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Golden Needle Therapy in Bhutan

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In the traditional Bhutanese medicine the golden needle therapy is very popular. The golden needle is a nail like golden thick needle, used to treat many disorders. Many patients actively ask the traditional healer to be treated with the golden needle. The golden needle therapy is seen by many Bhutanese patients as something quite special.

IOCOB visited in 2008 a traditional healer to inquire about this method. We thougt the method might be related to Chinese medicine, were golden needles are used also. But it appeared to be quite different. Golden neelde therapy is cauterization: the  golden needle is heated and on certain points, unrelated to acupuncture points, the heated needle is applied. Not piercing through the skin, but only touching the skin. This it is not acupuncture, but cauterization. The therapy is a 2nd line therapy, if herbal remedies are not sufficient.

De golden needle therapy:

The selected points:


These points have a strong resemblance wth classical acupuncturepoints, such as Yin tang, DM 20 and gallblader points.

The therapy does not only consist of cauterization, also prayer is a part of the therapy. Buthanese traditional healers have to study traditional religious text for some years, before they start with the traditional healing course. This course has a duration of 3 years.

In Bhutan traditional healers work side to side with normal medicine in hospitals. The MD’s refer to the traditional healers in cases like chronic disorcers, such as reumatoid artritis. 

The traditional healers work with herbal remedies, golden needle therapy, praying and rituals, and blood letting. All these interventions are done in the context of Buddhist ritual. Bhutanese herbal medicine is quite similar to that of Tibet. Originally, herbal powders were swallowed down with warm water, but since more than a decade, the herb mixtures are now produced as pills or capsules. The specific formulas used in Bhutan differ somewhat from their Tibetan counterparts in that there are local influences on the selection of herbs, but most of the key herbs are the same, as the altitude and climate conditions are similar to that of Tibet.

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