Anthroposophic medicine | Wikipedia audio article

Anthroposophic medicine (or anthroposophical
medicine) is a form of alternative medicine. Devised in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925)
in conjunction with Ita Wegman (1876–1943), anthroposophical medicine is based on occult
notions and draws on Steiner’s spiritual philosophy, which he called anthroposophy. Practitioners employ a variety of treatment
techniques based upon anthroposophic precepts, including massage, exercise, counselling,
and substances.Many drug preparations used in anthroposophic medicine are ultra-diluted
substances, similar to those used in homeopathy. Homeopathic remedies are not medically effective
and are generally considered harmless, except when used as a substitute for a scientifically
proven and effective cure. In certain European countries, people with
cancer are sometimes prescribed remedies made from specially harvested mistletoe, but research
has found no convincing evidence of clinical benefit. Some anthroposophic doctors oppose childhood
vaccination, and this has led to preventable outbreaks of disease.Anthroposophic medicine
departs from fundamental biological principles in several respects. For example, Steiner said that the heart does
not pump blood but that blood propels itself along. Anthroposophic medicine also proposes that
patients’ past lives may influence their illness and that the course of an illness is subject
to karmic destiny. Professor of complementary medicine Edzard
Ernst and other physicians and scientists including Simon Singh and David Gorski have
characterized anthroposophic medicine as pseudoscientific quackery with no basis in reason or logic.==Background=====
History===The first steps towards an anthroposophic
approach to medicine were made before 1920, when homeopathic physicians and pharmacists
began working with Rudolf Steiner, who recommended new medicinal substances as well as specific
methods for preparation along with an anthroposophic concept of man. In 1921, Ita Wegman opened the first anthroposophic
medical clinic, now known as the Klinik Arlesheim, in Arlesheim, Switzerland. Wegman was soon joined by a number of other
doctors. They then began to train the first anthroposophic
nurses for the clinic. At Wegman’s request, Steiner regularly visited
the clinic and suggested treatment regimes for particular patients. Between 1920 and 1925, he also gave several
series of lectures on medicine. In 1925, Wegman and Steiner wrote the first
book on the anthroposophic approach to medicine, Fundamentals of Therapy. Wegman later opened a separate clinic and
curative home in Ascona. Wegman lectured widely, visiting the Netherlands
and England particularly frequently, and an increasing number of doctors began to include
the anthroposophic approach in their practices. A cancer clinic, the Lukas Clinic, opened
in Arlesheim in 1963.In 1976 anthroposophic medicine in Germany got regulated by law as
a specific therapeutic system (“Besondere Therapierichtung”) by the Medicines Act-Arzneimittelgesetz
(AMG) and by the Code of Social Law (Sozialgesetzbuch V)In the 1990s the Witten/Herdecke University
in Germany established a chair in anthroposophical medicine. The press described the appointment as a “death
sentence” and the perception that pseudoscience was being taught damaged the university’s
reputation, bringing it close to financial collapse. It was ultimately saved by a cash injection
from Software AG, a technology corporation with a history of funding anthroposophic projects.In
2006, anthroposophical medicine was practised in 80 countries.In 2012 the University of
Aberdeen considered establishing a chair in holistic health jointly funded by Software
AG, and by the Anthroposophic Health, Education, and Social Care Movement, each of which would
provide £1.5 million of endowment. Edzard Ernst commented “that any decent university
should even consider an anthroposophical medicine unit seems incomprehensible. The fact that it would be backed by people
who have a financial interest in this bogus approach makes it even worse.” The University’s governance and nominations
committee eventually decided not to proceed with the appointment.===Categorization and conceptual basis===
The categorization of anthroposophical medicine is complex since in part it complements conventional
medicine, and in part it substitutes for it. In 2008, Ernst wrote that it was being promoted
as an “extension to conventional medicine”.Ernst writes that Steiner used imagination and insight
as a basis for his ideas, drawing mystical knowledge from the occult Akashic Records,
a work which is supposedly situated on the astral plane, and which Steiner said was accessible
to him via his intuitive powers. On this basis, Steiner proposed “associations
between four postulated dimensions of the human body (physical body, etheric body, astral
body, and ego), plants, minerals, and the cosmos”. Steiner also proposed a connection betweens
planets, metals and organs so that, for example, the planet Mercury, the element mercury and
the lung were all somehow associated. These propositions form the basis of anthroposophical
medicine.Ernst has said that anthroposophical medicine “includes some of the least plausible
theories one could possibly imagine”, categorized it as “pure quackery”, and said that it “has
no basis in science”. According to Quackwatch, anthroposophical
medicine practitioners regard illness as a “rite of passage” necessary to purge spiritual
impurities carried over from past lives, according to the precepts of “karmic destiny”.==Methods==
In anthroposophic pharmacy drugs are prepared according to ancient notions of alchemy and
homeopathy which are not related to the science underlying modern pharmacology. During the preparation process, patterns formed
by crystallization are interpreted to see which “etheric force” they most closely resemble. Most anthroposophic preparations are highly
diluted, like homeopathic remedies. This means that, while they are completely
harmless in themselves, using them in place of conventional medicine to treat serious
illness carries a risk of severe adverse consequences.As well as drug remedies, anthroposophical medicine
also includes: Anthroposophic nursing
Counselling Eurythmy – claimed to have an effect on
“inner life functions” leading to a “re-integration of body, soul, and spirit”. External applications
Rhythmic massages===Plant-derived treatments===
To select an anthroposophic substance for a particular illness, practitioners consider
the source of the substances used. The character of a mineral, plant or animal
is hypothesised to have been formed by the substances that are most active within it,
in the belief that this character may also influence what the substance will accomplish
when given to treat another organism. This is related to Samuel Hahnemann’s Doctrine
of signatures. Willow, for example, is considered to have
an unusual character: … plants that grow near water are usually
heavy, with big, dark green leaves that wilt and break easily. An exception is … the white willow, a tree
that always grows near water and loves light. However, unlike other “watery” plants, the
willow has fine, almost dry leaves and looks very light … Its branches are unbelievably
tough. They are elastic and cannot be broken. They bend easily and form “joints” rather
than break. These few signatures can give us the clue
to what salix can be used for therapeutically: arthritis, deformation of joints, swollen
joints … There is no scientific evidence that the shape
of plants has ever caused a new medical property to be discovered.===Beliefs about human biology===
Steiner described the heart not as a pump, but as a regulator of flow, such that the
heartbeat itself can be distinguished from the circulation of blood. Anthroposophic medicine claims the flow in
the blood of the circulatory system is, as Marinelli put it, “propelled with its own
biological momentum, as can be seen in the embryo, and boosts itself with induced momenta
from the heart”.This view of the heart is not based on any scientific theory and has
been characterized as “crank science”.Steiner believed that the sex of a baby was determined
at the moment of conception by the alignment of the stars.Steiner’s model of anatomy was
based on a three-part notion, whereby the head is the thinking part, the abdomen and
limbs the “metabolic” part, and the chest and heart a “rhythmic center”.===Mistletoe treatment for cancer===Rudolf Steiner hypothesised that mistletoe
could cure cancer, on the basis of the observation that the plant was a parasite which eventually
killed its host, a process which he claimed paralleled the progression of cancer. Steiner believed the plant’s medical potential
was influenced by the position of the sun, moon and planets and that it therefore was
important to harvest the plant at the right time. Some mistletoe preparations are ultra-diluted;
others are made from fermented mistletoe. The most commonly used trade names for mistletoe
drugs are Iscador and Helixor.Although laboratory experiments have suggested that mistletoe
extract may affect the immune system and be able to kill some kinds of cancer cells, there
is little evidence of its benefit to people with cancer. Most of the clinical research claiming that
mistletoe therapy is effective is published in Germany, and it is generally considered
unreliable because of major lapses in quality. Edzard Ernst wrote that research by anthroposophic
doctors often reached positive conclusions on mistletoe therapy because it drew on unreliable
material; independent researchers tended instead to find no evidence of benefit. The American Cancer Society says that “available
evidence from well-designed clinical trials does not support claims that mistletoe can
improve length or quality of life”.Mistletoe-based cancer drugs are widely used in Europe, especially
in German-speaking countries. In 2002 nearly half a million prescriptions
were paid for by German health insurance and in 2006 there were reportedly around 30 types
of mistletoe extract on the market. Mistletoe extracts have been used as an unconventional
treatment for cancer patients in the Netherlands, and in Germany the treatment has been approved
as palliative therapy to treat the symptoms of patients with malignant tumors. In Sweden, controversially, mistletoe therapy
has been approved for use in the treatment of cancer symptoms.In other countries mistletoe
therapy is virtually unknown. The United States Food and Drug Administration
has not approved mistletoe-based drugs for any purpose; mistletoe extracts may not be
distributed in or imported into the US except for research purposes. As of 2015 no mistletoe-based drugs are licensed
for use in the United Kingdom.A 2013 article on mistletoe in Lancet Oncology invoked Ben
Goldacre’s observation that a geographical preference for certain therapies was a hallmark
of quackery, and proposed that the continuing use of this “apparently ineffectual therapy”
in a small cluster of countries was based on sociological rather than medical reasons,
indicating a need for a more informed consent from patients.==Immunization==The risks arising from using anthroposophical
medicine as a substitute for evidence-based medicine are exemplified by several cases
of low vaccination levels in Waldorf schools, since some anthroposophical doctors oppose
immunization. A 1999 study of children in Sweden showed
that in Waldorf schools, only 18% had received MMR vaccination, compared to a level of 93%
in other schools nationally.A 2003 report of a widespread measles outbreak around Coburg,
Germany, identified a Waldorf school as the origin. At the time the town’s mayor had condemned
homeopathic doctors who had discouraged vaccination, saying “Their stronghold is the Waldorf School,
which actively encourages people not to have their children vaccinated. Now we have an epidemic.”Paul Offit wrote
that Steiner believed vaccination “interferes with karmic development and the cycles of
reincarnation”, and that adherence to this belief led to a 2008 pertussis outbreak in
a Californian Waldorf school, causing its temporary closure.==See also==
Alternative cancer treatments Herbalism
Holistic health

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