To date, the use of altogether 2,294 kinds of Tibetan medicine have been recorded. Over 300 of them are commonly in use, of which over 200 of them are plant herbs, making up 70 percent of the total; over 40 are animal medicines (12 percentl); and with the remaining plus-40 being minerals (14 percent).
One-third of the commonly used Tibetan medicines have the same names as Chinese traditional medicines (TCMs), while the herbal medicines produced in local Tibetan areas account for more than half of the commonly used medicines.
Five main characteristics of the application of Tibetan medicine:
First, the application of Tibetan medicine is closely related with the theory system of Tibetan iatrology (medical science).
As the Tibetan iatrological diagnosis falls into two main types -- symptoms caused by cold factors and symptoms caused by heat --, the prescriptions are classified, according to their properties, into two kinds: medicines of a warm nature and medicines of a cold nature. Tibetan doctors treat patients with symptoms caused by cold factors and heat with medicines of a warm and cold nature respectively.
Second, Tibetan medicine is classified according to its property, sapor (taste), and effectiveness.
Third, Tibetan doctors always adopt compound prescriptions in treating patients, and seldom use just a single kind of herb.
Many prescriptions contain more than 25 kinds of medicinal herbs each, with some prescriptions containing over 80 or even 100 kinds of medicine.
Fourth, Substandard medicines and substitutes are used for most Tibetan medicines.
To solve the problem of a lack of precious medicines, there are substandard medicines and substitutes to replace the original Tibetan medicines, but with the substitutes having a similar nature to the original.
Fifth, Tibetan doctors pay great attention to the process of preparing Tibetan medicines.
The toxicity of processed Tibetan medicine is eliminated or reduced, and sometimes the function and effectiveness of the medicine can be changed and raised respectively. There are three main ways of medicine processing: fire processing, water processing, and fire-and-water processing.