"We've made and used our medicines for 2,000 years," says the Dalai Lama, who has visited Hadassah's Natural Medicine Research Unit twice during the six years of research. "We know they work. But our recipes are not understood in the West because they're not in the language of modern science."
Energetically encouraged by Sallon, Hadassah researchers are working on the translation. The first remedy they investigated is used in Tibet for "a condition resulting from excess heat energy," attributed to an excess of yak and other red meat, fats and alcohol. Israeli doctors read this as atherosclerosis (whose causes include smoking, overweight and elevated levels of cholesterol and other fatty substances in the blood), and launched a three-year study of 80 elderly patients with painfully clogged arteries in their legs.
Vascular surgeons Professors Yaakov Berlatzky and Dr. Gidon Be'er have shown not only that the Tibetan remedy is effective according to objective measurable parameters, but also that it works because it is a powerful antioxidant that mops up excess free radicals that contribute to aging, tissue injury and inflammation. It also seems to interfere with the formation of harmful fat layers in blood vessels. Hadassah researchers are now examining whether it may help patients with heart and fertility problems.
Another study concerns a Tibetan bowel tonic. "Western medicine doesn't have any concept of bowel tonic," says Sallon, "but we've recently completed a study of this medicine in people with irritable bowel syndrome -- a complaint accounting for around 70 percent of gastroenterology consultations. Our results are very encouraging." So heartened are the Hadassah researchers that the rare Tibetan herbs needed for the remedies are now being grown in the Negev at Kibbutz Ketura.
From herbs to pomegranates, from goat gallbladders to corals, a wealth of cures exists in nature. Increasingly, Israeli researchers are tracking them down and unraveling their chemical codes in the heartfelt hope of putting better, easier and faster medicines onto pharmacy shelves.