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Keywords:

  • Tibetan medicine;
  • myelin;
  • lipid;
  • multiple sclerosis;
  • membrane;
  • nervous system;
  • neurological disorders

Tibetan medicine integrates diet, lifestyle, herbs, and accessory therapies to increase health and longevity. A comparison of the three humor theory of Tibetan medicine and the three thermodynamic phase properties of myelin lipids exemplifies how integrating medical systems can increase understanding of complex chronic disabling conditions. As a correlative study to microscopically better understand multiple sclerosis (MS) from the view of Tibetan medicine, the physical disruption of central nervous system myelin membranes in MS is interpreted from the theory of the three humors (vital energies) of Tibetan medicine: rLung (Wind), MKhris pa (Bile), and Bad gen (Phlegm). The three classes of myelin lipids – phospholipids, sphingolipids, and cholesterol – are interpreted as one of three humors based on Langmuir isotherm thermodynamic measurements. The nature of rLung is movement or change. Myelin sphingolipids have rLung properties based on thermodynamic observations of changes in phase organization. MKhris pa is fire, energetic. Phospholipids have MKhris pa properties based on thermodynamic observations of being energetic membrane lipids with fast molecular motions and fluid-like properties. The nature of Bad gen is substance and form; it dominates body structure. Cholesterol relates to Bad gen because it dominates membrane structure. We propose a theoretical relationship whereby demyelination in MS is viewed as a continuum of imbalance of the three humors as understood in Tibetan medicine. Myelin lipid data is presented to support this theoretical relationship. Clinically, MS is, in general, a rLung-MKhrispa disorder in women and a Bad gen-MKhrispa disorder in men, with rLung-MKhrispa excess in both genders during exacerbation, inflammation, and demyelination. Studying Tibetan medicine in its traditional context will create an integrative model for the treatment of MS and other chronic conditions.