Amchi medicine is the communal term used for naming Tibetan medicine in Ladakh. It is found in different regions in the Indian sub- continent, stretching from east to west along the chain of the Himalayan mountains including Himanchal Pradesh (Dharamshala, Lahaul, Spiti) and Sikkim, as well as the neighbouring states of Tibet Nepal and Bhutan, extending until Mongolia and certain regions of Central Asia. This medical model of health systems reflects holistic thoughts in which the sick are treated physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Amchi medicine is a conglomerate of science, art, philosophy and religion, each element closely dependent on the others. It maintains its own ideas about the composition of the universe and the body, in physiology, pharmacology and disease, and is unique in its method of pathological diagnosis and the nature of its treatments. The Amchi text is divided into four major chapters that cover the anatomy, the embroyology, the pharmacology, the physiology, the pathology, the pharmacopoeia, the podiatry, the gynaecology and the treatment.The practitioner or Amchi is considered as an epitome of physical, mental and spiritual values.
There are at present three schemes for Amchi Medicines in Ladakh under the Central Government of India and State Government of Jammu and Kashmir. The main functions of these schemes are research, health care and education. These schemes are:
i).Amchi Medicine Research Unit, Leh: This Unit is part of the Central Council of Research on Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS), an autonomous body of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. It is concerned with clinical, literary, botanical research and publication on Amchi medicine. An Amchi holding the Katchupa Degree is employed as a Research Officer (on the salary scale of INR 8000 to INR 13000) with other staff assistants. This unit was established in 1976.
ii) Health Department, Leh: The Amchi Unit of the health department is under the direction of a Chief Amchi, State Government of J& K. It operates several projects including seminars and supports a total of 40 Amchis which are on Government pay role and promote health care in the remote areas of Ladakh.
iii) Central Institute of Buddhist Studies, Leh: This centre is under the Ministry of Human Resources and Culture, Government of India. The medical training wing in this centre was created in 1988. An Amchi who holds Katchupa degree is appointed as a lecturer on a salary scale of INR 8000 to INR 12000.
The above mentioned three schemes are running well in the State. There is one chief Amchi and 40 other Amchis rendering services in the remote and far flung areas of Ladakh. The chief Amchi is on a salary scale of INR 6500 to 12000 and the forty Amchis receive a monthly allowance of INR 300 and INR 1500 annually in raw materials and ready made pills. Besides there are more than 200 Amchis in Ladakh and several active associations of Amchis. They are successfully treating primary and complex ailments and are fully supplementing the allopathic system of medicine in Ladakh.
Wide coverage: Amchi practitioners are catering to the health needs of the people in far flung areas and where there are no Primary Health Centres.
Conserving the traditional system of medicine: It is also an attempt to conserve the traditional form of Tibetan medicine which was slowly becoming obsolete.
No side effects & effective treatment: The Amchi medicines is said to have no side effects. For treatment of broken bones, and some other ailments, Amchis’ claim that the treatment is much more effective than Allopathic treatment.
Cost Effective: The treatment under this medical system is not at all expensive and well within the reach of poor people also.
Prabha Sati, Research Consultant, European Commission Technical Assistance, New Delhi, October 2007.