Home Institution

Mount Holyoke College

Publication Date

Spring 2022

Program Name

Nepal: Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples


The purpose of this Independent Study Project is to capture a snapshot of the opinions and experiences of 13 health practitioners from 7 villages and towns in Mustang. Specifically, I asked independent healers (IH), amchis and health post workers about their practices and perspectives on chronic illness, integrative medicine and the intersection of the two. I found that there is a flow of information in one general direction, with practitioners along a continuum of most to least globally recognized. Understandably, the least well known (independent healers) are aware of Traditional Tibetan Medicine (TTM) and conventional Western medicine (CWM). Subcategories of TTM practitioners include lineage practitioners closer to the IH, conventional university-trained amchi, and finally an amchi who is also a CWM health post worker. Awareness and recommendation continued in a relatively one-directional flow towards conventionality. My research concluded with the CWM healthpost workers, who exclusively recommended people to larger health posts and then hospitals “downstream”. I discovered trends that also followed this ‘flow’ in the practitioners’ responses to the questions I asked about how to heal chronic illness, if integrative medicine is possible and helpful, and how integration might be supported. In conclusion, integrative medicine as an approach to chronic illness has been and is organically unfolding, as patients with ongoing pain navigate these systems, educate themselves and find solutions that work for them. Amchis are much more educated on CWM systems, and the education of CWM practitioners on the existence and application of TTM and IH practices would greatly support those patients who often are unaware of their options until stumbling across alternative healing modalities on their own. A time-sensitive and relevant issue is that the local IH I spoke to are grandmothers who don’t have any students and whose children have no interest in learning their healing practices. Cultural preservation in some form would be beneficial to future generations who might be interested in these unique forms of energetic and physical independent healing after the practitioners pass away, as is now happening.


Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Asian History | Asian Studies | Family, Life Course, and Society | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Integrative Medicine | Medicine and Health | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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