and herb collectors.

How can we deal with the problematic issues of replacement, combining methods from, for example, ethnographic, botanical, clinical, and philological methods? I will explore this question by presenting the example of the possible replacements of bitter, cooling Tibetan herbs that are used to treat mkhris pa-problems such as tig ta (Swertia chirata) or khur mang (Taraxacum officinale) with European herbs such as gentian (Gentiana lutea) or centaury (Centaurium erythraea). Which of these methods make sense when addressing questions of plant identification, sourcing and trade, as well as the process that is needed to be able to make a decision on suitable replacements?