Laurent PordiéVital role for ancient medicine

Published in 2000

In remote Ladakh, a Tibetan herbal medicine has been prevented from dying out, thanks in part to the intervention of French ethno-pharmacologist Laurent Pordié.


In the late 1990s, the communities of Ladakh were becoming fragmented and social mobility was on the rise. As a result, the Amchi system of Tibetan medicine was at risk of vanishing. But for at least half of this remote region’s 250,000 Ladakhis, it is the only healthcare available.

Amchi healing must survive because of its vital social role in village life.

Pordié used his Rolex Award to set up a residential training school for Amchis in Ladakh, which eventually led to government recognition of Tibetan medicine (which is based on Buddhist cosmology and influenced by Asia’s own holistic medical traditions).

Each Amchi needs four years of instruction and a year of practical work to become qualified. Pordié and his colleagues from the research and development agency Nomad RSI established medicine banks and health centres, and ran seminars and training workshops. Ladakh now has 15 centres supplying herbal medicines, which are managed by former students.

He now lives in France where he is a Senior Researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). In 2012, he founded the international network PharmAsia to study industrial herbal medicine.

  • 22

    Amchis trained as practitioners

  • 75%

    Of Ladakh’s population have access to Amchi healthcare


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