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Tsheringma : A drink with a difference
herbal tea
Dip one sachet of tea into a cup of hot water (no sugar and milk required), and brew for a few minutes to get the best flavour and colour. The tea not only gives a soothing and refreshing sensation but is supposed to improve the conditions of your heart, liver, nervesand the digestive system. And there are no known side-effects. Great benefit for a small price. And fewer hassles.

But like any other Bhutanese traditional medicine, to reap the benefits the consumption should continue for a long time.

The sachet contains the Tsheringma herbal tea, just introduced into the market by the Menjong Sorig Pharmaceuticals, a unit of the Institute of Traditional Medicine Services.

The tea is the first commercial product of the institute along with a medicinal incense under the same brand name. The tea constitutes of only two ingredients. The first is the petals of the Safflower plant (scientific name-Carthamus tinctorius, traditional medical name-Gurgum) which is a cardiac and nerves tonic. It has a cooling effect, which according to traditional medical literature Dri-med-shel-gong-shel-thring, is good for curing all types of liver diseases. The Safflower plant is not grown naturally in Bhutan but can be cultivated.

The second ingredient is the bark of the root from the plant, Cinnamomum tamala (local name Shing-Tsha), which adds flavour and also helps in digestion and in stabilising bowel movements. The plant is naturally grown in Bhutan and is found in sub-tropical forest. According to Ugyen Dorji, the marketing officer of the institute, research had started early last year. He said that though a "comprehensive scientific research" was not done, there was "no known side effects". According to the traditional medical literature, traditional medicines never had any known side effects.

"The objective is to become slowly sustainable and also to explore the possibilities of producing natural products for the world market as a contribution to the country's economy by using the biodiversity in a very sustainable way," he added. "Right now, we have no plans to sell outside the country." The Tsheringma herbal tea is available for Nu 50 a packet containing neatly-packed 25 sachets. The pharmaceutical unit started using the modern imported machines to produce the traditional medicines in December 1998. The machines, with a capacity to produce two tonnes of herbal tea in a year, made production systematic, increased output and improved quality and hygiene.

Speaking at the launching ceremony on Monday, Dr. Gado Tshering, director of health, urged consumers to leave tea, coffee and alcohol all of which had proven harmful side-effects for Tsheringma herbal tea. But he added that more studies had to be carried out after surveying the consumers. The institute, meanwhile, wants to apply for patent and trademark rights for the product. Named Tsheringma after the Goddess of longevity, wealth and prosperity, and under the motto-promoting health and happiness the natural way--the institute will soon be coming out with another product--a herbal drink (which is not carbonated and has no artificial colour and preservatives) from the medicinal plants.

These herbal products may just be the beginning of many more to come. After all, Bhutan was historically known as Lhojong Menjong, the Southern Valley of Medicinal Herbs.

This article was contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper
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