Tibetan Medicine theory starts with the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. The five elements form the entire universe. In our human bodies, the five elements combine to form the three nyepa, or “elemental humors”. The three nyepa form our characteristics of body, energy and mind. Each person has a special combination of the three nyepa, called the rang zhin. This is their elemental personality, or humoral constitution. The personalized, elemental personality, or nyepa rang zhin, is the topic of this summary.
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Review of the Five Elements and the Three Nyepa “Elemental Humors”

I: The Five Elements Tibetan Medicine is based on a five-element system, including earth, water, fire, air, and space. The five-elements are the foundation of Tibetan Medicine theory and practice. They form and maintain all physical matter and energy expression of the natural world. This applies to the entire universe, and of course, to our human bodies. In Tibetan Medicine theory, the five elements have specific qualities. They are linked with specific anatomical systems, and perform a range of physiological actions.

This chart outlines the five elements, their qualities, and actions.five elements tibetan medicine theory
II: The three Nyepa “elemental humors” It is easy to understand how the five elements express in nature. We can see rocks, dirt, water or ice. We feel the warmth of fire and the sensation of moving air. We can gaze up into vast expanse of space. How can we understand the five elements within our own bodies? For this we apply a system of three humors, or “nyepa”. In living beings, the five elements combine to form the three nyepa. These three nyepa are the essence of our anatomy and physiology. They are the elemental humors that maintain the form and potentiate the functions of all our bodily systems. The three nyepa include loong (air element), tripa (fire element), and pekan (earth/water elements).

This chart outlines the three nyepa, their associated elements, qualities, actions, and locations tibetan medicine qualities locations
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Rang Zhin “Humoral Constitution”

Each individual possesses their own unique combination of the nyepa, known as the rang zhin. This means that the three nyepa (loong, tripa, pekan), combine in different ways to form our rang zhin or “humoral constitution”. The rang zhin is our natural constitution, our elemental personality. It dictates the characteristics of our physical, mental and emotional states. It influences our strengths, such as talents in arts, sports, and vocation. Our rang zhin shapes our preferences for climate, living environment, and relationships. It also influences our vulnerabilities, such as predisposition to diseases, or emotional challenges.
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Formation of the Nyepa Rang Zhin in Utero

The nyepa are formed within the womb. Each person’s rang zhin begins to take shape at conception, when the rang zhin of the parents transfer to the conceptus via the reproductive essences. The mother’s diet and behavior during fetal growth further influences the nyepa. Environmental factors also affect the fetal rang zhin, especially in the context of the environment influencing the mother’s diet and behavior. These factors combine the nyepa into our unique rang zhin. Based on the contribution of the parental nyepa, the maternal conduct, and environment, our unique rang zhin is fully formed at the time of birth.
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The Seven Divisions of the Rang Zhin

The rang zhin is the combination of the three nyepa (loong, tripa, pekan). There exist seven possible rang zhin:

  1. Loong (air)
  2. Tripa (fire)
  3. Pekan (earth,water)
  4. loong/tripa (air/fire)
  5. loong/pekan (air/earth,water)
  6. pekan/tripa (earth,water/fire)
  7. loong/tripa/pekan (air/fire/earth,water)

The dual-nyepa are by far the most common. Single-nyepa are less common. The triple-nyepa is the rarest of all, and is considered the most auspicious for physical and mental health, and long-life.
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Characteristics of the Three Nyepa Rang Zhin

 

1. Loong rang zhin

  • General location: the general location of loong is in the lower body, below the navel, associated with the large intestine, the reproductive organs, the sacrum and the inner thighs
  • Physical tendencies: loong predominant individuals tend towards a thin, bent, frail stature. They tend to have dry rough skin, dark complexion, small eyes, a cool body, dull radiance, enlarged skin pores, cracking joints and dry thin hair.
  • Digestive heat: less digestive heat, tends towards constipation and dry stool, a firm cool abdomen, and easy to feel cold.
  • General tendencies: sleeps lightly, tends towards a shorter lifespan, and accumulate less wealth. They are likened to a crow, fox or vulture.
  • Dietary tendencies: prefers sweet, sour and spicy tastes. Advised to eat warm, nourishing foods such as rich meat broths.
  • Lifestyle tendencies: enjoys talking, singing, dancing, flirting, debating, laughing, excels at archery. A loong personality is advised to dress warm, rest in a warm, dark space, and share pleasantries with trusted friends.
  • Environmental tendencies: Aversion to cold weather and wind, prefers a warm, sheltered, calm environment

2. Tripa rang zhin

  • General location: the general location of tripa is the middle body, below the diaphragm, associated with the liver, gallbladder, and small intestine.
  • Physical tendencies: tripa predominant individuals tend towards a medium-sized, muscular frame. They have strong radiance, a yellowish complexion, warm bodies, sweat profusely with strong body odor, medium-sized almond shaped eyes, and yellowish, slightly oily medium-thickness hair.
  • Digestive heat: more “sharp” digestive heat, tends toward thin, pungent diarrhea, with large appetite and thirst, a soft abdomen, and easy to feel warm.
  • General tendencies: Tends towards sharp intelligence, haughty egos, aggressive and competitive, have medium lifespan, and accumulate moderate wealth. They are likened to the tiger, monkey, or Nod Jyin (a “yaksha”, or harmful demon).
  • Dietary tendencies: prefers sweet, bitter, astringent, cool-natured foods. Advised to eat light, refreshing foods such as bitter greens, rock sugar, and fresh yoghurt.
  • Lifestyle tendencies: enjoys exercise, fighting and competing, sleeps relatively lightly, confident and willful, prone to arrogant and critical behavior.
  • Environmental tendencies: A tripa personality is advised to rest in a cool, shady place, with fresh breezes, flowing water and fragrant plants.

1. Pekan rang zhin

  • General location: the general location of pekan is the upper body, above the heart, associated with the head.
  • Physical tendencies: pekan personalities tends towards a thick, larger stature, with thick flesh covering their bones. They have cool, smooth skin, with soft lustrous hair.
  • Digestive heat: cool digestive heat, less sweating, easy to feel cold. General tendencies: tends towards patience and endurance, kind and slow to anger, sleeps heavily, long life and accumulates much wealth, likened to the lion or the cow.
  • Dietary tendencies: prefers spicy, sour, and astringent foods. Advised to eat light and rough foods such as peppers and radish, as well as warm, sharp foods such as honey, fish and lamb.
  • Lifestyle tendencies: tends to be more sedentary, has strong endurance, not easily distracted or dissuaded from tasks or goals. Tends to be patient and hospitable, responsible and dependable. Advised to dress warm and exercise well.
  • Environmental tendencies: thrives in a dry warm environment.To learn the dual and combination characteristics and prevention tips you can receive our free constitutional dietary chart by signing up for our newsletter below or visit this excellent resource offered by the University of Minnesota for ascertaining your body type according to Traditional Tibetan Medicine and the related health tips.
Adam Okerblom, LAc
Licensed Acupuncturist and Tibetan Medicine Practitioner | Sowa
Adam offers holistic healthcare consultations and treatments in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is fascinated by ancient healing sciences and spiritual traditions. He is greatly inspired by the opportunity to learn and benefit from millennia of knowledge from around the world.

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