The White Pill: Perceptions and Experiences of Efficacy of a Popular Tibetan Medicine in Multiethnic Rebgong

in Asian Medicine
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In this paper, I address the local perceptions and experiences of efficacy among producers and patients of a popular Tibetan medicine in multiethnic Rebgong, a regional hub of Tibetan medicine in Qinghai Province, prc. Known as the ‘White Pill’—Rikar in Tibetan, Jiebaiwan in Chinese—it is often taken directly without prescription for stomach and digestive disorders that are common among Tibetan, Han, and Hui patients. I will examine the White Pill’s classical formula and how different local producers in Rebgong explain what makes their own White Pill so effective and popular. Based on interviews with patients of different cultural backgrounds, my research shows that the popularity of this Tibetan medicine is increasing among both Tibetans and non-Tibetans in Rebgong during the past decade. This is probably due to the new ways of producing the White Pill by specifically targeting common digestive disorders, which often and previously have been experienced as not being satisfactorily treated by Chinese biomedical pharmaceuticals. In particular, Rikar or Jiebaiwan is locally known and experienced to be simply the most effective treatment for stomach and digestive disorders without having side effects.

Asian Medicine

Journal of the International Association for the Study of Traditional Asian Medicine



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See, for example, Craig and Adams 2008.


Fischer 2014; Yangdon Dhondup 2011, p. 36.


Yangdon Dhondup 2011, pp. 33–4.


Adams et al. 2010; Craig 2012; Saxer 2013.


Cf. Saxer 2013.


Cf. Schrempf 2010.


See, for example, Clark 1995, pp. 124–87.


See, for example, Saxer 2013, p. 96.


Stearns 2007, p. 23.


Karma Chömpel 1993, pp. 255, 413, 417.


Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo 1997, pp. 590–601.


Kongtrul Yönten Gyamtso 2005, p. 313.


Deumar Tendzin Püntsok 2005, p. 349.


Deumar Tendzin Püntsok 2005, pp. 112, 158, 163, 239, 349, 454.


Gawé Dorjé 1995, p. 164.


Karma Chömpel 1993, pp. 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 18, 50, 132, 163, 258, 259, 344, 346.


Karma Chömpel 1993, pp. 96, 171, 596.


Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo 1997, pp. 590–601.


Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo 1997, pp. 590–601.


See Craig 2011; Saxer 2012.


Cf. Bassini 2013.


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