According to Tibetan medicine, you were born with a constitution that is made up of a unique combination of three primary energies: loong, tripa, and baekan. To be happy and healthy, you need to make choices that keep your three energies consistent with your innate constitution. Your three primary energies are composed of five universal aspects of energy, called the five elements (joong-wa-nya in Tibetan).

Five universal elements

Tibetan medicine teaches that everything is made up of energy. This energy has five universal characteristics, called elements. The five elements explain qualities and physiologic functions that work synergistically to maintain physical and mental health. To describe the five elements, Tibetan medicine uses everyday terms that highlight their universal qualities:

  • Earth refers to the aspect of energy that provides stability and structure. For example, you can sit up because of the earth element.
  • Water refers to the aspect of energy that provides moisture, lubrication, and smoothness. For example, your blood is made of the water element.
  • Fire refers to the aspect of energy that drives growth, development, metabolism, and absorption of food. For example, you can digest your food because of the fire element.
  • Air refers to the aspect of energy that governs movement in your body, including blood circulation and growth of skin. For example, your heart pumps blood and you can move your body because of the air element.
  • Space refers to the aspect of energy that allows the other elements to interact and coexist. For example, space in your mouth provides room for your teeth and tongue to help you chew and speak properly.

The five elements of earth, water, fire, air, and space combine to form the three primary energies: movement, heat, and cold. In the Tibetan language, these three primary energies are called loong, tripa, and baekan. The Tibetan word nyepa refers to these energies that are essential for life. You, like everyone else, were born with a unique combination of the three primary energies, called your constitutional nature or constitution.

Primary Energy

Tibetan Term

Composed of This Element:









earth, water

Each of your three primary energies has many divisions and subdivisions. To be healthy and happy, you must keep your loong, tripa, and baekan consistent with their percentages in your inborn constitution.

Seven general constitutions or energy patterns

Tibetan medicine teaches that the three primary energies interact to form seven general constitutions. Each constitution is named by the dominant energy or energies:

  1. Loong: Loong dominates tripa and baekan.
  2. Tripa: Tripa dominates loong and baekan.
  3. Baekan: Baekan dominates loong and tripa.
  4. Loong/tripa or tripa/loong: Loong and tripa dominate baekan.
  5. Loong/baekan or baekan/loong: Loong and baekan dominate tripa.
  6. Tripa/baekan or baekan/tripa: Tripa and baekan dominate loong.
  7. Loong/tripa/baekan: All three energies are in equal amounts, a very rare constitution.

Pie Chart Depicting Loong/Tripa Constitution

Your inborn constitution does not change throughout your lifetime. However, your three primary energies rise and fall according to your thoughts, lifestyle choices, the time of day, your stage in life, the weather, and other factors. Your energies can become unbalanced: either too high, too low, or disturbed.

According to Tibetan medicine, baekan is highest in the first stage of life, when children are growing and developing tissues. Tripa is highest during the second and third stages of life, when adults need sufficient heat energy to work, go to school, develop a career, raise a family, form and nurture relationships, and do all the other busy activities involved with adulthood. Later, in the fourth stage of life, loong is highest when older adults’ nervous systems becomes more sensitive as the physical body gradually deteriorates. 

Find out your unique constitution

The gold standard for determining your particular constitution is to have a consultation with a qualified and experienced practitioner of Tibetan medicine. Such practitioners have graduated from a six-year medical program and worked as new doctors under the supervision of senior doctors. An example is the Medical College at the Men-Tsee-Khang, the Tibetan Medical Institute of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. Because Tibetan medicine is new in North America, you may not have access to a qualified and experienced practitioner of Tibetan medicine.

However, you can complete two free, online, anonymous, research-based tools developed at the University of Minnesota. Use the Constitutional Self-Assessment Tool (CSAT) and the Lifestyle Guidelines Tool (LGT) to learn about your constitution and how to live in harmony with it. 

What causes imbalance in your three primary energies?

Many factors can cause your three primary energies to go out of balance. Examples are what you eat and drink, seasonal changes, your lifestyle behaviors, and your mental patterns. Tibetan medicine teaches that what you think impacts your health and energy balance. Both positive and negative thinking affect your body. For example, happiness and compassion calm your body. In contrast, anger increases your heart rate and blood pressure, causes shallow and irregular breathing, and depresses your immune system. Negative thinking doesn’t just refer to a pessimistic outlook. Rather, negative thinking encompasses three major categories of afflictive thought patterns that cause suffering as described below.

Three Categories of Negative Thinking

Tibetan medicine teaches that three categories of negative thinking, called mental poisons, produce suffering instead of happiness. The three categories of mental poisons are:  

  • Greed –including attachments to desires, people, objects, and behaviors.
  • Anger –including hostility, irritation, aversion, and aggression.
  • Delusion –including confusion, delusion, ignorance, and narrow-mindedness.

Each category of mental poisons affects one of the three primary energies described below.

Mental Poison: Causes Imbalance in This Primary Energy: Imbalance Can Lead to These Health Problems:
greed, attachments, desire loong anxiety, movement disorders, insomnia, mental illness, addictions
anger, hostility, aggression tripa inflammations, infections, metabolic and hormonal problems
delusion, confusion, close-mindedness baekan respiratory disorders, obesity, diabetes

Your inborn constitution makes you particularly vulnerable to a certain type of mental attitude as you go about your daily life. If, for example, loong is the dominant energy in your constitution, you are prone to engaging in the mental poison of greed, attachments, and desire. Consequently, you are vulnerable to developing anxiety, movement disorders, insomnia, mental illness, and addictions.

In other words, greed both causes and results from an imbalance in loong energy. Anger causes and results from an imbalance in tripa energy. Delusion causes and results from an imbalance in baekan energy.

When one primary energy goes out of balance, the other two energies are likely to go out of balance, too. Chronic energy imbalance can produce complex health problems involving loong, tripa, and baekan. Bringing all three energies back into balance can be difficult. For example, increasing heat (tripa) energy can decrease cold (baekan) energy. Bringing all three energies back into balance requires intricate interventions. 

How can I bring my three primary energies back into balance with my inborn constitution?

Creating a healthy mind and making healthy lifestyle choices will help to bring your primary energies back into balance with your innate constitution. For example, your inborn constitution may consist of about 45% tripa, 35% baekan, and 20% loong, meaning that you have a tripa/baekan constitution. If you lead a stressful life, your loong is likely to increase and even become your dominant energy. Consequently, you will suffer because your energies are not in balance with your inborn constitution. Then you need to calm your thinking, practice relaxation techniques, and make other lifestyle choices that decrease your loong and bring you back into balance.

Try to live in a manner that keeps your three energies consistent with their percentages in your inborn constitution. Some of the simplest lifestyle choices consist of eating food that balances your energies. When, for example, you are cold and your baekan energy is too high, you can eat spicy food to increase your heat (tripa) energy and decrease your cold (baekan) energy.

This process of continuously reestablishing balance means to heal from the source and not just chase symptoms! Tibetan medicine teaches that your mental habits and beliefs have a profound effect on both your emotions and your physical body at a very basic level.

Article Updated: May, 2020