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Between Heaven and Earth

An Introduction to
Integrative Approaches to Health Care
Second Edi ti on
Ameri can Medi cal Student Associ ati on
Standi ng Commi ttee on Medi cal Educati on
Nati onal Proj ect on Alternati ve and Complementary Medi ci ne
Between Heaven and Earth
An Introduction to
IntegrativeApproachesto Health Care
Nati onal Proj ect on Alternati ve and Complementary Medi ci ne
Standi ng Commi ttee on Medi cal Educati on
Second Edition
Copyright 1999, American Medical Student Association
Kri sti n Prevedel
Joseph S. Ross
Nei l Segal
Margaret L. Thomas
Sarah Warber, M.D.
Lei gh Whi te
C. Dirk Williams
Audrey Young
Kri sten Copel and
Miki Crane
Pamel M. Diamantis
Adam Di mi trov
Vivian Ka
Bobby Kapur
Marl ene Mancuso
James J. Mehzir
Eva Olson, M.D.
Speci al Thanks to
AMSAs I nterest Group on Humani sti c Medi ci ne
and the Standi ng Commi ttees on
Medi cal Educati on and Health Poli cy
Advi sor
Patricia Muehsam, M.D.
1997-98 Project Coordinators
Ari ana Vora
Pamel a Di amanti s
1997-98 Advisor
Eli ot Tokar
Contri buti ng Authors
Christopher L. Perdue
Editor and Project Coordinator
Wendy M. Golden
Assistant Editor and Project Coordinator
There exists more
between heaven and earth,
Horatio, than is dreamt of in
one single philosophy.
Paraphrased from Shakespeare,
Hamlet, Act I, Sc. 5
C CC CContents
Foreword ....................................................................................................................6
Christopher L. Perdue, Creighton University School of Medicine
Introduction to Alternative Medicines .........................................................................9
Sarah W arber, M.D., University of Michigan
60 Million Patients Are Not Telling You Something ...................................................12
Bobby Kapur, Baylor University School of Medicine
Mission Impossible ...................................................................................................13
Leigh White,W ake Forest University School of Medicine
Complementary Medicine Elective at the University of
Alabama School of Medicine....................................................................................15
Kristen Copeland, University of Alabama School of Medicine
Use of Traditional Medicine Among Elderly Chinese Immigrants
in New York City........................................................................................................17
Pamela Diamantis, SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical
Sciences, and Vivian Ka, CUNY Sophie Davis School of Medicine
A Study of Herbal Medicine Usage Among Chinese Patients
in Boston ..................................................................................................................18
Audrey Young, University of W ashington School of Medicine
St. Johns W ort for Low Mood Disorders ..................................................................21
Eva Olson, M.D., University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry
Efficacy and Safety of Gingko Biloba for Dementia..................................................22
James J. Mezhir, SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine and
Biomedical Sciences
Acupuncture: An Overview .......................................................................................23
Neil Segal, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Biomagnetism: Does the Current Evidence Stick?...................................................29
C. Dirk Williams, Creighton University School of Medicine
The Patient-Doctor Dialogue on the Use of Alternative Medicine ............................31
Marlene Mancuso, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine
Dr. Susan Silbersteins Hope for Cancer Patients: A Comprehensive
Resource Center for Cancer Education ...................................................................33
Joseph S. Ross, SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Kristen Prevedel, Creighton University School of Medicine
Spirituality in Medicine .............................................................................................37
Adam Dimitrov, University of Miami School of Medicine
Ayurvedic Medicine ..................................................................................................40
Margaret L. Thomas, University of IllinoisChicago College
of Medicine
Therapeutic Touch....................................................................................................43
Miki Crane,The Ohio State University College of Medicine
and Public Health
nl i ke your professors, preceptors or attendi ngs,
were not trying to teach you any particular clini-
cal skill here. More than likely, you are already familiar
wi th some form of unconventi onal medi ci ne, i nclud-
ing some of those described in this book. When faced
wi th the reali ty of a movement that has the potenti al
to radically alter the practice of medicine in the United
States, like many of us you are probably overwhelmed
with a mixture of curiosity, pessimism and hopefulness.
While we feel challenged by systems and theories that
counter, i f not frankl y contradi ct, our understandi ng
of proper health care, we cannot i gnore the potenti al
for i mprovi ng the bi omedi cal fi eld.
Li ke t he adol escence of any i nvest i gat i on, t he
American exploration of unconventional medicine suf-
fers from a preponderance of qual i fi ed experts and a
pauci t y of concordance. Professi onal s of al l sui t s
heal th care, busi ness, pharmaceuti cal , marketi ng, l e-
gal, researchjockey for posi ti on i n a fi eld where the
health-care team is supposedly the highest evolution-
ary speci es. Do we as medi cal students, at best anci l-
lary to the medical establishment, have anything to con-
tribute to this dialogue?I will go so far as to say that we
are obligated to do so because it is our future at stake.
The content of this booklet is not intended to be
authoritative documentation of the risks or benefits of
any parti cular complementary or alternati ve medi ci ne,
nor should this be the last thing you ever read on the
subject. It reflects the i nterests of students, physi ci ans
and practi ti oners who volunteered to contri bute ti me
and energy to wri te about forms of heal th care that
you wi l l not l i kel y be taught to practi ce i n medi cal
school. So i t i s not our goal to teach you everythi ng
you need t o know about Ayurveda or Therapeut i c
Touch, for example, because such an endeavor i s bet-
ter left to those whose lives are dedicated to those prac-
ti ces. As your col l eagues and, i n some cases, fri ends,
we hope merely to inspire you to think, be critical and,
in turn, be hopeful as well. Before you get to the rest
of the book, the next few paragraphs may help you to
consi der a number of phi losophi cal and pragmati c i s-
sues relevant to Complementary and Alternative Medi-
ci ne (CAM).
This is any exciting time for conventional Western
medicine, otherwise known as biomedicine. As students
now, we wi ll soon enter i nto a professi on wi th a long
and distinguished history of progress, innovation, heal-
i ng and publ i c servi ce. We can be proud of our i n-
tended professi ons successes, and proud of our pre-
decessors abi l i ti es to l earn from thei r mi stakes. De-
spi te the pressure to be experts, to have answers and
protocols and medi ci nes, to questi on, test and exam-
ine, we cannot be afraid not to know once in a while.
This is why, in part, we specialize.
In our medical system, some of our collective func-
tions require such a level of ability and knowledge that
certain individuals are allowed, and expected, to serve
onl y a very speci fi c and di ffi cul t pati ent popul ati on.
Who else but a pediatric neurosurgeon can do what a
pediatric neurosurgeon does?The rest of us watch and
refer, honestly admi tti ng that we beli eve i n hi s or her
abi li ti es where we have none. Yet we can express un-
earned pri de because the medi cal system of whi ch we
are a part makes us collectively successful. But we must
also fi nd the courage to admi t that we do not always
succeed. Mistakes and failures inform us of our limita-
ti ons and challenge us to explore, learn and i nnovate.
While the successes of the past and the promise of the
future i ncli ne us to wi eld the Bi omedi cal Model (one
desi gnat i on for t he current l y predomi nant form of
medi ci ne) agai nst each new challenge, there i s reason
to believe that it has not, and will not, be able to solve
all of our health problems.
Consi der that the bi omedi cal model i tself i s only
one kind of world view, that it is inherently limited by
the very laws that it embraces. It, like other historical
tradi ti ons, i s only capable of answeri ng the questi ons
i t can ask. Thi s may seem erudi te, but consi der that
the predomi nant concepti on of health care i s li mi ted
in its understanding of God or soul, or even some-
thi ng as mundane as humor. Those are thi ngs hu-
mans intuit and sometimes take for granted. They are
quest i ons t hat we are capabl e of aski ng, but whi ch
medi ci ne has a di ffi cult ti me understandi ng or uti -
lizing. Likewise, is it reasonable to assume that the bio-
medical model of health care can respond to all of our
questi ons about heal th or, more speci fi cal l y, heal -
ing?Time may tell. Certainly, there are numerous phi-
l osophi es of heal th care and exi stence that defy bi o-
medi cal precepts. Some of them are presented i n thi s
booklet. Questi ons are rai sed about whether or not i t
i s appropri at e t o t est al t ernat i ve medi ci nes wi t h
bi o(medi cal )sci ence. We may di scover that i t i s not.
What commonali ty between CAMs and the Bi omedi -
cal Model might assign value to an investigation?A par-
ticular possibility comes to mind.
Whi le not an enti rely si mple task, the concept of
bei ng wel l or not bei ng i l l can be defi ned i n an
inclusive way for specific situations. For instance, some-
one i s ei ther j aundi ced, or they are not; someone ei -
ther has a cold, or they do not; someone feels nause-
ated, or they do not. Putting aside complexities of eti-
ology, pathophysi ology, physi cal fi ndi ngs and cli ni cal
mani festati ons (the hallmarks of sci enti fi c medi ci ne),
by Chri stopher L. Perdue, Crei ghton Uni versi ty School of Medi ci ne
there is a simple, objective nature to the illness that is
testabl e. I f i t i s al so possi bl e for an unconventi onal
medical system or methodology to make an equivalent
di sti ncti on for each case, then we can ask the ques-
ti on, Are pati ents made wel l through an al ternati ve
treatment? This may be particularly useful for biomedi-
cal scientists and practitioners who, due to their train-
ing and personal tendencies, are unable to recommend
a therapy that lacks certain kinds of evidence.
There wi ll be di ffi culti es i n defi ni ng wellness and
treatment, but I beli eve they can be resolved. Experts
from vari ous real ms of experi ence shoul d be abl e to
reach an agreement regardi ng posi t i ve and negat i ve
outcomes. In the end, this is the most critical distinc-
tion for successful medicine. Where bioscience is con-
cerned, i t may not be possi bl e to el uci date a mecha-
nism of action, but it can indicate whether or not the
health of the patient is improved after treatment. Ad-
mittedly, this is too simplistic to be applicable for every
i llnessthere are syndromes i n alternati ve systems of
medi ci ne that do not exi st i n our bi omedi cal culture
and vice versabut perhaps this is the best we can of-
The question of efficacy and reliability (i.e., statis-
ti cal si gni fi cance) i s an i mportant one for the publi c.
As medi cal professi onals, we feel obli gated to protect
the public from quackery and false hope. Indeed, there
may be dangers associated with untested therapies, ei-
ther due to harmful substances and procedures, or be-
cause pati ents may fai l to seek bi omedi cal assi stance
while an illness is still treatable. This is not to say that
bi omedi ci ne shoul d al ways be the fi rst course of ac-
tion, or that it is necessarily the best, but that there are
certain instances where definitive biomedical interven-
ti on seemi ngly holds the greatest promi se for heali ng,
as i n acute appendi ci ti s.
Wi th i ncreasi ng avai l abi l i ty of i nformati on (the
Web) and al t ernat i ve t herapi es (heal t h food st ores),
there i s l egi ti mate concern that pati ents who prefer
alternative medicine, for whatever reason, will be mis-
gui ded by unqual i fi ed advi ce. However, no system i s
without risk, and in biomedicine as in alternative medi-
cine, patients often rely on the skill of individual prac-
ti ti oners. Occasi onal l y, regrettabl y, they fal l prey to
charl atans. To address those probl ems, we can serve
the public in a number of ways.
First, we can ensure that the public has an avenue
of redress for al ternati ve mal practi ce. Regardl ess of
evi dence of effecti veness or degree of ri sk, fear of le-
gal acti on and puni shment would certai nly i nspi re al-
ternati ve practi ti oners to be confi dent wi th thei r pre-
scri pti ons. The legal test for conventi onal medi ci ne i s
related to the capabilities of a particular medical com-
munity that is established by geography as well as spe-
ci alty. Physi ci ans wi thi n a communi ty are expected to
provi de a level of care that meets or exceeds the rea-
sonabl e expectati ons for qual i ty and effecti veness as
determi ned by other members of that communi ty. It
woul d seem reasonabl e to use the same standard for
the admi ni strati on of non-bi omedi cal health care. We
can also improve patient care by supporting legislation
that controls educati on, li censure and product manu-
fact uri ng.
I n addi ti on to l egal protecti on, pati ents wi l l be
great l y benefi t ed by t hought ful and appropri at e re-
search. The greater our confi dence i n a heal i ng mo-
dality, the less should be our worry for the safety of the
patient. Many questions remain with respect to this is-
sue, though the Nati onal Center for Compl ementary
and Alternati ve Medi ci ne (formerly the Offi ce of Al-
ternative Medicine) at the National Institutes of Health
is providing much-needed funding to instigate and sup-
port such work. The office has also established a frame-
work for cl assi fyi ng al ternati ve medi ci nes and devel -
oped goals and gui deli nes for research. (See I ntroduc-
t i on t o Al t ernat i ve Medi ci nes i n t hi s book.) There
should be concern, however, that the funded research
does not ignore fundamental philosophical differences.
As I suggested earl i er, there i s an uni queness to
certai n medi cal systems (e.g., Ayurveda, acupuncture)
that isolates them from certain levels of scrutiny, namely
the double-bli nd, randomi zed tri al. Thi s quali fi cati on
does not apply to every alternative medicine because
some have been created wi thi n a deci dedl y Western
context, despi te cl ai mi ng Eastern or anci ent i nspi ra-
tion. Magnetic therapy is one. Western herbalism, and
possi bl y homeopathy, because of thei r cl ose rel ati on-
shi p to Western culture, mi ght benefi t from ri gorous
scrutiny. However, with regard to Ayurveda, exactly how
would a biomedical scientist probe for Pitta-Dosha and
thus understand that a person may suffer from an ex-
cess of it?(See Ayurvedic Medicine in this book for il-
lustrati on.) We can, however, observe the reacti ons of
the pati ent to treatment, and say thi s woman i s bet-
ter or not. Hard evi dence exi sts for the uti li ty and
safety of chi ropracti c, one alternati ve medi ci ne that
is widely accepted, although some of its principles re-
main outside of traditional Western thought. After sen-
sitive examination, medical modalities that are deemed
testable must prove themselves as well, or fall by the
waysi de i f they cannot. I t shoul d al so be recogni zed
t hat t he degree t o whi ch a part i cul ar modal i t y or
therapy is alternative depends a great deal on the prac-
ti ti oner. Bi osci enti sts should be more sensi ti ve to the
uniqueness of transplanted medical philosophies, those
that are truly alternati ve medi ci nes, because i t can-
not hope to explain them, and it should not be used to
prosecut e t hem.
A number of articles in this booklet describe a clini-
cal methodology that i s rather, i f not radi cally, di ffer-
ent from typi cal Western medi ci ne. It seems that part
of the popularity of certain forms of alternative health
care is due to the dedication of its practitioners to the
hol i sti c phi l osophy (not al l al ternati ve medi ci nes are
part of a holistic system, i.e. magnetic therapy). Some
would claim that it is merely a holistic phenomenon, a
kind of passing fad, but I believe that we can serve our
pati ents by recogni zi ng the value of genui ne compas-
si on and total pati ent care. Addi ti onal l y, techni ques
such as Therapeut i c Touch are sai d t o rel y on a
pract i t i oners genui ne i nt ent i on t o hel p t he pat i ent
wi thout servi ng external moti vati ons. (See Therapeu-
ti c Touch i n thi s book for more detai ls.) There i s an
i mportant lesson i n thi s for all medi cal practi ti oners.
Lastly, we serve patients by helping them to make
smart medical decisions. Many patients will be desper-
ate and in pain, and we must help them with compas-
si on, ski l l and knowl edge. I nsofar as our bi omedi cal
model tells us what is safe and effective, we are obliged
to offer thi s for the pati ents consi derati on, even i f i t
means referral to a non-biomedical practitioner. Addi-
t i onal l y, we can be sensi t i ve t o a pat i ents personal
heal th care choi ces, offeri ng them our opi ni ons and
servi ces wi thout judgement. Well-trai ned and li censed
practi ti oners of alternati ve medi ci nes are speci ali sts i n
thei r fi el ds, anal ogous to the pedi atri c neurosurgeon
or family practitioner. We must be aware of the risks of
alternative treatment, just as we are aware of those as-
soci ated wi th conventi onal medi ci ne. Cl i ngi ng as we
do to our bi omedi cal ski l l s and knowl edge, we must
have the courage to tel l pati ents that we are not the
onl y source of hope, because bi omedi ci ne i s not the
only route to wellness.
We, the edi tors and authors, hope that you fi nd
thi s book i nformati ve. More than that, we hope you
find it enlightening. Several pieces will help provide a
personal and emoti onal context for the Compl emen-
tary and Alternati ve Medi ci ne movement; others wi ll
satisfy the scientist in you. All are as accurate and up-
to-date as possible, but we caution you not to rely on
these works as the last-thi ngs-you-need-to-read about
CAM or become quiescent in your pursuit of the truth.
The real m of Western medi ci ne i s changi ng qui ckl y,
and wi ll requi re si nceri ty and open-mi ndednessand
a certain level of tenacityon the part of its practitio-
ners. I would personally like to thank Wendy Golden,
project co-coordinator and assistant editor, and Ariana
Vora, Pamel a Di amanti s and El i ot Tokar for l eavi ng
Wendy and me with a fine product on which to build a
second edition. I am especially indebted to Dr. Patricia
Muehsam for her sincerity and generosity in reviewing
thi s booklet.
Introduction to Alternative Medicines
by Sarah Warber, M.D., University of Michigan
n 1991, Sen. Tom Harki n (D-I owa) added a provi
sion to the National I nstitutes of Healths spending
bi l l t hat creat ed t he Offi ce of Al t ernat i ve Medi ci ne
(OAM). The mandate of the OAM was to evaluate and
coordi nate research i nto compl ementary and al terna-
ti ve medi ci ne (CAM) and di ssemi nate i nformati on as
i t becomes avai lable. Two years later, Davi d Ei senberg
and colleagues published the results of a national tele-
phone survey performed i n 1990 whi ch showed that
one i n three persons had used some form of alterna-
ti ve medi ci ne i n the past year.
(See 60 Mi l l i on Pa-
ti ents Are Not Telli ng You Somethi ng i n thi s book.)
The research group defi ned al t ernat i ve medi ci ne as
modal i ti es whi ch are not general l y taught i n medi cal
schools, not usually available in hospitals, and not usu-
ally covered by health i nsurance.
Another noteworthy di scovery of Ei senbergs sur-
vey was that about 70 percent of patients using alterna-
ti ve medi ci ne di d not reveal that i nformati on to thei r
doctors. Furthermore, the esti mated out-of-pocket ex-
penses for al t ernat i ve medi ci ne equal ed al l out -of-
pocket expenses for hospi tal i zati on; and the number
of visits to alternative practitioners exceeded the num-
ber of visits to all primary care physicians. Previous work
had document ed t he use of al t ernat i ve t herapi es by
patients with cancer and HIV-AIDS, and the use of al-
t ernat i ve t herapi es i n European count ri es,
Ei senbergs ori gi nal study l ooked at Ameri cans wi th
routi ne heal th probl ems.
I nspi red by recent i nterest and research i nto the
subject, thi s book was concei ved by medi cal students,
for medi cal students, as an i ntroducti on to the world
of CAM. The importance of understanding these thera-
pies and being able to communicate with patients about
them cannot be underestimated. This skill, like so many
in medicine, must be grounded in an adequate under-
standi ng of the knowledge-base and tempered by an
open-mi nded, yet thoughtful atti tude.
I n 1992, the OAM held a seri es of workshops i n
whi ch pract i t i oners and researchers revi ewed i ssues,
concerns and pri ori ti es for a nati onal research agenda
for CAM. Out of those workshops came the Chantilly
Report whi ch gave an overvi ew of the fi eld of alterna-
tive medicine.
In this report, the working group iden-
ti fi ed seven maj or categori es of al ternati ve medi ci ne
and documented many examples of therapies included
i n each category. Gi ven the numerous modal i ti es of
al t ernat i ve medi ci ne, t hi s cat egori zat i on has proved
quite useful to both students and practicing physicians
as they struggle to assimilate this enormous new set of
i nformati on. The categori es defi ned by the OAM are:
AlternativeSystemsof Medical Practice(including but
not li mi ted to Tradi ti onal Chi nese Medi ci ne,
acupunct ure, homeopat hy);
Manual HealingMethods(including but not limited
to massage therapy, refl exol ogy, osteopathy);
Mind-Body Interventions (including but not limited
to art therapy, gui ded i magery, medi tati on);
Herbal Medicine;
Diet and Nutrition (including but not limited to
l i festyl e changes, macrobi oti cs, suppl ements);
Bioelectromagnetic Therapies(including but not
li mi ted to pulsed electromagneti c fi elds,
el ect roacupunct ure, magnet s);
Pharmacologic and Biologic Treatments(including but
not li mi ted to cell treatment, metaboli c therapy,
carti l age therapy).
The materi al presented i n thi s book i s by no means
exhaustive or comprehensive, but it will give an intro-
ducti on to a number of these real ms of heal i ng that
patients have found to be useful.
A t est ament t o t he persi st ent nat ure of pat i ent
choices is the follow-up study published by Eisenberg,
et al, in late 1998.
The percentage of patients who re-
ported usi ng al ternati ve medi ci ne had ri sen from 34
percent in 1990 to 42 percent in 1997. Among women,
this number was almost 50 percent. However, only 38
percent of al ternati ve therapy usage was reported to
t he pat i ent s medi cal doct or. Anot her recent st udy
found that only 4 percent of those surveyed used alter-
nati ve medi ci ne exclusi vely.
The vast maj ori ty of pa-
ti ents were usi ng these techni ques i n a compl emen-
tary or i ntegrated manner i n conj uncti on wi th thei r
use of conventi onal medi ci ne.
Few studies have actually asked patients about their
reasons for usi ng alternati ve medi ci ne. Current i nfor-
mati on suggests that peopl e use CAM because i t re-
lieves symptoms and is effective.
It is imperative that
the next generati on of physi ci ans be 1) fami li ar wi th
the types of complementary and alternati ve therapi es
used by patients; 2) comfortable discussing them with
pati ents; and 3) conversant wi th the growi ng body of
evi dence that i s helpi ng to di fferenti ate those that are
effective from those that are not, as well as able to iden-
ti fy i nstances where harm may be done through the
use of al ternati ve medi ci ne. The fol l owi ng i s a more
detai l ed descri pti on of each CAM cl assi fi cati on pro-
posed by the OAM, now renamed the National Center
for Complementary and Alternati ve Medi ci ne.
Thi s category i ncludes Tradi ti onal Chi nese Medi -
ci ne (TCM), acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathy,
Ayurveda, Nati ve Ameri can medi ci ne, and other sys-
tems of health care the derive from non-Western tradi-
tions and cultures. Each system of healing has its own
met hod of defi ni ng i l l ness, fol l owed by subsequent
detecti on, di agnosi s and mi ti gati on. Many of them,
such as TCM, Ayurveda and Nati ve Ameri can medi -
ci ne, are anci ent and have been used over the course
of hundreds of generations. Other systems, like home-
opathy and naturopathy, were jockeying with allopathic
medi ci ne for supremacy i n late 19th- and early 20th-
century America. The advent of antibiotics, new tech-
nologies and publication of the Flexner Report of 1910
assured allopathi c medi ci ne i ts posi ti on as the domi -
nant system. However, the other schools of medi ci ne
were never completely obliterated and have had a large
i ncrease i n populari ty i n recent decades.
Preparat i on t o become a pract i t i oner i n one of
these alternative systems of medicine may be as lengthy
and ri gorous as the experi ence of medi cal school, i n-
ternship and residency. Some training may be obtained
in special courses designed for physicians. Others may
requi re an apprenti ceshi p-type trai ni ng wi th an expe-
ri enced practi ti oner and del vi ng i nto real ms of con-
sciousness or evidence not ordinarily examined by con-
venti onal medi ci ne.
Thi s category i ncl udes some of the most popul ar of
alternative methods such as osteopathic and chiroprac-
t i c mani pul at i on, massage t herapy of many t ypes,
acupressure, refl exol ogy, Therapeuti c Touch and oth-
ers. The hal l mark of each of these di sci pl i nes i s the
physi cal mani pul ati on of, or non-contact approxi ma-
ti on to, the pati ents body by an experi enced practi -
t i oner. Each of t hese t ypes of t herapy has di fferent
underl yi ng assumpt i ons about t he achi evement of
bodily well-being and its relationship to manifestations
of i llness. Osteopathy and many forms of massage are
based on a convent i onal underst andi ng of muscl es,
nerves, and fascia; however, trained practitioners come
to know these parts of the human body i n ways that
al l opathi c medi cal doctors hardl y i magi ne (wi th the
possi bl e excepti on of speci al i sts i n physi cal medi ci ne
and rehabi l i t at i on). Ot her modal i t i es, such as
acupressure or refl exol ogy, are based on bodi l y con-
cepts that are quite different from Western understand-
i ngs.
Trai ni ng for those practi ces i ncl udes postgradu-
ate schools of osteopathi c and chi ropracti c medi ci ne,
extensive courses for medical doctors or lay persons in
vari ous forms of massage, apprenti ceshi p-trai ni ng or
self-study. Many di fferent organi zati ons provi de certi -
fi cati on. Osteopaths and chi ropractors are li censed to
practice in all 50 states. Many states also license mas-
sage therapi sts.
This category includes many practices that are used by
pati ents i n a complementary way to achi eve a holi sti c
approach to thei r i l l ness or to promote an i mproved
sense of heal th and wel l -bei ng. I t i ncl udes practi ces
such as guided imagery, meditation, hypnosis, biofeed-
back, spi ri tual approaches and others. More conven-
ti onally-used therapi es such as art therapy and musi c
therapy would also be classified as having their effects
wi t hi n t hi s real m. Each of t hese pract i ces cent ers
around affecting the mental state of the patient or ex-
ploring the meaning of illness in order to enhance the
ability of the body to heal itself. An emerging Western
conventi onal medi cal understandi ng of pyschoneuro-
i mmunol ogy and pychoneuroendocri nol ogy has sug-
gested bi ochemi cal explanati ons for such heali ng mo-
dal i ti es.
Training for the practice of these modalities comes
i n many forms, i ncl udi ng formal course work for
health-care professionals or lay persons. This is an area
where practi ti oners and pati ents often l earn through
self-study. Several modali ti es have certi fyi ng organi za-
ti ons, some of whi ch are competi ng for recogni ti on.
Herbs have been used to benefit and to poison humans
from the begi nni ng of ti me. The early botani sts were
physicians who began to systematically study the plants
they used i n thei r professi on. I n fact, 25 percent of
todays modern pharmaceuticals are derived from plant
sources. According to the World Health Organization,
80 percent of the worl ds popul ati on uses herbs for
some of i ts pri mary care needs.
I n Europe and the
Far East parti cul arl y, herbal systems are i ncorporated
into the dominant system in a complementary way. For
example, the German Commi ssi on E i nvesti gated the
tradi ti onal uses of herbs and the sci enti fi c evi dence
avai lable i n support of herbal appli cati ons. The Com-
mi ssi on then i ssued 380 herbal monographs detai li ng
those herbs for which the evidence was acceptable and
those for which it was not. A translation of this work is
now available for the first time in the U.S.
The use of herbal medicine in the U.S. is growing
at a phenomenal rate. Eighteen percent of patients who
take prescri pti on drugs al so use herbal remedi es and
often more than one.
In this country herbal medicines
are regulated as dietary supplements. These regulations
set standards for labeling, but they do not require proof
of labeli ng accuracy pri or to marketi ng. As consumer
i nterest shows no si gns of abati ng, the regul ati on of
the herbal i ndustry i s becomi ng an i mportant i ssue.
Another concern is the question of who is qualified to
gi ve advi ce about herbs. Many pati ents seek i nforma-
tion in books and select for themselves which herbs to
use. Others may consult wi th practi ci ng herbali sts or
nat uropat hi c physi ci ans. Some chi ropract ors, ost eo-
paths, nutri ti oni sts and medi cal doctors are maki ng
herbal recommendat i ons. There i s no consensus
among these practi ti oners about what i s an adequate
knowledge base from which to make recommendations
to pati ents. Thi s area i s enormously complex and wi ll
see many changes in the next few years. Greater regu-
lation and a strong push for credentialing of practitio-
ners is highly likely.
This category includes lifestyle diets, such as macrobi-
oti cs, the Orni sh di et, the Pri tki n di et, the Zone, as
well as the use of mega-supplements of vitamins, min-
erals and other nutrients. Like the use of herbs, this is
one area where the growth of consumer interest is sky-
rocketi ng. Li festyle di ets, li ke the Orni sh di et for re-
versi ng coronary artery di sease, have many potenti al
benefi ts, but may be di ffi cult for pati ents to tolerate.
For those interested in prevention, dietary changes can
be extremel y i mportant.
However, the evidence available in support of diet
modi fi cat i on i s oft en epi demi ol ogi cal and not con-
structed to i nvesti gate causali ty. Even when a parti cu-
lar nutrient is identified as having health benefits, there
i s li ttle evi dence for the benefi t or lack of benefi t i n
supplementing that nutrient in large quantities. Clearly,
a great deal of work remains to be done to investigate
the popul ar suppl ements and di ets, and thei r poten-
ti al for enhanci ng thi s fi eld.
As with the other areas of CAM, this area is again
one where the claims to knowledge vary greatly among
practitioners. Nutritionists, chiropractors, holistic prac-
titioners of every stripe, including physicians, make rec-
ommendat i ons about di et and suppl ement s. Educa-
t i onal requi rement s and credent i al s are not agreed
upon by any of these groups.
Thi s cat egory i ncl udes ext ernal l y appl i ed t herapi es
such as pul sed el ect romagnet i c fi el ds,
el ectroacupuncture, magnets and others. Athl etes are
embraci ng the use of magnets and at least one study
support s t he effect i veness of magnet s when appl i ed
over a pai nful area. Bi oelectromagneti cs also i ncludes
the study of the electromagnetic properties of the hu-
man body and their manipulation. This may provide a
theoreti cal foundati on for some al ternati ve therapi es
such as acupuncture and homeopathy.
Thi s category i ncl udes chel ati on therapy for cardi o-
vascular di sease, carti lage therapy, api therapy (the use
of bee products) and others. These are primarily phar-
macologi c maneuvers that have not yet been formally
tested for safety or efficacy due to financial constraints.
Many of these therapies focus on treatment of cancer,
whi l e others are used for arthri ti s or AI DS. Further
study will help to differentiate those with real benefits
from those that do harm or have no benefit.
Ref erences
Eisenberg DM, Kessler RC, et al. Unconventional medicine
in the United StatesPrevalence, costs and patterns of use.
NEJM 1993;32(4):246-252.
Cassileth BR, Lusk EJ, et al. Contemporary unorthodox treat-
ments in cancer medicine. Ann Intern Med. 1984:101:105-
Rowlands C, Powderly WG. The use of alternative therapies
by HIV-positive patients attending the St. Louis AIDS clini-
cal trials unit. Mo Med. 1991;88:807-810.
Rasmussen NK, Morgall JM. The use of alternati ve treat-
ments in the Danish adult population. Complementary Med
Res. 1990;4:16-22.
Alternativemedicine: Expandingmedical horizons. USGov Print-
ing Office. Washington, DC, 1992
Eisenberg DM, Davis RB, et al. Trends in alternative medi-
ci ne use i n t he Uni t ed St at es, 1990-1997. J AMA 1998;
Austin JA. Why patients use alternative medicine. JAMA
Elder NC, Gillcrist A, Minz R. Use of alternative health care
by family practice patients. Arch FamMed 1997;6:181-184.
Blumenthal, M. ed. ThecompleteGerman Commission E mono-
graphsTherapeutic guideto herbal medicines. American Bo-
tanical Council. Austin, TX, 1998.
60 Million Patients Are Not Telling You Something...
by Bobby Kapur, Baylor University College of Medicine
st udy i n t he New England Journal of Medicine
investigated the prevalence, costs and patterns of
use of compl ement ary and al t ernat i ve medi ci ne
(CAM). Unconventi onal medi ci ne, or CAM, was de-
fi ned as any treatment nei ther taught wi dely i n U.S.
medical schools nor generally practiced in U.S. hospi-
t al s. Exampl es i ncl ude acupunct ure, chi ropract i c,
herbal medi ci ne and massage therapy. The study re-
veal ed that the uti l i zati on of compl ementary and al -
ternati ve modali ti es parallels that of conventi onal pri -
mary care practi ces.
Thi rt y-four percent of pat i ent s i nt ervi ewed re-
ported using CAM therapies mostly for chronic condi-
ti ons such as cancer, arthri ti s, back pai n, AI DS, gas-
troi ntesti nal complai nts, renal fai lure and eati ng di s-
orders. An estimated 425 million visits to CAM provid-
ers occurred in 1990, which exceeds the total number
of visits to all conventional primary care providers (388
million). Patterns of usage of CAM modalities were not
confined to any particular segment of society, and simi-
l ar percentages occurred i rrespecti ve of gender, age,
race, i nsurance status or communi ty si ze.
However, CAM utilization is not a mutually exclu-
si ve medi cal route separate from conventi onal medi -
cal pathways. Among patients embracing CAM, 83 per-
cent also consulted a medical doctor concomitantly for
thei r condi ti ons. However, 72 percent of thi s group
di d not i nform t hei r physi ci ans of t hese addi t i onal
therapi es. These stati sti cs i ndi cate that a l arge num-
ber of patients choose CAM options but feel unable to
discuss this with their physicians. This failure to com-
muni cate an i mportant aspect of thei r medi cal care
wi th thei r physi ci ans coul d refl ect pati ents fears of
al i enati ng themsel ves from the conventi onal medi cal
communi ty and physi ci ans l ack of knowl edge about
Pati ents ul ti matel y suffer as a resul t of thi s defi -
ciency in communication. As medical students, we can
begi n to bri dge the communi cati on gap by educati ng
ourselves about CAM and by learni ng to ask pati ents
in a non-judgmental way about their use of unconven-
tional therapies whenever we take a history. The more
i nformed we are, the more able we are to provi de the
best possi ble health care.
Ref erence
Eisenberg DM, Kessler RC, Foster C, et al. Unconventional
medi ci ne i n the Uni ted States: prevalence, costs, and
patterns of use. New England Journal of Medicine. 1993; 328:
The Mission
Organize and implement the Fall 1997
AMSA Complementary Medicine Symposium
The Site
Wake Forest University School of Medicine,
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
The Agents
Leigh White and Janet Knight
Co-chairs, Alternative & Complementary Medicine Committee, AMSAWake Forest
n the Spring of 1997, AMSA-Wake Forest sponsored sev-
eral lunch meetings where students viewed Bill Moyers
video series Healing and the Mind (David Grubin Produc-
tion, Inc. and Television Affairs, Inc.). These meetings were
well-attended, with about 30 students at each of four ses-
sions. Because the student body expressed additional inter-
est in alternative medicines, the Alternative and Comple-
mentary Medicine Committee organized a lunch seminar
on acupuncture. With positive feedback from these events,
the chapter decided to expand its efforts by offering a
Complementary Medicine Symposium. This event would
enable attendees to continue learning about alternative thera-
pies. The small group format was chosen to allow an infor-
mal and personal interaction with various practitioners.
Following is a diary by the author of the work leading up to
the event and observations from the organizers.
A couple of weeks after I had finished my first year of
classes, I began the organization process. I thought that it
was important to invite only highly trained, qualified and
pragmatic practitioners to participate in our symposium. I
talked with Louisa Klein, my Yoga teacher, about the sym-
posium idea. From my own personal experience, I knew
that Louisa would be an excellent speaker; she also has ex-
tensive experience and great credentials. After agreeing to
speak at the symposium, Louisa suggested two other pos-
sible speakers: Susan Goldstone, a practitioner of acupunc-
ture and Chinese herbology in Winston-Salem, and Alpa
Bhatt, an Ayurvedic physician practicing in the Chapel Hill/
Raleigh area.
I spoke with Alpa Bhatt by phone and arranged to meet
her in Chapel Hill. During our meeting, I learned that Alpa
had obtained her training in Jamnagar, India, where she
graduated in 1986. She practiced for five years in India,
then moved to London where she practiced for six years at
the Kusal Ayurvedic Center. She is the only Ayurvedic phy-
sician in the state of North Carolina. Luckily, she agreed to
Mission Impossible
by Leigh White,W ake Forest University School of Medicine
come to Winston-Salem to speak to us about Ayurveda.
The combination of topics for our symposium was
unique. These topics would be a diverse sampling of comple-
mentary medicines in the United States today. Acupunc-
ture is becoming widely accepted and has received an en-
dorsement from the NIH as a legitimate therapy for certain
forms of emesis and chronic pain control, though traditional
practitioners are capable of myriad treatments that have yet
to be thoroughly investigated by Western scientists. Yoga is
also increasing in popularity and is receiving more atten-
tion from the lay press. Ayurveda is a relatively new therapy
in the United States and is in the early stages of discovery
by American patients. I believed that we could learn a great
deal from these speakers, and felt fortunate to have recruited
people who were so highly qualified.
Picking a date for the symposium required obtaining the
tentative schedules of first- and second-year medical stu-
dents. Even three months in advance, a number of potential
dates and times were unavailable in the Commons area. The
speakers provided a number of dates and times when they
could be available. I was able to find a day where three
nearby rooms were open on October 13 from 3:30 to 5:30
We planned for the event to start with an orientation
and refreshments (of course!) for 30 minutes. The partici-
pants were divided into three groups for rotation through
the rooms. Each talk was 25 minutes long, with five min-
utes allowed for movement to the next room. The whole
event could be finished in two hours; it was very difficult to
get students to commit to any more time than that. I wrote a
short note to each of the speakers to inform them of the
official date and time. (It seemed important to provide a
written reminder to those busy practitioners.)
With the summer over, it was necessary to complete the
final arrangements for the symposium. Janet Knight assisted
me with the remaining plans. When planning the refresh-
ments, we thought that the theme of this event was incon-
sistent with serving chips and cookies, so we chose the more
healthy option of vegetable trays. Because this choice would
be more expensive, Janet volunteered to attempt to locate
funding through our school.
Although we felt comfortable with the abilities of our
speakers, we thought that they might appreciate some guid-
ance concerning our interests in their work. We organized a
brainstorming lunch with other AMSA members and com-
piled a list of Alternative Interests (below).
Janet developed flyers to advertise the event. I prepared
directions to the parking deck for the speakers and requested
that they send handouts that needed to be copied by Octo-
ber 6. I also requested that they inform me of any audiovi-
sual equipment requirements as soon as possible. Three
AMSA members volunteered to meet the speakers at the
medical center entrance at 2:50 and escort them to the con-
ference rooms; an additional person validated their parking
tickets at the Medical Education Office. Janet, with the help
of Dr. Bryant Kendricks, a faculty member, found some
extra funds to pay for the refreshments. The vegetable
trays were provided by university catering (which was con-
venient and required little work on our part).
E-mail was sent to all four classes announcing the event
and I made verbal announcements in the first- and second-
year classrooms. Sign-up sheets were placed outside class-
rooms and flyers were posted three weeks in advance of
the symposium.
Eighty people signed up for the event, 20 more than we had
originally planned for. We decided to divide the participants
randomly into three groups on the day of the event. We cut
red, green and blue construction paper into squares to hand
to people as they entered the lecture hall for the orientation.
This method would allow the groups to remain evenly di-
vided throughout the symposium.
An e-mail reminder was sent to all participants one
week before the event. Janet and I took the handout mate-
rial to Kinkos on Monday, the 12th. I included an article
on the contraindications for a number of popular herbal rem-
edies (The herbal medicine boom: understanding what pa-
tients are taking.Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine.
1998;65(3):129-134.) We planned to take the speakers out
to dinner after the event as our way of thanking them for
their participation.
The symposium went very smoothly and the attendance was
good. Sixty students and two faculty members participated.
Some students commented that the talks were too short,
but we thought that it worked well (it left them wanting
more, after all). In response to their interest, we plan to
have several lunch seminars on these topics later in the year.
Hopefully, the interest shown by the students in this
symposium will encourage the administration to offer a class
or elective in complementary and alternative medicines in
the near future. Until then, our AMSA chapter will host
another symposium. While planning the 1997 Symposium
took a lot of organization and effort, it was an interesting
and rewarding project. I believe we have an obligation to
learn about alternative and complementary medicine. A large
number of our future patients will be using these therapies.
As responsible physicians, we should be knowledgeable
about their appropriate uses and contraindications.
Medical Student Alternative Interests
(as presented to the Symposium speakers)
1. We would be interested in hearing a brief history of
your therapy.
2. What credentials would a patient need to look for in a
competent practitioner (so that we can help our
patients find a qualified practitioner)?
3. In your experience, what particular injuries and/or
illnesses is your therapy especially helpful for? (We
would like to hear about the treatment of specific
patients and their outcome as the result of using your
4. What illnesses/injuries is your therapy not particularly
useful for? (So that we can effectively advise our
patients as to the use of appropriate therapies for their
5. Are there different types (forms, disciplines) of your
therapy? What are their focuses and what are their
strengths and weaknesses?
6. What are your suggestions for productive communica-
tion between a doctor of Western medicine and a
practitioner of your therapy?
7. We would love to see demonstrations and/or participate
in any way.
Louisa Klein has been teaching Yoga in Winston-Salem for
over 20 years.
Former Vice-president of the International Yoga Teachers
Association, based in Sydney, Australia; certified through that
Member of the Mid-Atlantic Yoga Teachers Association, the
Southeast Yoga Association, and the Iyengar Yoga Associa-
Susan Goldstone is a licensed Acupuncturist.
Diplomate of Acupuncture through the National Commission
of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Affiliate of the National Sports Acupuncture Association,
licensed Massage Therapist and member of the North
Carolina Acupuncture Licensing Board.
Alpa Bhatt is a licensed Ayurvedic practitioner.
Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery from the
Gujurat Ayurvedic University (Jamnagar, India); certified in
Sanskrit Examination and Ayruvedic Massage Therapy.
Ayurvedic consultant to Kusal Ayurvedic Center, London,
England, and a member of the British Holistic Medical
Complementary Medicine Elective at
the University of Alabama School of Medicine
by Kristin Copeland, University of Alabama School of Medicine
wi fery, art therapy, bi ofeedback, homeopathy, thera-
peuti c touch, and nati ve North Ameri can and nati ve
South American healing practices. Lecturers were gen-
erally practi ti oners wi thi n the fi eld and were encour-
aged t o perform demonst rat i ons i f possi bl e. The
course also i ncluded an i ntroductory lecture gi ven by
a primary care physician and authority on complemen-
tary medicine, as well as a session on fraud and inter-
preti ng the medi cal l i terature. Each sessi on ranged
from one to three hours, either at lunch-time or in the
afternoon when there were no other l ectures sched-
uled. Because all students had regularly scheduled com-
mi tments (a l ab or cl i ni cal preceptorshi p) on certai n
days of the week, the sessions were offered on a rotat-
ing schedule through the weekdays. This schedule was
chosen to make the course available to as many inter-
ested students as possi bl e, real i zi ng that no student
would be able to attend all of the sessions.
The i ni ti ati ve for starti ng the course came from
both the students and the Associate Deans for Medical
Education and Students. A committee of approximately
10 interested students was formed in the fall of 1996 to
organi ze the course. Thi s commi ttee was responsi bl e
for choosi ng the format, content, speakers and sched-
ule. A brief questionnaire was distributed to first- and
second-year students i n the fall of 1996 to gauge the
level of interest in such a course and to collect sugges-
tions for instructional topics. Based on the large posi-
tive response, a didactic format was selected. The course
content was selected from student suggesti ons on the
questionnaire, as well as from a syllabus of a continu-
i ng-studi es course offered previ ously at the Uni versi ty
of Al abama at Bi rmi ngham. Lecturers were recrui ted
from the previ ous course and through contacts of the
course coordi nator, of students on the commi ttee and
of i nt erest ed medi cal school facul t y. Some l ect urers
were i denti fi ed through the Yellow Pages and at local
heal th food stores. A few l ecturers l ate i n the course
were the suggesti ons of earl y l ecturers, who knew of
them through professi onal soci eti es or soci al groups.
All local lecturers readi ly agreed to come speak about
their fields without reimbursement. Speakers said they
saw it as a chance to open the lines of communication
between traditional and alternative medicine, to estab-
lish professional relationships and possibly referral net-
works. Rei mbursement from the Associ ate Deans of-
fice was provided to only two visiting lectures for travel
Attendance at the sessi ons ranged from approxi -
mately 40 students at the i ntroductory lecture to fi ve
st udent s at l at er l ect ures. I n general , t he hour-l ong
recent article published in the Journal of theAmeri-
can Medical Association indicated that 75 U.S. medi-
cal schools (64 percent of schools respondi ng) offered
i nstructi on i n complementary medi ci ne, ei ther as part
of a requi red course or as an el ect i ve.
Thi rt y-one
school s offered i nstructi on i n compl ementary medi -
ci ne as a part of a requi red course. Academi c credi t
was awarded i n 79 percent of t he t ot al number of
courses. The study hi ghl i ghted the great di versi ty i n
course formats, requi rements and content. From thi s
survey, it is evident that there is no teaching in comple-
mentary medi ci ne at more than one-thi rd of medi cal
schools, and that there is a great variety in comprehen-
siveness of instruction at the schools where courses are
of f ered.
I ntroduci ng i nstructi on i n complementary medi -
ci ne i nto the modern medi cal curri culum i s relati vely
new at most medical schools, and as such, these courses
are still in an evolutionary, if not experimental, phase.
I n an effort to contri bute to the di alogue concerni ng
what, if any, fundamental concepts these courses should
include, and how they may be best adapted to the es-
tabl i shed medi cal curri cul um, the fol l owi ng descri p-
tion of an elective course at the University of Alabama
School of Medi ci ne i s offered. I t i s hoped thi s sum-
mary will prove useful to medical students who wish to
ei ther i ntroduce or expand thei r schools curri cul um
i n compl ementary medi ci ne.
n the spring of 1997, an elective in complementary
medicine was offered to medical students at the Uni-
versi ty of Al abama School of Medi ci ne. The el ecti ve
was not for credit, and it was offered outside of regu-
larly scheduled lecture time. The format was primarily
didactic, with demonstrations by practitioners and in-
teracti ve sessi ons when possi ble. The course was open
to all medical students as well as interested community
members, al though i t was pri mari l y targeted and ad-
vertised to first- and second-year students. There were
no course requirements; consistent attendance was not
a requi rement, although students were encouraged to
attend as many sessions as possible in order to gain as
comprehensive and cohesive an experience as possible.
A suppl emental textbook
was avai l abl e to i nterested
students at a group-discounted rate. Readings from this
text were suggested but not requi red.
Each sessi on focused on ei ther a therapeuti c mo-
dal i ty or a spectrum of tradi ti onal heal i ng practi ces
wi t hi n a part i cul ar cul t ure. Topi cs i ncl uded herbal
therapy, acupuncture, chi ropracti c, massage, lay mi d-
l unch sessi ons were better attended than the two- or
three-hour afternoon sessions. Each session was adver-
tised by flyers, announcements during regularly sched-
uled classes, and in a bookmark which listed all of the
l ecture dates. Poor attendance i n the afternoon ses-
sions can be explained by students prior commitments
(preceptorships or labs) or the fact that many students
usual l y go home or to the l i brary after morni ng l ec-
tures, thereafter choosi ng or forgetti ng to return to
school. The two- or three-hour sessi ons represented a
significant time commitment on top of the regular cur-
ri cul um.
In general, the course was considered a success by
all those participating, considering that it was the first
year offered, that it was not offered for credit, and that
i t had si gni fi cant budgetary constrai nts. The textbook
was received fairly well, although students requested a
more comprehensive explanation of some of the treat-
ment modal i ti es, and a more bal anced, unbi ased re-
view of the literature. The course was not offered again
in the subsequent year due to lack of student interest.
The organizing committee did compile a list of lessons
l earned and suggesti ons for future courses:
1. Credit: The organi zi ng commi ttee felt that, whi le
students i ndi cated consi derable i nterest i n the course
at the outset, thi s i nterest became overshadowed by
course work and test preparati on for credi ted classes.
A goal in the future of this course will be to offer it for
credit, or to incorporate it into another credited class.
2. Scheduling: The committee wrestled with the issue
of whether to provi de bri ef lunch-ti me sessi ons to as
many students as possible or to provide more in-depth
afternoon sessi ons to fewer, more i nterested students.
Both formats provi de obvi ous advantages and di sad-
vantages. The smaller sessi ons allow for more student
parti ci pati on and i nteracti on, but the l arger sessi ons
provi de exposure for a great er number of st udent s.
Some topi cs may lend themselves better to a semi nar
format and others to a didactic session.
3. Speaker recruitment: In addition to the Yellow Pages,
st udent and facul t y cont act s, and l ocal heal t h food
stores, pain clinics may provide a valuable resource for
i dent i fyi ng compl ement ary medi ci ne pract i t i oners.
Pai n cli ni cs often refer to, and recei ve pati ents from,
acupunct uri st s, herbal i st s and homeopat hs, among
other speci al ti es.
4. Lecturer preparation: All lecturers were asked to give
a bri ef i ntroducti on to thei r therapeuti c modali ty, i n-
cl udi ng a bri ef hi st ory, expl anat i on of t he met hods
used, a demonstrati on i f possi bl e, and any evi dence
within the medical literature documenting its effective-
ness. Some lecturers provided brief one-page handouts
about thei r speci alty that proved to be especi ally use-
ful. In general, it was felt by the committee that it would
be best to previ ew al l l ecturers i f possi bl e, especi al l y
when recrui ti ng speakers from outsi de of an academi c
It i s hoped thi s descri pti on of the course offered
at the Uni versi ty of Alabama at Bi rmi ngham and the
above suggesti ons wi l l be useful to students at other
medical schools who wish to start an elective course at
their school. Several important points must be consid-
ered. To date, there i s no consensus on the appropri -
at e st ruct ure of a Compl ement ary and Al t ernat i ve
Medi ci ne curri cul um for medi cal school s. A number
of organizations, including the AAMC, have task forces
worki ng on academi c gui deli nes. Certai nly, the phi lo-
sophical aspects of modalities grouped within the CAM
movement will need to be considered in order to main-
t ai n t he appropri at e cul t ural and met hodol ogi cal
awareness. Addi t i onal l y, any effort t o creat e such a
course must take i nto account the students and aca-
demi c envi ronment of the medi cal school , as wel l as
what aspects of compl ementary medi ci ne are covered
or omitted from the existing curriculum. It is clear that
what will work for one medical school might not work
at every medical school at this time, but the evolution
of these courses should conti nue.
Ref erences
Wertzel MS, Eisenber DM, Kaptchuk TJ. Courses involv
ing complementary and alternative medicine at U.S.
medical schools. JAMA. 280(9):784-87.
Fugh-Berman, Adriane. Alternativemedicine: What works.
Odonion Press: Arizona, 1996.
Use of Traditional Medicine Among Elderly
Chinese Immigrants in New York City
by Pamela M. Diamantis, SUNY at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences,
and Vivian Ka, CUNY at Sophie Davis School of Medicine
any i mmi grants of di verse ethni c backgrounds
bri ng medi ci ne from thei r nati ve countri es and
use i t i n combi nati on wi th Western medi ci ne. These
individuals possess medical belief systems that combine
the medi cal practi ces of thei r country of ori gi n wi th
Western medi ci ne. A study conducted by a student at
Sophie Davis illustrates the need for physicians to pay
attenti on to the medi cal beli ef system of pati ents be-
cause thi s affects the level of communi cati on between
the medi cal doctor and pati ent and, consequently, i n-
fl uences cl i ni cal management.
In 1997, Vivian Ka conducted a pilot study survey-
i ng the atti tudes of Chi nese el derl y pati ents toward
Western medicine and their use of Traditional Chinese
Medi ci ne (TCM). Care to these homebound pati ents
is provided by a home health care program, Living-At-
Home, whi ch prohi bi t s t he use of al t ernat i ve and
compl ement ary remedi es t hat are out si de t he real m
of conventi onal medi ci ne. Living-At-Home serves the
el derl y and chroni cal l y i l l Asi an popul at i on on t he
Lower East Side of Manhattan. Its mission is to furnish
home heal th care i n a cul tural l y sensi ti ve manner by
provi di ng a bi l i ngual team consi sti ng of a physi ci an,
nurse and soci al worker. Paradoxi cally, i t hi nders pa-
ti ents from usi ng remedi es that are i ndi gent to thei r
cul t ure.
Parti ci pants i n the survey were assured of confi -
dentiality and told that their responses would not place
them at ri sk of di squali fi cati on from thei r health-care
program. Astoundingly, 84 percent of the respondents
reported that they used TCM remedi es (acupuncture,
herbal medi ci ne, topi cal oi ntments and Chi nese teas
and soups) concurrently with their medical treatments,
despi te the fact that they were prohi bi ted. Whi le the
survey suggests active use of TCM, results also indicate
that many patients hesitate to seek Chinese herbal doc-
tors because of thei r di strust of i nadequatel y trai ned
provi ders i n the Uni ted States.
Thi s study reflects the spectrum of beli efs wi thi n
one i mmi grant group. I n tradi ti onal Chi nese culture,
phl ebotomy i s consi dered harmful to ones heal th. A
significant number of participants indicated the reten-
tion of this belief. However, 58 percent of the partici-
pants indicated that they did not feel this way, reflect-
ing their assimilation to American ways. This exempli-
fi es the need to learn about the medi cal beli ef system
of pati ents on an i ndi vi dual basi s, because some pa-
tients may maintain more of their cultural beliefs while
others may assi mi late more i nto Western soci ety.
I n conclusi on, cli ni cal reali ti es of i mmi grant pati ents
are influenced not only by their cultural backgrounds,
but also by their degree of assimilation into American
society. I n order to facilitate adequate communication,
physicians must identify their patients attitudes toward
health and medicine. I t would be in the patients best
interests for Living-At-Hometo reevaluate its policy re-
garding the prohibition of CAM and to consider incor-
porating TCM in its provision of care. I n so doing, it
would remai n true to i ts mi ssi on of provi di ng health
care i n a culturally sensi ti ve manner.
Ref erence
Ka, Vivian. Hard choices: The use of western vs. Chinese
tradi ti onal medi ci ne by the Chi nese homebound elderly i n
New York City. TheJournal of Long-TermHomeHealth Care.
Forthcomi ng, Spri ng 1998.
A Study of Herbal Medicine
Usage Among Chinese Patients in Boston
by Audrey Young, University of Washington School of Medicine
Background. Chinese medicine has had a strong pres-
ence in the lives of Chinese people for 5,000 years, and
many Chi nese l i vi ng i n Ameri ca, parti cul arl y i mmi -
grants, have retai ned thei r beli efs and practi ces. I hy-
pothesi zed that many pati ents attendi ng a Chi natown
communi t y heal t h cent er used herbal remedi es and
that many of those pati ents had not di scussed those
uses with their physicians.
Methodology. A patient survey translated into written
and spoken Chi nese, admi ni stered to 116 pati ents i n
the wai ti ng room at a Boston communi ty health cen-
t er.
Results. Almost all respondents used herbal medicines
(90%, n=82). Many i ndi vi dual s used mul ti pl e herbs;
the most commonly used herbs were chrysanthemum
(68%), gi nger (63%), ast ragal us, huangqi or bei qi
(51%), ginseng (49%), cordyceps (46%), and tang kuei
(45%). Almost all respondents (91%, n=65) reported
usi ng herbal medi ci nes to stay heal thy. The two pri -
mary sources for i nformati on about herbal treatments
were fami l y or fri ends (78%, n=59), and herbal i st s
(39%). Only four patients (7%) used the mass media
television, books or magazinesfor information about
herbal medi ci nes. Fi ft y-fi ve percent of respondent s
(n=74) had spoken with their doctor about the use of
herbal medi ci nes.
Conclusions. Herbal medicine use is culturally accepted
and practi ced wi del y among Chi nese pati ents. The
popular preventi ve usage of herbal medi ci nes suggests
that Chi nese pati ents desi re to stay heal thy and that
individuals are willing to practice preventive behaviors.
However, t he number of pat i ent s usi ng herbal sub-
stances without discussion with their doctors is high.
hinese medicine has had a strong presence in the
lives of Chinese people for 5,000 years, and many
Chi nese l i vi ng i n Ameri ca, part i cul arl y i mmi grant s,
have retained their beliefs and practices. Chinese con-
cepts of di sease and treatment someti mes cl ash wi th
what is encountered in a Western medical setting. For
example, one Chinese belief is that the human person
cannot be compartmentalized into different organ sys-
tems, but rather i s a ful l y i ntegrated uni t. Chi nese
medi ci nes treat mul ti pl e systems under a bel i ef that
the body i s out of balance, so a Chi nese pati ent may
not comprehend usi ng a medi ci ne to treat onl y one
area of the body. Compoundi ng the problems of cul-
tural differences, the American medical literature con-
tains very little research on Chinese health beliefs and
practices. Researchers who have attempted to study the
heal t h of Chi nese Ameri cans have encount ered sev-
eral stumbli ng blocks.
Many Asi ans, l i ke other ethni c mi nori ti es i n the
Uni ted States, fear bei ng the subjects of experi menta-
tion and are wary of participating in scientific studies.
Translating and culturally-sensitizing study instruments
is not enough to gain this populations trust. The em-
ployment of bi li ngual, culturally-aware health workers
to i nteract wi th pati ents helps, but does not i n i tself
guarantee good, usable data; the setting in which sub-
j ects are approached may have some effect on the re-
One recently publi shed study of the Chi nese eld-
erly i n Boston reported a 17 percent response rate to
random sampling among Boston Chinese; to complete
the study, bilingual staff were hired to interview indi-
vi duals at a seni or center i n Chi natown.
Another i n-
vest i gat or experi enced i n sampl i ng t he Bost on
Chinatown population noted similar difficulties. I n one
study, a randomly-selected sample of residents was ap-
proached by bi l i ngual students from the communi ty
who were specially trained to administer the study ques-
ti onnai re; thi s methodol ogy produced a very l ow re-
sponse rate.
In this study, I hypothesized that many patients at-
tendi ng a Chi natown communi ty heal th center used
herbal remedi es, both for preventi on and treatment
of disease, and that many of these patients had not dis-
cussed these uses wi th thei r physi ci ans. I n addi ti on, I
hoped to l earn more about patterns of herbal medi -
ci ne use.
Study design
SAMPLE. I surveyed two different groups of patients at-
tending a busy community health center near Bostons
Chinatown. The health centers clientele was from the
greater Boston area and consisted primarily of Chinese
immigrants, for whom Cantonese or Mandarin was the
pri mary language. The total sample was 116 pati ents.
The response rate was 78 percent; 91 pati ents fi l l ed
out questi onnai res and 25 decli ned to answer. Among
the 91 respondents, 67 fully completed the questi on-
naires. All 91 responses were analyzed. Of the respon-
dents, 42 percent were male and 58 percent were fe-
male. Thi s was si mi lar to the gender rati o among pa-
ti ents who decl i ned to answer (36 percent mal e and
64 percent femal e).
STUDY INSTRUMENT. A 15-question, multiple-choice ques-
ti onnai re (Fi gures 1 & 2) was translated i nto Manda-
ri n Chi nese by a nati ve-Chi nese acupuncturi st fluent
in English, and was translated back from Chinese into
Engli sh and evaluated for cultural sensi ti vi ty by staff
members of the clinic. A final Chinese version was writ-
ten i n cursi ve Mandari n and pretested. An i ntroduc-
tory statement i nformed pati ents that we wi shed to
learn about herbal medi ci ne use i n Asi ans. The study
i nstrument asked about usage of ei ght popul ar Chi -
nese herbal remedies commonly mentioned in the me-
dia, the medical literature and conversations with clinic
staff. Questi ons ascertai ned how pati ents l earned of,
and in which scenarios, they used the herbal medicines.
The quest i onnai re al so asked whet her pat i ent s had
discussed the use of herbal medicines with their West-
ern doctors and about parti cular components of those
conversat i ons. Demographi c i nformat i on i ncl uded
gender, age group, pri mary l anguage as a measure of
acculturati on and fami ly status as a measure of soci al
i sol ati on.
RESPONSE. An i nt erpret er fl uent i n Mandari n,
Cant onese, Vi et namese and Engl i sh approached pa-
ti ents and offered to read the questi onnai re and assi st
patients in filling out the form.
dents used herbal medicines (90%, n=82). Many indi-
vi duals used multi ple herbs; the most commonly used
herbs were chrysanthemum (68%), gi nger (63%), as-
t ragal us, huangqi or bei qi (51%), gi nseng (49%),
cordyceps (46%), and tang kuei (45%). Only 4 respon-
dent s (5%) used gi nkgo. Ni net een pat i ent s (21%)
wrote in that they used formulas prescribed by herb-
ali sts, whi ch are combi nati ons of herbs prepared i ndi -
vi dual l y for a pati ents needs. Not al l pati ents usi ng
formulas knew the herbal components of their formu-
las. Multiple patients noted that they used these herbs
wi th food preparati on.
PATTERNS OF USE. There is no Chinese word for preven-
ti on. However, al most al l respondents (91%, n=65)
reported using herbal medicines to stay healthy. A few
respondents also noted using herbal medicines to quell
t emporary sympt oms (9%), appease acut e di seases
(12%), or for chronic conditions (14%). (Patients may
have selected more than one answer, thereby resulti ng
i n total percentages greater than 100.) Most pati ents
used Western medi ci ne onl y or Western medi ci ne i n
combination with herbal medicines (75%, n=44). The
remai ni ng 25 percent used herbal medi ci nes onl y.
Three patients wrote that they used Western medicine
only, but would use herbal medicines if they could pay
for the medi cati ons.
sources for information on herbal treatments were fam-
ily or friends (78%, n=59) and herbalists (39%). More
than half of respondents had seen an herbali st (60%,
n=78). Only four pati ents (7%) used the mass medi a
(television, books, or magazines) for information about
herbal medi ci nes.
BELI EFS. Nearly all respondents (95%, n=40) indicated
that they beli eved that herbal medi ci nes worked.
percent of respondents (n=74) had spoken wi th thei r
doctor about use of herbal medicines. Of patients who
used herbal medi cati ons, 50% (n=30) i ndi cated hav-
i ng tal ked to thei r doctor about herbal medi cati ons.
Only 15 percent of patients were warned against using
herbal medi ci nes (n=39), and 24 percent had conver-
sations about the potential side effects of herbal medi-
cati ons and potenti al i nteracti ons wi th thei r prescri p-
tion medications (n=34). Sixty-four percent of people
who had talked to their doctor about herbal medicines
indicated that they had followed their doctors advice;
36 percent did not follow the doctors advice.
DEMOGRAPHI CS. Respondents were 42 percent male and
58 percent female, a ratio similar to those declining to
answer the survey. Patients were of all age groups; 21
percent were aged 18-30, 40 percent were aged 31-45,
23 percent were aged 46-60, and 16 percent were age
61 or older. The great majority were married (90 per-
cent ). The most common l anguages spoken were
Cantonese and Mandari n. Only a handful of pati ents
spoke Engli sh. Four spoke Vi etnamese.
Adding to the knowledge base: Caring for Chinese pa-
tients. Herbal medicine use is widespread among Chi-
nese patients. A 1993 New England Journal of Medicine
study found a 3 percent i nci dence of herbal medi ci ne
use in Americans, and of this segment, only 10 percent
saw an herbalist.
I n contrast, I found that nine in 10
Chi nese use herbal medi ci nes. Thi s may be attri but-
abl e to the degree to whi ch herbal medi cati on use i s
perpetuated and endorsed by the Chi nese communi ty.
The fi ndi ng that most Chi nese learn of herbal medi -
cines either through their family and friends or through
a Chi nese herbal speci ali st suggests that herbal medi -
ci nes are very much i ntertwi ned i nto Chi nese culture
and accepted by Chinese people. In addition, the find-
i ngs that more than half of respondents usi ng herbal
medi cati ons had consulted wi th a Chi nese herbal spe-
ci ali st, and that nearly all respondents i ndi cated that
t hey bel i eved t he formul as prescri bed by herbal i st s
worked, i denti fi es herbal i sts as respected and trusted
medi cal advi sers to the Chi nese communi ty.
Few respondents obtained their information about
herbal medi ci nes through means of mass medi a (tele-
vision, books or magazines). Given the authority of the
Asi an fami l y i n the communi ty soci al structure, i t i s
not surprising that most individuals derive their health
beli efs and behavi ors from fami ly sources rather than
the l ess cul tural l y di rected medi a. Thi s suggests that
pati ent educati on may be much more effecti ve when
di ssemi nated from respected sources i n the commu-
nity, such as the church, rather than through the popu-
lar medi a, whi ch may be seen as havi ng less relevance
to Chi nese peopl e.
This study also raises interesting points about Chi-
nese pati ents and di sease preventi on. The very popu-
lar preventi ve usage of herbal medi ci nes suggests that
Chi nese pati ents desi re to stay healthy and that i ndi -
vi dual s are wi l l i ng t o pract i ce prevent i ve behavi ors.
However, this impetus does not translate into Western
prevent i ve behavi ors. Among Massachuset t s et hni c
groups, Asians tend to receive fewer screening services
in major categories of disease. Compared to other eth-
nic groups, Asians are less likely to have had blood pres-
sure and cholesterol levels checked, and have the high-
est percent ages of peopl e who have never recei ved
mammograms, pap smears or di gi tal rectal exams.
separate study of Chinese patients in northern Califor-
ni a si mi larly found that Chi nese were less li kely than
other Californians to present to the doctor for routine
checkups, pap smears and mammograms, as wel l as
perform daily preventive behavior such as wearing seat
Whi le problems of povertylow levels of edu-
cat i on, i ncome and poor access t o i nsurancemay
expl ai n these resul ts, Chi nese cul tural heal th bel i efs
or biases could also play a role in these behaviors. Part
of the difficulty could be that a visit to the doctor is not
viewed as a way to stay healthy or prevent disease. It
i s commonl y report ed t hat for refugees and i mmi -
grants, a visit to the Western doctor may be a visit of
last resort. Some pati ents may fi nd Western hospi tals,
clinics, insurance structures and social services so con-
fusi ng t hat t hey cannot access t he appropri at e re-
Gi ven t he di ffi cul t i nt erface bet ween West ern
health care systems and Chinese patients, it is surpris-
ing that 55 percent of Chinese patients have talked to
thei r doctor about usi ng herbal medi ci nes. I n 1993,
Eisenberg found that only 28 percent of patients using
al t ernat i ve t herapi es had di scussed t hese t reat ment s
wi th thei r medi cal doctor; no data on the percentage
of pati ents who had di scussed herbal therapi es wi th
thei r medi cal doctor was avai lable.
There are several
explanations for the 55 percent figure I found. A ques-
ti on to test the pati ents i nterpretati on of the trans-
l ated questi ons suggests that some respondents may
have thought that thi s meant a di scussi on wi th any
doctor, i ncl udi ng a Chi nese herbal doctor. Thi s mi s-
understandi ng coul d resul t i n a fal sel y hi gh percent-
age of patients who had discussed herbal concerns with
their physicians. The high rate could also be related to
cultural sensitivity at the site where the survey was per-
formed. This site employs doctors who are bilingual in
Cantonese or Mandarin and patients have exposure to
culture-speci fi c programmi ng, i ncludi ng the avai labi l-
i ty of an acupuncturi st. These quali ti es of the health
center may be rel ated to pati ents comfort i n tal ki ng
with their doctor about culturally-related health issues.
Most pati ents were not warned agai nst usi ng herbal
medi ci nes, whi ch seems to be cul tural l y appropri ate
in a setting where herbal medicine usage is widely ac-
cepted and practi ced among pati ents fami ly members
and friends. However, many patients were not advised
or di d not remember bei ng advi sed of the potenti al
dangers of herbal medi ci ne use. Dr. Ei senberg, t he
principal investigator in the NEJM study, advi ses pro-
vi ders t o warn pat i ent s about i nt eract i ons bet ween
herbal medicines and prescription medicines. He notes
that Chi nese herbal medi cati ons have caused death i n
overdoses, and that some remedies manufactured over-
seas may be adulterated with steroids or lead.
With the knowledge that Chinese patients are likely to
use herbal medi ci nes to stay healthy, provi ders should
ask about a pati ents usage, di scuss the speci fi c herbs
and potential side effects or interactions with prescrip-
tion medications. The provider can use the conversa-
ti on as a lead-i n to di scussi ng screeni ng measures and
other preventi ve behavi ors. Sessi ons shoul d be con-
ducted wi th a medi cal l y-trai ned transl ator. Provi ders
should also be aware that an Asian patient may only be
openly communi cati ve wi th a provi der and translator
of the same gender, and that the ages of the heal th
care provi ders may have an effect on how the pati ent
Ref erences
Ren XS and Chang K. Evaluating health status of elderly
Chinese in Boston. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology
Personal conversati on wi th Doug Brugge, Tufts Medi cal
School Department of Fami ly Medi ci ne and Communi ty
Health, June 1998.
Eisenberg DM et al. Unconventional medicine in the
United States. New England Journal of Medicine
Upshur CC et al. Significant health issues among Massa-
chusetts racial and ethnic minorities. The University of
Massachusetts Cul tural Competence Techni cal Assi stance
Team, March 1998.
Behavioral risk factor survey of ChineseCalifornia, 1989.
Morbidityand MortalityWeeklyReport 1992;41:266-270.
Eisenberg DM. Advising patients who seek alternative
medical therapies. Annalsof Internal Medicine1997;127:61-
Tosomeen AH, Marquez MA, Panser LA, Kottke TE.
Devel opi ng preventi ve heal th programs for recent
immigrants: A case study of cancer screening for Viet-
namese women in Olmsted County, Minnesota. Minnesota
St. Johns W ort for Low Mood Disorders
by Eva Olson, M.D., University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry
ow mood and tensi on are common complai nts i n
todays busy, stress-filled society. Millions of people
have found the conveni ence and percei ved safety of
herbs to be preferable to a medi cal workup and di ag-
nosi s (i l l ness l abel ) possi bl y fol l owed by prescri pti on
(drugs ). There has been an explosi on i n the sale of
herbs. I n 1997, sales of St. Johns Wort were at $200
mi l l i on.
St. Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum) has been
wi del y prescri bed i n Europe, especi al l y Germany, for
many years and has been the subject of increased study
in the United States. In 1996, the British Medical Jour-
nal published a review article on the treatment of mild
to moderate depressi on wi th Hypericum. The resul ts
indicated an overall positive response rate of 55.1 per-
cent compared to 22.3 percent for placebo.
When Hypericumwas compared to standard anti -
depressants in the treatment of moderate to severe de-
pressi on (HAM-D > 20), trends were i n favor of the
traditional antidepressants. Amitriptyline at 75 mg/day
versus Hypericumat 900 mg/day over a six-week period
revealed reducti on of symptoms from baseli ne si gni fi -
cantly (p<0.5) in favor of the amitriptyline group.
In a
study of severe depression (HAMD = 25), patients on
i mi pri mi ne at 50 mg tid had a 41.2 percent response
rate compared to 35.3 percent for patients on Hyperi-
cumat 600 mg tid (p<0.02).
The pharmacologic effect of Hypericumis thought
to be due to the ability of the herb to inhibit re-uptake
of serot oni n, t hough ot her st udi es have shown a
monoami ne oxi dase-i nhi bi t i ng funct i on.
Quest i ons
have been rai sed about whether or not the concentra-
tion of Hypericum in the standard preparation is high
enough to el i ci t pharmocol ogi c effects.
Si de effects
are thought to be mi ld and consi st of gastroi ntesti nal
compl ai nts, ful l ness or consti pati on, al l ergi c rash or
Dosing recommendations are usually
300 mg tid to 600 mg bid, though the PDR indicates 2-
4 g of drug preparation or 0.2-1.0 mg of total Hyperi-
cum dai ly. Treatment durati on i s 4-6 weeks for a full
effect on mi ld to moderate depressi on.
Ref erences
American Medical News. August 17, 1998:42.
Linde, et al. BMJ 1996;313:253-8.
Wheatley D. Pharmacopsychiat. Suppl 1997;30:77-80.
Vorbach, et al. Pharmacopsychiat. Suppl 1997;30:81-85.
PDR for Herbal Medicines1998:906.
Sally Guthrie, Pharm.D. Department of Psychiatry Grand
Rounds 1998.
Efficacy and Safety of Ginkgo biloba for Dementia
by James J. Mezhir, SUNY at Buffalo SMBS
ecently, a placebo-controlled, double-bli nd, ran-
domized study appeared in the Journal of theAmeri-
can Medical Association (JAMA) on the efficacy and safety
of EGb 716, an extract from dried leaves of the Gingko
biloba tree. The study focused on effects of EGb on
pati ent behavi or and cogni ti ve status associ ated wi th
dementia. Unlike prior studies, this study utilizes stan-
dard assessments of cogni ti on and behavi or.
Included in this multicenter trial were patients with
mi ld to moderately severe dementi a, measured by the
Mi ni Mental State Exami nati on. Parti ci pants had ei -
ther uncompli cated dementi a of the Alzhei mers type
or multi -i nfarct dementi a. Pati ents wi th other si gni fi -
cant medical problems (e.g., heart disease, IDDM, liver
di sease, chroni c renal di sease, brai n mass, psychi atri c
di sorders) or taki ng concomi tant medi cati ons that i n-
terfere wi th cogni ti ve functi oni ng were excluded. Par-
ti ci pants were matched on demographi cs.
EGb was given over a 52-week period in the form
of 40 mg tablets admi ni stered three ti mes a day pri or
to meals. The extract was standardi zed to 24 percent
Gi nkgo-fl avonegl ycosi des and 6 percent t erpenel ac-
tones. The mechanism of action of EGb on the central
nervous system is not well understood, but is thought
to i nvol ve i ts anti -oxi dant properti es. Certai n com-
pounds of EGb, such as the flavonoids, terpenoids and
organi c aci ds, work synergi sti cal l y to neutral i ze free
radicals which mediate cell damage in Alzheimers dis-
ease. Thus, the extract may furnish cells with membrane
protecti on and neurotransmi ssi on modul ati on.
Two of the cogni ti ve assessment i nstruments used
were the Alzheimers DiseaseAssessment ScaleCognitive
subscaleand the Geriatric Evaluation by Relatives Rating
Instruments. At the end of one year, the former scale
showed a sli ght i mprovement i n cogni ti ve functi on of
patients receiving EGb, whereas the placebo group ex-
perienced a significant worsening of cognitive function
(P=.006). The mean treatment di fference at 26 weeks
was 2.4 points (P=0.05). On a clinical level, this may be
equi valent to a si x-month delay i n progressi on of the
di sease. The Geri atri c Evaluati on by Relati ves Rati ng
I nstruments scale i ndi cated mi ld i mprovement i n the
EGb group and si gni fi cant worseni ng i n the control
(P=0.002). A third scale was used which showed no sig-
ni fi cant di fference between control and pl acebo.
These resul ts i ndi cate that when gi ven over the
course of one year, EGb can hel p pati ents mai ntai n
thei r basel i ne l evel of cogni ti ve i mpai rment and may
improve activities of daily living and social behavior by
20 percent greater than pl acebo. The pl acebo group
decli ned i n both of these parameters. Compari son to
the pl acebo group al so demonstrated that there were
no side effects to the extract.
In conclusion, EGb use over the period of one year
can si gni fi cantl y decl i ne further cogni ti ve degenera-
ti on i n pati ents wi th Alzhei mers di sease or multi -i nf-
arct dementi a. Addi ti onal studi es are needed to ascer-
tai n the mechani sm of acti on of EGb, i ts uti li ty as a
prevent i ve measure agai nst dement i a, t he l ong-t erm
effects of EGb use and its potential therapeutic action
i n other cogni ti ve di sorders.
Ref erence
Le Bars PL, Katz MM, Berman N, et al. A placebo-con-
trolled, double-bli nd, randomi zed tri al of an extract of
ginkgo biloba for dementia. JAMA 1997; 278:1327-1332.
Acupuncture: An Overview
by Neil Segal, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
The fi rst medi cal texts on Chi nese acupuncture were
compi l ed i n second-century Chi na. Si nce the Seven-
teenth Century, acupuncture has been practi ced ex-
tensively in Europe and more recently in America. Sir
Wi lli am Oslers medi cal text, fi rst publi shed i n 1892,
recommended acupunct ure for t reat i ng l umbago.
Since that time, more and more Americans have sought
acupuncture treatment, l i censure and research fund-
i ng. The Ameri can Associ ati on of Ori ental Medi ci ne,
a membershi p organi zat i on for acupunct uri st s, est i -
mates that 15 mi lli on Ameri cans have tri ed acupunc-
Needle di stri butors report sales of 150 mi lli on
acupunct ure needl es i n t he Uni t ed St at es annual l y,
suggesting that more than 12 million acupuncture treat-
ments are performed each year.
It seems that acupunc-
ture, practiced for over 3,000 years in China, is becom-
i ng i ncreasi ngly prevalent i n the U.S. as a therapeuti c
modality. Thus, it is imperative that physicians have a
familiarity with the uses of acupuncture and with prac-
titioners in their geographic area in order to offer com-
plete health care to thei r pati ents.
Acupuncture is the therapeutic stimulation of spe-
cific points on the body. Traditionally, this was accom-
plished by using needles (acus) to puncture (punctura)
the ski n. However, lasers, electromagneti c energy, mi -
crowaves, ultrasound, heat, pressure, fri cti on, sucti on,
i nj ecti ons or i mpul ses may be used to sti mul ate the
same points. Treatment points are selected based upon
a di agnosti c hi story and physi cal exami nati on, uti li z-
ing complementary models for how the body functions
i n health and di sease. Because almost all acupuncture
modalities are drug-free, patients avoid the side effects
and dependency that are often limiting factors in West-
ern medi ci ne.
In 1973, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
cl assi fi ed devi ces used i n acupunct ure as i nvest i ga-
tional, stating that the safety and effectiveness of acu-
puncture devices [had] not yet been established by ad-
equate scientific studies to support the many and var-
ied uses.
However, in 1996 the FDA reclassified acu-
puncture needl es, removi ng the i nvesti gati onal l abel ,
and recogni zi ng the purpose of the needl e as pi erc-
ing the skin in the practice of acupuncture. This rec-
ognized purpose placed acupuncture needles in a class
comparable to that of the scalpel or other surgical in-
struments, inasmuch as the therapeutic value is depen-
dent on proper use by a skilled practitioner.
No claim
of effectiveness for any specific disease is permitted on
the l abel . The Cl ass 2 categori zati on of acupuncture
needles requi res that the needles be steri le, nontoxi c,
and labeled for si ngle use, and that sales be restri cted
to quali fi ed practi ti oners as determi ned by the states.
Currently, all acupuncture devi ces other than needles
remai n i nvesti gati onal .
Since FDA recognition of acupuncture in 1973, a
wealth of research has been completed and conti nues
today with funding by the Office of Alternative Medi-
cine (now the National Center for Complementary and
Alternative Medicine) of the NIH. The following is in-
tended as a brief introduction to the types of acupunc-
ture most commonl y practi ced i n the Uni ted States,
Western sci enti fi c research concerni ng mechani sm of
action and efficacy of treatment, biomedical (i.e., cur-
rent evi dence-based) i ndi cati ons for therapeuti c acu-
puncture, cost of care, l i censure and trai ni ng i n the
Uni ted States.
Research Summary
Acupunct ure was devel oped around t he t heory t hat
the body has channels or meridians through which vi-
tal energy fl ows i n a conti nuous ci rcui t to mai ntai n
balanced health. Acupuncturi sts beli eve that thi s vi tal
energy can be accessed and moved from one part of
the body to another by sti mulati ng preci se poi nts on
the body. Over the past half-century, a number of stud-
i es have used Western sci enti fi c methods to demon-
strate that acupuncture poi nts possess electri cal prop-
erti es di fferent from the surroundi ng ski n.
In 1950, Yoshio Nakatani demonstrated that, in dis-
ease states, acupuncture poi nts correspondi ng to the
affect ed organ had not abl y-reduced el ect ri cal resi s-
tance i n compari son wi th surroundi ng ski n. He al so
demonstrated that a 200 mAmp current appli ed to a
needle i nserted i nto an electri cally acti ve poi nt would
change its electrical properties and evoke a physiologi-
cal effect i denti cal to acupuncture treatment.
In the 1960s, Dr. Reinhold Voll measured skin re-
sistance values on thousands of patients, verifying that
there i s decreased electri cal resi stance at the 361 clas-
sical acupuncture points. In the late 1970s, Dr. Robert
Beckers group demonstrated reduced resi stance val -
ues for more than half of the points along the classical
large intestine meridian. Becker proposed that the acu-
puncture points act as amplifiers for myelin on periph-
eral nerves. He suggested that the di rect current be-
came more negati ve as i t traveled to the ends of fi n-
gers and toes and more posi ti ve as i t returned to the
trunk and head. The electrical activity that he described
cycled approximately every 15 minutes within a larger
24-hour cycle. Becker demonstrated that acupuncture
poi nts were more posi ti ve than the surroundi ng ski n
and caused the skin to act like a battery. Insertion of a
needle short-circuited this battery and altered the cur-
rent for several days. He proposed that electrical activ-
ity was generated by ionic reactivity between the metal
needle and body fluids, as well as low frequency pulses
from twi rli ng the needle.
Cohen and associ ates later demonstrated that the
el ect ri cal resi st ance of acupunct ure poi nt s vari ed
throughout the day from subject to subject with physi-
cal and mental activities.
In the late 1980s, Darras in-
j ected radi olabeled sodi um pertechnectate subcutane-
ously and identified acupuncture points and meridians
wi th a Sci nti llati on 99m Techneti um scan.
Other re-
searchers, such as Kuo-Gen Chen i n Tai wan, hypoth-
esi zed that el ectro-acupuncture meri di ans began de-
vel opment from t he morul a st age of embryogenesi s
and continued to develop to link various organ systems
and the immune system. Consequently, it was believed
that acupuncture taps into this endogenous system and
affects cellular activity resulting in healing.
Over the
past 30 years, Western physi ci ans have demonstrated
that applying pressure, stimulation or injections to spe-
ci fi c superfi ci al body poi nts can rel i eve pai n. These
points are referred to as trigger points. In 1977, Dr.
Melzack, Nobel laureate for his research in the field of
pain, showed that these trigger points correspond with
acupuncture poi nts.
Types of Acupuncture
means of a spri ng-l oaded i nj ect or. Upon i nsert i on,
patients may report a feelings of heaviness and numb-
ness at the si te. The needl es can then be twi rl ed be-
tween the acupuncturi sts fi ngers, sti mul ated wi th a
pulsatile electric ryodoraku unit or attached to an elec-
troni c sti mulator that deli vers electri c sti muli of vari -
abl e i ntensi ty, frequency and waveform. For most of
these modalities, a treatment might take about 30 min-
utes. Ryodoraku treatment may take only a few mi n-
utes because each point is usually stimulated for seven
LASER ACUPUNCTURE. There are two mai n methods for
utilization of lasers in acupuncture. The first is depen-
dent on a time-energy formula. A laser is applied to a
point for a time that depends on the energy of the la-
ser uni t, whi ch may vary from 5100 mi lli watts. The
second method operates on a minimal stimulus/maxi-
mal effect relati onshi p. I n thi s form, a low-powered
laser unit (15 milliwatts) is applied to each acupunc-
ture poi nt for 2030 seconds. It i s felt that acupunc-
ture poi nts are very sensi ti ve to low-i ntensi ty sti muli
and therefore are responsi ve to mi ni mal sti mul ati on.
Al ong t he same l i nes, because acupunct uri st s have
shown that the body is extremely sensitive to vibrations
below 10 Hz, some practitioners not only use low en-
ergy lasers, but also use sound waves by incorporating
musi c. Musi c of the Baroque peri od i s reportedly ef-
fecti ve.
MICROWAVE AND ULTRASOUND. A microwave or ultrasound
unit can be applied to acupuncture points to stimulate
them with heat or vibration.
A hi gh-frequency el ect ri cal st i mul us i s conduct ed
through the ski n vi a electrode sti ckers and sti mulates
neurons t o rel ease enkephal i ns. No needl es are i n-
volved. Pai n reli ef i s reportedly achi eved shortly after
t he uni t i s di sconnect ed. TENS uni t s have become
popular i n pai n management cli ni cs because they are
i nexpensi ve and compact. The durati on and i ntensi ty
of stimulus can be modified to meet individual patients
vitamin B-12 is injected into an acupuncture point in
order to enhance the effect of acupuncture. Some prac-
titioners also place a drop of a homeopathic substance
onto the skin and then insert a needle through it, car-
ryi ng a mi nute amount i nto the acupuncture poi nt.
SHIATSU. Shiatsu, also known as acupressure, is a thera-
peutic treatment developed in Japan in which acupunc-
ture points are stimulated by pressure from a therapists
thumb or fi ngers.
Theprofession of acupunctureisthetreating, bymeans
of mechanical, thermal or electrical stimulation effected
bytheinsertion of needlesor bytheapplication of heat,
pressureor electrical stimulation at a point or combi-
nation of pointson thesurfaceof thebody predeter-
mined on thebasisof thetheory of thephysiological
interrelationship of body organs with an associated
point or combination of pointsfor diseases, disorders
and dysfunctionsof thebodyfor thepurposeof achiev-
inga therapeutic or prophylactic effect.
Tradi t i onal l y, acupunct ure ent ai l ed punct ure of t he
ski n by extremel y smal l needl es at speci fi c poi nts on
the body whi ch were beli eved to correspond to path-
ways of vi tal energy. However, the same energy path-
ways may be accessed through sti mulati ng the poi nts
by other means. The following is a brief synopsis of the
vari ous types of acupuncture that are currentl y per-
f ormed.
NEEDLE ACUPUNCTURE. Acupuncture needl es are very
fine, sharp, usually-stainless-steel needles that have ei-
ther a wi re-wound gri p secti on or a sol i d gri p made
from metal or pl asti c. Needl es are usual l y si ngl e-use
(disposable). Because the needles are so fine (e.g.. 38-
gauge), there i s very seldom pai n upon i nserti on. The
needl es are pushed beneath the ski n di rectl y, by tap-
pi ng sharpl y on the top of an i ntroducer tube or by
MOXI BUSTI ON. I n anci ent ti mes, burni ng i ncense was
pl aced di rectl y on the ski n over acupuncture poi nts.
However, because thi s l ed to pai n and scarri ng, i t i s
more common now to pl ace the burni ng i ncense or
moxa on the end of an acupuncture needle after i t i s
inserted into an acupuncture point. The heat from the
burning moxa is transferred down the shaft to the acu-
puncture poi nt.
CUPPING. A bamboo or glass cup is applied to the skin,
forming a weak vacuum. The cup draws skin and sub-
cutaneous ti ssues up i nto the mouth of the cup pro-
duci ng a red wheal and subsequent echymosi s. Practi -
ti oners may i nterpret the redness to di agnose changes
in the flow of vital energy.
SEMI-PERMANENT NEEDLES. These needles are made of sil-
ver, gold or stainless steel and are left in place for days
to weeks. They may be in the form of studs, pins, hypo-
dermi c fi ne si lver needles or staples.
EMBEDDED SUTURE. A suture is drawn through the acu-
puncture poi nt and the ends cut off at the ski n sur-
face; often di ssolvi ng sutures are used.
BEADS OR BALLS. Small metallic beads, bi-metallic balls
or hard seeds are pressed agai nst acupuncture poi nts
and affi xed wi th adhesi ve.
MAGNETS. Small magnets, either rigid metal rods or flex-
ible, self-adhesive magnetic patches are applied to acu-
puncture poi nts.
RYODORAKU. Poi nts along sci enti fi cally-proven li nes of
altered ski n conducti vi ty are sti mulated by a 200 uA
electri c probe. Thi s i s a very effi ci ent treatment regi -
men, because usual l y onl y seven seconds of sti mul a-
ti on of each poi nt i s requi red. Whi l e a conventi onal
needl e acupuncture treatment l asts an average of 30
minutes, it may take only 23 minutes using ryodoraku.
The i ndi cati ons for ryodoraku are i denti cal to those
for acupuncture, but results are often reported sooner.
In parti cular, acute pai n and acute traumati c swelli ng
(e.g., sports i nj ury) often respond better duri ng the
i ni ti al treatment.
A survey of thousands of world ci tati ons of acupunc-
t ure t herapy for di verse i ndi cat i ons cl earl y demon-
strates that acupuncture has a therapeuti c effect that
exceeds a pl acebo or cul tural effect. To date, studi es
have suggest ed numerous effect s of acupunct ure on
the endogenous opi oi d system, release of central neu-
ropept i des, and regul at i on of neuroendocri ne func-
ti on. However, the results of many acupuncture stud-
ies have been equivocal due to limitations in the study
desi gn, sampl e si ze and abi l i ty to i ncorporate an ap-
propri ate control group. Studi es have cl earl y demon-
st rat ed effi cacy for cont rol of nausea and vomi t i ng
caused by surgi cal procedures, pregnancy and chemo-
therapy as well as reli ef of post-operati ve dental pai n.
Al t hough many st udi es of t herapeut i c effi cacy have
exami ned treatment of pai n, there have been mi xed
resul t s concerni ng t reat ment of syndromes such as
fi bromyalgi a, arthralgi a or menstrual di scomfort. Fur-
thermore, research has not yet demonstrated the effi -
cacy of acupuncture for smoki ng cessati on.
There are thousands of ci tati ons i n the medi cal
l i t erat ure concerni ng t he useful ness of acupunct ure
treatments for a wide range of ailments. Most of these
are cri ti ci zed for not bei ng stri ct enough wi th regard
to sample size, randomization, double-blinding or com-
parison with an appropriate control group. When ana-
lyzing the results of research concerning the therapeu-
tic efficacy of acupuncture, it is essential to remember
the significance of proven therapeutic efficacy. There
are many t reat ment s and procedures rout i nel y per-
formed i n Western medi ci ne that are bel i eved to be
useful , but that have never been proven effi caci ous.
For instance, aspirin was used for a century before sci-
enti sts understood i ts mechani sm of acti on. To date,
there sti ll have not been randomi zed controlled tri als
proving its efficacy. Physicians often employ treatments
they fi nd helpful to thei r pati ents, relyi ng on cli ni cal
experi ence, the pati ents needs and the potenti al for
It has been suggested that evidence supporting the
usefulness of acupuncture i s at least equi valent to the
evi dence for many accept ed West ern medi cal t hera-
pi es. I n addi ti on, acupuncture has the added benefi t
of having an extremely low incidence of adverse effects
i n compari son wi th accepted medi cal treatments for
the same condi ti ons. I n the report of the 1997 NI H
Consensus Conference on Acupunct ure, researchers
concluded that there i s not adequate proof of effi cacy
of acupunct ure i n t he t reat ment of muscul oskel et al
condi t i ons (fi bromyal gi a, myofasci al pai n and epi -
condylitis). They conceded, however, that the evidence
supporti ng the use of conventi onal anti -i nflammatory
medications is no stronger.
The Conference also con-
cl uded that ampl e cl i ni cal experi ence, supported by
some research data, suggests that acupuncture may be
a reasonabl e opti on for [ treatment of ] postoperati ve
pain and myofascial and low back pain, but more re-
search needs to be conducted concerni ng addi cti on,
stroke rehabilitation, carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoar-
thri ti s and headache. The NI H currently recommends
that if acupuncture treatments are to be used for con-
ditions such as asthma, addiction or smoking cessation,
that they compri se one component i n a comprehen-
si ve management program.
Substanti al empi ri cal and practi cal knowl edge of
the benefits of acupuncture as recognized by biomedi-
ci ne has accumulated i n sci enti fi c li terature such that
acupuncture i s i ncreasi ng i n usage at medi cal centers
throughout the United States. The Mayo Clinic has had
an acupuncture servi ce si nce 1975. As of 1979, the
World Health Organi zati on (WHO) li sted 47 i ndi ca-
tions for acupuncture treatment;
Figure1 lists a num-
ber of them.
However, i t should be recogni zed that
the use of acupuncture by traditional practitioners and
their patients is virtually unlimited.
As mentioned previously, it is estimated that more
than 12 mi lli on acupuncture treatments are provi ded
in the United States each year. Multiple surveys of pa-
t i ent s who have undergone t reat ment have demon-
strated sati sfacti on. I n one study, of the 575 respon-
dents attendi ng, one of si x cli ni cs i n fi ve states, 91.5
percent report ed di sappearance or i mprovement
of symptoms after acupuncture treatment, and 70 per-
cent of those to whom surgery had been recommended
reported avoiding it. Patients also reported satisfaction
with acupuncture care, its cost, and with their care pro-
vi ders. On average, respondent s used 3.5 forms of
heal th care, i ncl udi ng acupuncture and conventi onal
medi ci ne, others bei ng chi ropracti c, massage therapy
or psychotherapy. Fifty-seven percent believed that their
improvement was definitely due to acupuncture; 19.9
percent sai d probably ; and 17.5 percent reported a
combination of factors. Assessment of satisfaction with
outcome, cost of treatment, and the practi ti oner were
strongly skewed towards extremely satisfied. The dis-
tri buti on of i ndi ces for sati sfacti on wi th conventi onal
medicine was not skewed toward dissatisfaction, but was
a classi cal bell-shaped di stri buti on. Thi s suggests that
pat i ent s recei vi ng acupunct ure are not abandoni ng
conventional Western medicine. I n these studies, there
were no reports of seri ous harm from an acupuncture
needl e. Sevent y-t wo percent report ed t hat t hey had
never experi enced any harm from an acupunct ure
needle; 24.6 percent reported a single isolated incident
of a small bruise or drop of blood at the site; and 3.6
percent reported a contact allergy to the alcohol prepa-
ration used to cleanse the skin.
I n a fi ve-hospi t al st udy, t he average cost for t hree
mont hs of acupunct ure t reat ment (si x vi si t s) was
$264.40, compared with $409.09 for six months of con-
ventional medical treatment averaging 2.2 visits.
ies of cost-of-care in France showed that medical prac-
tices consisting of at least 50 percent acupuncture cost
the system consi derabl y l ess for l aboratory exami na-
tions, hospitalizations and medication than their non-
acupuncture-practi ci ng col l eagues.
Li censi ng of medi cal professi onal s i s determi ned by
each state. Thus, there is wide variation in the licens-
ing criteria for practitioners of acupuncture. Figure2 is
i ntended as an overvi ew concerni ng the current regu-
l at i on of acupunct ure accredi t at i on i n t he Uni t ed
States. For up-to-date information on the laws govern-
ing the practice of acupuncture in a specific state, con-
tact i ndi vi dual state boards of medi ci ne.
Currently, 34 states and the Di stri ct of Columbi a
regulate the practice of acupuncture in some way, and
not all of them recognize the same licensing examina-
Figure 1. WHO List of DiseasesThat Lend Themselvesto AcupunctureTreatment
Upper respiratory tract
acute & chronic pharyngitis
acute sinusitis
acute rhinitis
common cold
acute tonsilitis
Lower respiratory tract
acute bronchitis
bronchial spasms
Gastrointestinal system
spasms of esophagus and gastric
acute & chronic gastritis
acute bacillary dysentery
chronic duodenal ulcer (pain relief)
Disorders of the mouth
post-extraction pain
trigeminal neuralgia
facial palsy (early stage)
paresisfollowing stroke
lower back pain
neurogenic bladder
nocturnal enuresis
intercostal neuralgia
frozen shoulder
Menieures disease
early sequelae of poliomyelitis
cervicobrachial syndrome
Disorders of the eye
acute conjunctivitis
central retinitis
myopia (in children)
cataract (uncomplicated)
Unrecognized uses
menstrual crpams
menopausal symptoms
tion. It has been estimated that there are at least 10,000
acupuncture provi ders practi ci ng i n the Uni ted States
today. Of the more than 70 school s of acupuncture,
presently 34 are accredited by the National Accredita-
tion Commission of Schools and Colleges of Acupunc-
ture and Oriental Medicine (NACSCAOM). Consider-
i ng that there are more than 5,000 students enrolled
at accredi ted school s, wi th an equal or greater num-
ber attendi ng non-accredi ted i nsti tuti ons, and an i n-
creasi ng number of chi ropractors and physi ci ans who
are provi di ng acupuncture, the number of practi ti o-
ners of acupuncture in the U.S. may double by the year
Schools accredited by NACSCAOM accept students
wi th at least two years of college and requi re a mi ni -
mum of 123 semester credi ts (2,175 hours) of trai n-
ing. Training consists of 47 semester credits (705 hours)
i n ori ent al medi cal t heory, di agnosi s and t reat ment
techni ques; 30 semester credi ts (450 hours) i n ori en-
tal herbal medi ci ne; 24 semester credi ts (360 hours)
i n bi omedi cal cli ni cal sci ences; and 22 semester cred-
its of clinical observation and practice (660 hours). On
average, accredi t ed programs provi de more t han 30
semester credi ts (450 hours) of trai ni ng beyond thi s
st andard, and some of t he most ri gorous programs
provi de consi derabl y more.
Physicians (those with an M.D. or D.O.) are per-
mi tted to provi de acupuncture i n nearl y every state.
As with other licensing, there is great variation among
st at es wi t h requi rement s rangi ng anywhere from no
trai ni ng to several hundred hours of trai ni ng for phy-
sicians to be licensed. The American Academy of Medi-
cal Acupuncture (AAMA), a nati onal body of physi -
ci ans who i ncorporate acupuncture i nto thei r medi cal
practi ces, offers a 200-hour trai ni ng as well as i ntro-
ductory, i ntermedi ate and advanced AMA Category I
Continuing Medical Education courses in acupuncture.
Each state has varyi ng requi rements for acupuncture
l i censure for chi ropractors, naturopaths, podi atri sts,
physi cal therapi sts, physi ci ans assi stants and nurses.
Acupuncture has been practiced for nearly 3,000 years
i n the East, more than 300 years i n Europe and 100
years in the United States. It is now coming to the fore-
front of Ameri can bi omedi cal research and practi ce.
However, while biomedical research is essential for ac-
ceptance of acupuncture i n Ameri ca, i t i s i mportant
for bi omedi cal researchers to bear i n mi nd that the
practi ce and purpose of acupuncture i s not li mi ted to
symptomatic relief. The aim of acupuncture is to treat
the whol e pati ent and to restore bal ance among the
physi cal , emoti onal and spi ri tual aspects of the i ndi -
vidual. The philosophy at the core of acupuncture treat-
ment consi ders all i llness to be due to i mbalances i n
the energy fl ow (qi) as a resul t of both i nternal and
ext ernal i nfl uences. Thus, acupunct ure can be used
for preventive therapy even for those who are not con-
sidered ill in the Western sense.
To date, most of the NIH-sponsored studies of acu-
puncture treatment for acute pai n have been done i n
animal models. Biomedical researchers are only begin-
ning to study the efficacy and optimal parameters (in-
tensity, frequency, spacing of multiple treatments, etc.)
for the treatment of chroni c pai n. However, prel i mi -
nary studi es suggest that by combi ni ng acupuncture
wi th Western pharmacologi cal treatments for pai n, i t
is possible to achieve a state of complete analgesia with
drug dosages reduced by 50 percent.
Recent NI H-
sponsored studi es have demonstrated that peri pheral
sti mulati on by acupuncture can centrally evoke maxi -
mal acti vati on of the endogenous systems of anal ge-
A long-term study of 58 patients on a waiting list
for elective knee replacement in Denmark showed that
pati ents treated wi th acupuncture demonstrated i m-
provement i n both subj ecti ve and obj ecti ve measures
of knee functi on and a 50 percent reducti on i n anti -
i nfl ammat ory drug use aft er si x t reat ment s.
when acupuncture and Western therapi es are used to
complement one another, patients suffering from pain
may benefit maximally while simultaneously diminish-
ing the undesirable side effects of the analgesic drugs.
Bi omedi cal researchers, i ncludi ng Nobel laureates,
have el uci dat ed possi bl e mechani sms t o obj ect i vel y
explai n acupuncture. Mi lli ons of Ameri cans each year
report sati sfacti on wi th care and a very low i nci dence
of adverse side effects. There is evidence that acupunc-
ture can i mprove heal i ng when used i n concert wi th
West ern medi ci ne. Addi t i onal l y, acupunct ure t reat -
ments may l ower the cost of medi cal care i f used to
compl ement Western therapi es. However, the wi del y
varyi ng requi rements for li censure i n i ndi vi dual states
have caused much confusi on among provi ders.
It would be extremely beneficial to individual pa-
tients, as well as the overall U.S. health-care system, if
qual i ty acupuncture treatment coul d be avai l abl e to
pati ents everywhere. As wi th any other type of health
care, pati ents must be i nformed of the benefi ts, ri sks,
expected prognoses and treatment options. Safety prac-
Figure 2. 1997 Summaryof Acupunctureand
Oriental MedicineLawsbyState
No regulation
Minimal requirementsfor MD or DO to practice
Require education and NCCA exam for certification
Most stringent requirements
(more than 2,000 hoursof training)
tices to minimize risks must be mandated by each state,
and use of acupunct ure needl es shoul d fol l ow FDA
regulations, including use of sterile needles. States must
also adequately defi ne li censure and accountabi li ty so
that there is a system for redress of patient grievances
and control over practitioners. Most importantly, with
more and more patients choosing to complement con-
ventional therapy by seeking treatment from practitio-
ners of multiple alternative modalities, it is essential that both
acupuncturists and physicians be aware of each others work.
Patients and providers must share the responsibility to facilitat
communi cati on i n order to maxi mi ze pati ent well-bei ng.
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Molony D. Acupuncturists see utilization resurgence,
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Culliton P. Current utilization of acupuncturebyUnited States
patients. NI H Consensus Development Conference on
Acupuncture. 1997:39.
Lytle CD. An overview of acupuncture. Center for Devices
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Human Servi ces, Food and Drug Admi ni strati on. 1993.
Medi cal devi ces: reclassi fi cati on of acupuncture needles
for the practice of acupuncture. Federal Register
Selden G, Becker R. TheBodyElectric. Morrow & Co.
Cohen, M et al. Low resistancepathwaysalongacupuncture
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Medicineand Biology. May-June, 1996.
Motoyama H. Before polari zati on current and the
acupuncture meridians. J Holistic Medicine. 1986;
Lewith G. Thehistoryof acupuncturein thewest at
www.heal t hy.net / l i brary/ books/ acupunct ure/
ACUPUN2.HTM accessed Jan. 1999.
New York State Legislature, Article 160 211(1)(a).
NIH consensusstatement 1997, November 3-5;15(5) (in
Bannerman RH. Acupuncture: theWHO view. World
Health. December 1979:27-28.
Cassidy, CM. Patientsvotean overwhelmingyes for
Acupuncture, in Meridians. TAI Institute: Columbia.
Helms JM. Physicians and acupuncture in the 1990s:
report for the subcommi ttee on labor, health and
human servi ces, and educati on of the appropri ati ons
committee, U.S. Senate, 24 June 1993. American Academy
of Medical AcupunctureReview. 1993:5:1-6.
British Acupuncture Council. What can acupuncturehelp?
at ht t p:/ / www.rscom.com/ t cm/ bacc.ht m.
Han JS. The future of acupuncture anesthesi a: from
acupuncture anesthesi a (AA) to acupuncture-assi sted
anesthesi a (AAA). Chi nese Journal of Pai n Medi ci ne.
Christensen BV, Iuhl IU, Vilbek H, et al. Acupuncture
treatment of severe knee osteoarthrosi s: a long-term
study. Acta Anesthesiol Scand. 1992;36:519-25.
Biomagnetic Therapy:
Does the Current Evidence Stick?
by C. Dirk Williams, Creighton University School of Medicine
i omagneti sm i s playi ng an ever-i ncreasi ng role i n
health care i n many countri es around the world.
Today, there is a growing awareness in the United States
of the use of magneti sm for therapeuti c purposes, de-
spi te the l ack of strong sci enti fi c evi dence regardi ng
either its safety or efficacy. The subject of discussion is
the use of stati c magnets, as opposed to el ectromag-
net s. I n el ect romagnet s, t he movement of charged
parti cl es (el ectrons) through conducti ng channel s, or
coi ls, creates a magneti c fi eld. Stati c ferrous magnets
do not requi re repleni shi ng because they have perma-
nent magnetic fields, like those used in compasses and
refri gerator magnets.
Cl eopat ra, wi shi ng t o prevent agi ng, report edl y
wore a lodestone (natural magnetic rock) on her fore-
head while she slept. I n addition to the ancient Egyp-
tians, ancient Chinese, Greek and I ndian cultures used
magnets for therapeuti c purposes. The word magnet
was first coined by the Greeks. In fact, the first person
i n recorded hi story to di scuss the therapeuti c benefi ts
of magnet s i s bel i eved t o be Ari st ot l e. Two famous
German scientists, Paracelsus (15th century), and later,
Mesmer (18t h cent ury), st udi ed magnet i c t herapy.
Both men controversi ally, yet successfully, i ntroduced
this form of healing to the public.
The populari ty of magnet therapy i n the Uni ted
States began to rise during the 1800s and soared in the
post-Civil War era. Sears-Roebuck advertised magnetic
j ewel ry i n i ts catal og for the heal i ng of vi rtual l y any
ai lment. An Austri an psychoanalysi st by the name of
Wilhelm Reich emigrated to the United States in 1939
and researched t he effect s of el ect romagnet i sm on
humans. (I nt erest i ngl y, Rei ch, a former st udent of
Sigmund Freud, died in prison after ignoring an FDA
order to cease his movement against nuclear pollution.)
Today, Germany, Japan, I srael, Russi a and at least 45
ot her count ri es consi der magnet i c t herapy t o be an
official medical procedure for the treatment of numer-
ous ailments, including various inflammatory and neu-
rol ogi cal probl ems.
The medi cal defi ni ti on of a magneti c north pole
is the pole which attracts the arrowhead of a compass.
When one uses a gauss meter, the meter arrow will move
toward the negative sign when overlying the north pole,
whi ch i s t herefore al so desi gnat ed as t he negat i ve
pol e.
There are general l y t wo di fferent met hods of
magnetotherapy in use at this time. The first involves
exposure t o onl y t he nort h pol e wi t h hi gh gauss
strength (2000-4000). The second and more wi del y-
used and accepted method involves the use of low gauss
strength duri ng si multaneous exposure to both north
and south poles. The latter bi polar method often em-
ploys thin, flexible magnetic pads that may be directly
applied to an area of the body in a bandage-like fash-
i on. Treatment durati on depends on the persi stence
of symptoms. Some suggest continual application (24
hours a day) until symptoms are relieved. For this rea-
son, the current trend is to market magnets that are as
unobtrusi ve and comfortable as possi ble.
The exact reason for the therapeutic effects of mag-
neti c therapy i s currently unknown. However, several
theori es have been suggested. Some bel i eve that the
excl usi ve use of negat i ve (nort h) pol ari t y promot es
alkalinity in the body and therefore helps to maintain
the bodys normal pH of 7.4 (and normal metabol i c
functi on) i n the face of acute, mal adapti ve responses
(i mmunologi c, non-i mmunologi c or degenerati ve con-
di ti ons) whi ch may promote aci demi a.
The pri nci pl e of the bi pol ar magneti c effect, on
the other hand, involves a completely different theory
based on the Hal l Effect.
Upon exposure to a mag-
netic field, charged particles moving within a wire are
deflected from a strai ght path down the wi re depend-
i ng on the ori entati on of the fi eld vector. I n humans,
blood is thought to be an electrical conductor. Flow of
electrolytes forms a current throughout the body within
the bloodstream. When these i ons pass under a mag-
net, separati on occurs based on charge: posi ti ve i ons
move towards the negati ve (north) pol e whi l e nega-
tive ions move towards the positive pole. Ions thus de-
flected encounter and push against the vessel wall, cre-
ating some amount of vessel expansion. Vasodilatation
resul ts i n i ncreased del i very of oxygen and nutri ents
to the damaged cells, as well as enhanced removal of
metabolic byproducts and toxins. Reports indicate that
st at i c bi pol ar magnet s hel p bl ood vessel s expand
through thi s natural effect on charged parti cles i n the
blood. Small vessels are reportedly widened as the ions
crisscross back and forth between north and south poles
of the magnet. Small eddy currents also occur in the
bloodstream due to the ion separation. These currents,
similar to those found in a river, widen the vessel diam-
eter just as eddy currents in a river push the banks out-
Additionally, histamine and prostaglandins, com-
pounds believed to stimulate the pain-spasm cycle, may
be removed from the area by this increased blood flow,
thereby i nterrupti ng the pai n cycle.
A second theory for the effecti veness of bi pol ar
magnet i c t herapy has been champi oned by Vi ncent
Ardi zonne, who desi gned the checkerboard pattern
of bi polar magnets (see below). He suggested that bi -
polar magnets are able to alter the ionic balance of the
pain neuron. After a pain neuron has been chronically
stimulated, it may develop a resting membrane poten-
ti al above the usual -70 mV (for i nstance, around -
60mV). Subsequently, it is easier to surpass the firing
threshold (around -50mV), depolarize the neuron and
send the pai nful sti mul us to the brai n. Ardi zonnes
theory suggests that the ionic (voltage) pattern created
as a result of the magnetic field/Hall Effect helps rees-
tabl i sh the proper resti ng membrane potenti al of the
axon fi ber.
Not all magnets are created equal. The design and
strength of the magnet are key factors i n maxi mi zi ng
therapy. Whi le the magneti c fi eld of the earth i s less
than 10 gauss, magnets sold for therapeuti c purposes
generally range from 300 to 500 gauss. Magnetic reso-
nance i magi ng (MRI ), for compari son, i ntroduces a
strong magneti c fi eld i n excess of 10,000 gauss. Two
magnets wi th i denti cal strength may perform di ffer-
ently depending on their design. Standard magnets are
reported to be maxi mally effecti ve when blood passes
through vessel s di rectl y perpendi cul ar to a l i ne con-
necting the north and south poles, as opposed to blood
vessels that pass at an angle or parallel to the magnetic
pol es. Thi s promotes the si deways defl ecti on of i ons
and t he subsequent vasodi l at at i on descri bed earl i er.
Consequently, one reportedly-effecti ve magnet desi gn
uses concentri c ci rcl es of al ternati ng pol ari ty.
concentri c desi gn supposedly allows maxi mal penetra-
tion to the capillaries and thus increased blood flow to
the damaged ti ssue regardless of the capi llarys ori en-
tati on. Accordi ng to one expert on concentri c mag-
nets, Jack Scott, Ph.D., Magnets applied to muscles
after a hard work-out should i ncrease blood flow and
speed recovery.
Dr. Scott has been an advi ser to the
U.S. Track and Fi eld team for the past four Olympi c
Researchers at Bayl or Uni versi ty Medi cal Center
recently conducted a double-blind study on the use of
concentric-circle magnets to relieve chronic pain in 50
post-poli o pati ents. Acti ve as well as placebo magnets
ranging from 300-500 gauss were placed on the affected
area of each patient for 45 minutes. A significant num-
ber of pati ents (76 percent) reported l ess pai n when
usi ng the acti ve magnets as opposed to those who re-
ported less pain while using a placebo magnet (19 per-
cent ).
It has been suggested that magnets may be used at
any ti me duri ng sports trai ni ng and i n recovery from
i nj ury. However, except i ons t o t hi s rul e have been
noted in the time period immediately following an in-
j ury. Sports-medi ci ne physi ci ans suggest usi ng i ce to
reduce the swelli ng through restri cti on of blood flow.
Once swelli ng i s under control, magnets may be used
to bring more blood to an area for faster healing. Mag-
netic application to an acute injury less than 24 hours
old that involves bleeding is not recommended because
the clotti ng process may be delayed. Fi nally, pregnant
women are advi sed agai nst usi ng magneti c therapy.
Not all forms of magnetism are free of side effects.
For reasons not yet understood, the AC el ectromag-
neti c fi el d from a power l i ne i s potenti al l y harmful ,
whereas the pure DC magnetic field from a solid state
magnet i s possi bly therapeuti c. There i s controversi al
evi dence of negati ve effects, i ncl udi ng cancer, stem-
mi ng from hi gh-power, pul sati ng magneti c pol l uti on
and high-power transmission lines. However, it is again
important to keep in mind the difference between elec-
tromagneti c fi elds and pure magneti c fi elds.
Another risk that is worth mentioning involves the
i ngesti on of smal l magnets by chi l dren. Bowel wal l s
fi stul ate between the steady magneti c attracti on be-
tween two or more beads. Erosi on and perforati on of
the bowel wall may also occur. A report in the Journal
of Pediatric Surgery describes a three-year-old girl who
swal l owed mul t i pl e magnet i c beads t aken from her
parents t herapeut i c neckl ace. I t t ook l ess t han t wo
weeks to devel op a fi stul a between the stomach and
j ej unum.
Although there are countless testimonials in fitness
magazi nes, i nternet si tes and vari ous books vouchi ng
for the effectiveness of this age-old form of alternative
therapy, there i s a profound l ack of overal l proof of
the l egi ti macy of magneti c therapy i n peer-revi ewed
medi cal l i terature. A recent note i n the Mayo Clinic
Health Letter acknowledges this incongruity: While re-
search may someday fi nd magneti c therapy benefi ci al,
to date theres little medical evidence to back up health
clai ms, and the therapy i s sti ll consi dered experi men-
Ref erences
Brunner R. Muscles and magnets: Can they positively
recharge your recuperation? Muscleand Fitness. May,
Mizushima Y, Akaoka I, Nishida Y. Effects of magnetic
fields in inflammation. Experimentia. 1975;21:1411-1412.
Vallbona C, Hazlewood C, Jurida G. Response of pain to
static magnetic fields in postpolio patients: A double-blind
pilot study. Archivesof Physical Medical Rehabilita-
Zimmerman J, Hinrichs D. Magnetotherapy: An intro-
duction. Newsletter of theBio-Electro-MagneticsInstitute.
Whitaker J, Adderly B. ThePain Relief Breakthrough. Little,
Brown, and Company. 1998:24-38.
Lee SK, Beck NS, Kim HH. Mischievous magnets:
Unexpected health hazard i n chi ldren. Journal of Pediatric
Surgery. Dec 1996;31(12):1694-5.
I ve heard that magnets can help relieve pain. Is this
true? Mayo Clinic Health Letter. Aug 1998;16(8):8.
The Patient-Doctor Dialogue on Alternative Medicine
by Marlene Mancuso, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine
fever for example, and works with it. For example, gin-
ger heats up the body so that a fever can accomplish its
purpose and then the body cools down. Also, I prefer
i deologi es wi th a deci ded mi nd-body connecti on.
Q: In what way, if any, has conventional medicine failed
A: It is natural that institutions want to perpetuate them-
selves, which is a different agenda than serving the good
of the peopl e. Al l opathi c medi ci ne i s an i nsti tuti on
guided by the AMA. Unfortunately, sometimes the con-
cern for self-preservati on dri ves an i nsti tuti on to di s-
courage open-mi ndedness t o somet hi ng unconven-
ti onal, such as alternati ve therapi es whi ch mi ght ben-
efit many. Also the mystique that surrounds the doctor
i s unhealthy.
Q: I am aware that you do see conventional M.D.s. In
your experience, have any of them brought up the topic
of alternative medicine in their history-taking?
A: Not unti l the gynecol ogi st who al erted me to the
possi bi l i ty that I had breast cancer. I know she even
marked it in my chart because the next physician I saw
said to me with a condescending and scornful attitude,
I see you use alternati ve medi ci ne.
Q: Did you continue seeing this second doctor?
A: No. She referred me to a surgeon. I walked into the
surgeons offi ce wi th a book on al ternati ve medi ci ne.
The surgeon was great. She was supporti ve and very
recept i ve.
Q: Did the surgeon discuss alternative therapies with
A: Not real l y. She di d not have enough background.
She j ust ment i oned t hat many t herapi es were not
proven or quanti fi ed.
Q: Did you seek information on your own then?
A: Yes. Before the surgery I saw a nutritionist who had
dropped out of Yale Medical School after realizing that
the type of health care he wanted to deliver was more
consistent with an education in Chinese medicine. He
gave me books to educate myself and facilitate my de-
cision making. He never advised me not to remove the
tumors, but guided me to information that would help
me understand the details of my situation.
Q: What did you learn and decide to do?
A: I learned that exercise would help to create an envi-
ronment i n my body unfavorabl e t o cancer. I al so
he pati ent and doctor meet for the fi rst ti me, ex
change i ntroducti ons and greeti ngs, and si t down
face-to-face. The words that they share wi ll lay down
the mortar upon whi ch thei r subsequent rel ati onshi p
will be built. The narrative and details that the patient
supplies about his/her lifestyle, previous health history,
fami ly health hi story and i nti mate concerns are as i n-
dispensable to the physician as all the specialized knowl-
edge learned in medical school. The goal of this inves-
ti gati on i ncludes cli ni cal fi ndi ngs, such as blood pres-
sure and lung sounds, as well as exploration of the in-
dividual patients values. This brings us back to the doc-
tor and patient sitting face-to-face. The doctor and pa-
t i ent must underst and each ot her cl earl y and com-
pletely i n order for thei r relati onshi p to be benefi ci al.
Open communi cati on i s the foundati on upon whi ch
successful heal th care depends.
In 1993, Dr. David Eisenberg and colleagues esti-
mated that of the 60 mi lli on Ameri cans who used al-
ternative medical therapies in 1990, more than 70 per-
cent of them never menti oned i t to thei r physi ci ans.
What follows i s an i ntervi ew whi ch should lend some
insight into the dynamics of patient-doctor communi-
cati on regardi ng al ternati ve medi ci ne.
Theinterviewee, Mrs. Goodwyn, hashad an appreciation of
alternative medicine for about 20 years. Recently Mrs.
Goodwyn faced thechallengingdiagnosisof breast cancer. She
chosea combination of traditional and complementarymedi-
cineto copewith her illness.
Q: When did your interest in alternative medicine be-
A: I n the 70s, my oldest son had terri ble eczema and
my husband and I learned that i t could be controlled
through a change i n di et. Thi s brought an appreci a-
tion for the relationship between food and health. The
religious community we were involved in also played a
si gni fi cant rol e i n our l i ves. I began to study heal th,
medi tati on and yoga.
Q: What other alternative therapies do you use?
A: My fami ly and I use nutri ti onal supplements, li ke
echi nacea to enhance the bodys cl eansi ng process. I
al so use homeopathi c and Bach-Fl ower remedi es.
Q: Why do you use these remedies instead of more
conventional options?
A: I prefer the ideology. Allopathic medicine seems to
cure the condi ti on by worki ng agai nst the condi ti on.
Homeopathi c medi ci ne l ooks at the condi ti on, say a
learned of further modi fi cati ons I could make to my
present vegetarian diet. I decided not to take tamoxifen
because I felt that changes in my lifestyle would be suf-
fi ci ent ammuni ti on agai nst the cancer.
Q: What did your physician think about your choices?
A: She sai d, You l ook great . You wi l l be great . I
brought her back the i nformati on I had obtai ned and
she was very supportive.
Q: What type of impact did this have on you?
A: Thi s doctors support was extremel y i mportant. I
was at one of the most vulnerable and emotional points
in my life. If I had to battle with my physician at this
ti me i t would have added a lot of anxi ety that would
have been detrimental to the progress of my treatment.
I n si tuati ons li ke these, people always wonder i f they
are doing the right thing, and a physicians supportive
and open-mi nded atti tude i s so meani ngful.
Q: What are some of the highlights and disappoint-
ments you have faced in your communication with tra-
ditional doctors about alternative therapies?
A: I was most pleased with the comfort level of a physi-
cian being able to say, I dont know. I do not expect
them to know everything, and they should not expect
this of themselves. It is such a credible response to say,
I do not know, but lets fi nd out. I have i ncredi ble
respect for the doctor who said this to me. On the other
hand, it is very distasteful to come upon a doctor who
is dogmatic to such an extent that I am seen as an empty
vessel. I have come across physi ci ans who were com-
pletely i neffecti ve and whom I would never see agai n
because thei r beli ef was, What you need to know i s
only what I tell you. These physicians did not under-
stand the i mportance or the basi c ri ght of pati ents
involvement in their own care. This, of course, includes
the ri ght to choose alternati ve therapi es.
Q: If you could give advice to future physicians what
would it be?
A: I f I communicate nothing else to young people but
thi s I woul d be happy: I j ust want future doctors to
understand and know that there is a bigger picture to
always keep in mind. I would ask them to be receptive
and to questi on thi ngs over and over agai n. Even i f
somethi ng seems upon fi rst glance to be di sagreeable,
look further and i nvesti gate more. Be wi lli ng to learn
and grow constantl y. There are changes everyday to
heed. I am not asking them to jump on the bandwagon
and accept popul ar bel i ef, but rather to l i sten to al l
the voi ces and check thi ngs out. I urge future physi -
ci ans to be wary of i nsti tuti onal moti ves and to have
the courage to question them. Unfortunately economic
and managed-care i nt erest s are oft en bei ng served
when heal t h and human l i fe shoul d be t he pri mary
concern. Attention needs to be drawn to certain situa-
ti ons where unconventi onal medi ci ne may l end a fa-
vorable alternati ve to less desi rable treatments.
Dr. Susan Silbersteins Hope for Cancer Patients:
A Comprehensive Resource Center for Cancer Education
by Joseph S. Ross, SUNY at Buffalo SMBS
n 1977, Dr. Susan Si l berstei ns husband di ed of a
heart at t ack. The at t ack was preci pi t at ed by
adri amyci n, the medi cati on he was taki ng as part of
hi s chemot herapy t reat ment for t ermi nal pri mi t i ve
neural ectodermal tumor, a rare form of cancer found
in the spinal cord. At the time, doctors admitted that
they did not fully understand the disease.
The treatment was very experimental, Silberstein
explains, so I did my own research all over the world.
I contacted doctors and hospi tal s across the Uni ted
States, Canada and Germany. I gathered a tremendous
amount of information, but I was not able to evaluate
i t i n ti me to help my husband. I found there to be a
significant consensus on nutritional programs and non-
toxi c t herapi es. But none of t hese al t ernat i ve t reat -
ments were tried to help my husband. When he died, I
deci ded that I wasnt goi ng to bury al l thi s i nforma-
tion with him. In 1977, Silberstein founded the Cen-
ter for Advancement i n Cancer Educati on, a not-for-
profit organization affiliated with the United Way.
The centers first goal is to improve quality of life
for people di agnosed wi th cancer. Survi val should be
good, no matter how long i t lasts, she says. One of
Silbersteins greatest frustrations is the lack of individu-
ali ty wi th whi ch many conventi onal doctors approach
their patients. Doctors need to respect the patient and
the pati ents qual i ty of l i fe. They shoul d respect the
pati ents knowledge and i nput. A partnershi p between
doctor and pati ent needs to be establi shed so that an
effecti ve exchange of i nformati on takes pl ace. There
should be no a priori judgments about an individuals
situation. She aims to make the individual day of the
i ndi vi dual pati ent better.
Her second goal is to change the paradigm of on-
cologi c treatment. Si lberstei n seeks to shi ft the focus
of cancer treatment from tumor-ori ented therapi es to
programs that restore i nnate bi ologi cal repai r mecha-
ni sms and i ncrease host resi stance. She ai ms for bi o-
logi cal repai rworki ng synergi sti cally to enhance the
bodys natural i mmune defense systemsi nce restora-
ti on of opti mal i mmune functi on leads to the control
and the future preventi on of cancer i n a maj ori ty of
cases. The uniqueness of the Center for Advancement
in Cancer Education lies in the density of information
i t can offer and the number of treatment approaches
i t can recommend i n the spi ri t of doi ng no harm.
The center favors the inclusion of non-toxic programs,
such as fever therapy and i mmunotherapy, along wi th
lifestyle changes, such as balanced nutrition, appropri-
ate exerci se and psycho-emoti onal health, i n order to
control the cancer and support the body in its attempt
to remove the mali gnancy and prevent further di sease
Si l berstei n sees hersel f as a faci l i tator. When pa-
ti ents fi rst come to the center, they fi ll out a detai led
questi onnai re and undergo an i n-depth i ntervi ew. She
then works with each patient to develop the best pos-
sible treatment program. It is the education of patients
that i s the most i mportant, she says. Si lberstei n pro-
vides information and educational materials. She helps
pati ents and thei r fami l i es to understand the choi ces
they wi ll need to make, to determi ne whi ch approach
is most appropriate, and to decide where they want to
seek treatment.
Now, wi th the recent expl osi on i n awareness of
complementary and alternative medicine in the United
States, the Center for Advancement in Cancer Educa-
t i on recei ves more t el ephone cal l s and i nformat i on
requests than ever. So much of thi s new i nformati on
being presented to the public is conflicting and it con-
fuses peopl e. There i s a great need for faci l i ti es l i ke
Si l berstei ns thi rd goal i s to educate young doc-
tors. She beli eves that there i s a dynami te marri age
that can happen between pati ents who know whats
goi ng on i n thei r bodi es and physi ci ans who have a
background in medicine. We want to see medical stu-
dents and young doctors get the best information from
al l worl ds, conventi onal and non-conventi onal al i ke,
because onl y then wi l l the pati ents get the best pos-
si bl e care.
Additional information can be found at this Web site:
www.l i feenri chment .com/ cace_rch.ht m
(si te was accessi ble i n January 1999)
by Kristin Prevedel, Creighton University School of Medicine
omeopathy embodi es a form of medi ci ne ai med
at naturally stimulating the body in order to en-
hance the i nstri nsi c processes of heal i ng. Apart from
common percepti ons, homeopathy entai l s more than
specially prepared tinctures to relieve physical ailments.
It i nvolves restorati on of psychologi cal and emoti onal
i mbalances as well. Homeopaths seek to treat the i ll-
ness and heal t he t ot al person, not merel y suppress
the symptoms of a di sease process.
As a system, homeopathy utilizes minute amounts
of vegetabl e, mi neral or ani mal substances to tri gger
the bodys i nherent defense mechani sms. I t i s based
on the Law of Similars, a theory that asserts that a sub-
stance produci ng certai n symptoms i n a heal thy per-
son will help fight the cause of those same symptoms
in an ill person. Homeopathy differs from mainstream
medicine in that it views symptoms not as part of a dis-
ease, but as part of the heali ng process. I t i s beli eved
that disease is the result of an imbalance in the bodys
vital force, and that the symptoms are part of the bodys
efforts to correct the imbalance. Symptoms are unique
to both the i nsul t as wel l as the affl i cted. These re-
sponses are part of a larger effort to return to health
and bal ance.
The literal meaning of homeopathy is similar suf-
feri ng. Although thi s concept has hi stori cal roots as
far back as the 10th Century B.C., modern homeopa-
t hy evol ved from t he observat i ons of Samuel
Hahnemann, an eighteenth century German physician.
Through mul t i pl e experi ment s on hi msel f,
Hahnemann concluded that large doses of qui ni ne, a
mal ari a remedy, caused mal ari a-l i ke symptoms when
gi ven to a heal thy person. Hahnemann hypothesi zed
that if large amounts of a substance (like quinine) could
i nduce a symptom complex i n a healthy person, then
small doses of the same might cure a person with that
complex due to genui ne i llness.
Thi s hypothesi s gave
birth to the notion that like is cured by like, or the
Law of Similars.
Hahnemann reasoned that precipitating symptoms
with a homeopathic remedy could stimulate physiologic
defenses to reassert the natural order and bal ance of
the system. He found that only minute quantities of a
substance were needed to tri gger the heal i ng system,
whi ch became known as t he Law of I nfinitesimals.
Hahnemann di l uted substances such as arseni c, mer-
cury and belladonna (deadly nightshade) in water and
al cohol unti l he bel i eved he had achi eved safe doses.
The small concentration of material would be enough
to promote heali ng wi thout resulti ng i n adverse reac-
ti ons.
Today, more than 1,300 substances are recognized
as homeopathi c remedi es. Preparati on begi ns wi th a
mother tincture which is made by mixing natural min-
eral, animal or plant extracts with water or alcohol. The
remedi es are then di l uted so that 1 drop of ori gi nal
tincture is mixed with either 9 or 99 drops of an alco-
hol / water sol uti on (usual l y 87% al cohol ), creati ng a
dilution of 1-to-10 or 1-to-100, respectively (other ra-
ti os are also commonly used). Thi s mi xture i s vi gor-
ously shaken and further di luted by addi ng one drop
to another nine or 99 drops of alcohol/water solution.
According to Chris Meletis, N.D., naturopathic physi-
ci an and medi ci nary di rector at the Nati onal College
of Naturopathi c Medi ci ne, after approxi mately 24 di -
luti ons usually there i s not one molecule of the ori gi -
nal homeopathic substance remaining in the solution.
The homeopathi c mi xture, however, often undergoes
1,000 or more dilutions, with vigorous shaking between
each to enhance the sol uti ons potency. Homeopaths
assert t hat shaki ng t he mi xt ures rel eases t he energy
pattern inherent in the material form of the substance
i nto the di luent.
Homeopathi c remedi es are regulated by the Food
and Drug Admi ni strati on and manufactured by drug
compani es under stri ct gui deli nes. Many remedi es are
avai l abl e over t he count er at pharmaci es and most
health food stores. The most common forms are usu-
ally taken sublingually, which allows for rapid absorp-
tion into the system. However, homeopathic medicines
are also available as ointments, gels, lotions, sprays and
The remedies are labeled with a letter indi-
cati ng the di l uti on rati o, for i nstance, an X or C to
represent di luti ons of 10 or 100, respecti vely. A pre-
cedi ng numeral (e.g., 6X, 30X or 30C) i ndi cates the
number of seri al di l uti ons performed i n the prepara-
tion of the mixture. Therefore, the mother tincture of
a 30C solution has received 30, 1:100 dilutions.
It is believed that the constitutions of homeopathic
remedi es are extremel y sensi ti ve to subtl e i nfl uences.
For i nstance, resi dues from toothpaste, coffee or food
may i nterfere wi th a remedys speci fi c acti on. Other
envi ronmental condi ti ons that may neutrali ze or con-
tami nate remedi es are odors, l i ght, heat or col d, en-
ergy fi el ds (metal detectors, computers), recreati onal
drugs, other therapies (acupuncture, herbs) or trauma.
Furt hermore, i ndi vi dual homeopat hi c medi ci nes are
usually not taken in combinations. Although some rem-
edies are complementary and possibly synergistic, oth-
ers may antagonize the desired effects.
Finally, the re-
sponse to speci fi c treatments vari es among i ndi vi dual
pati ents.
Homeopat hy i s used t o t reat bot h acut e and
chroni c i l l nesses and even heredi tary condi ti ons. I n
the classical model of therapy, treatment of acute con-
ditions involves individualizing a single remedy to each
persons uni que pattern of symptoms. Chroni c condi -
ti ons often requi re consti tuti onal care managed by
an experi enced homeopathi c practi ti oner. Thi s form
of treatment entai ls detai led analysi s of a persons ge-
net i c and personal heal t h hi st ory, body t ype and
present physi cal, emoti onal and mental status.
Currentl y, the most popul ar uses of homeopathy
are for ailments such as diarrhea, flu, hay fever, head-
ache, menstrual and menopausal symptoms, arthri ti s
and pai n. I n searchi ng for the appropri ate treatment,
symptoms are matched to a specific remedy. Different
symptoms of the same i l l ness may warrant di fferent
homeopathi c treatments. For example, multi ple rem-
edi es exi st for treatment of flu-li ke i llnesses. I f symp-
toms consist of aching, weakness and fatigue, with diz-
ziness, trembling and chills, the appropriate remedy is
Gelsemium. However, if a person has thirst with chills
and fever, is sensitive to light, has runny eyes and nose,
and i s weak and exhaust ed, t hen Eupat ori um
perfoli atum i s the remedy of choi ce.
Homeopathy i s used to reli eve myri ad other con-
di ti ons, i ncl udi ng i nsomni a, j et l ag, moti on si ckness
and food poisoning. Minor burns, eye injuries, bruises
and i nsect bi tes can also be treated wi th homeopathi c
remedi es. The above are merel y a smal l sampl i ng of
the broad appl i cati ons of homeopathy. Addi ti onal l y,
homeopathy is also intended to improve an individuals
overal l l evel of heal th, thereby enhanci ng resi stance
to future physical and psychological ailments, whether
acute or chroni c.
Practi ti oners recei ve professi onal trai ni ng that i s
approved by the Counci l on Homeopathi c Educati on
(CHE). The certifications given to practitioners indi-
cate trai ni ng i n homeopathy, but are not l i censes to
practi ce. Three states (Ari zona, Connecti cut and Ne-
vada) provide licensure for independent practice, while
ot hers al l ow provi ders t o pract i ce homeopat hy as a
specialty under another medical license (e.g., M.D. or
D.O.). There are three types of homeopathic certifica-
ti on:
Diplomatein Homeotherapeutics(DHt)Available
only to medical and osteopathic physicians.
Diplomateof theHomeopathic Academyof Naturo
pathic Physicians(DHANP)Available only to
naturopaths who have received basic instruction
as part of their N.D. training.
Certification in Classical Homeopathy (CCH)Avail
able to any health-care professional.
Unlike many conventional medical physicians, ho-
meopat hs do not seek t o t reat speci fi c pat hol ogi es.
I nstead, they treat the whol e person based on emo-
ti onal, physi cal and mental symptoms. The di agnosi s
is based on a health history that considers the patients
consti tuti onal type, a categori zati on that i ncludes as-
pects from personal i ty and food preferences to fears
and physi cal appearance. Thi s hol i sti c approach may
al so i ncorporate the pati ents di et, acti vi ty l evel , the
ti me of year, the weather, and the pati ents reacti ons
to the seasons. A homeopath may also use conventional
di agnosti c methods such as lab tests and X-rays. The
elaborate, personalized interview, coupled with a highly
individualized diagnosis and treatment, provides a level
of speci al i zed care that i s often unavai l abl e i n mai n-
stream medi ci ne.
Homeopathic research in the United States is hin-
dered by l ack of fundi ng from the government, uni -
versi ti es and pharmaceuti cal compani es. Dr. George
Lundberg, former editor of the Journal of theAmerican
Medical Association, stated that the most critical element
lacking in assessment of the value of alternative medi-
ci ne (i ncl udi ng homeopat hy) i s cont rol l ed cl i ni cal
testi ng ai med at measuri ng the effecti veness of thera-
pi es for speci fi c condi ti ons.
Today, U.S. researchers
are slowly begi nni ng to exami ne the sci enti fi c vali di ty
of homeopathy. I n 1994, researchers from the School
of Public Health and Community Medicine at the Uni-
versity of Washington investigated the use of homeopa-
thy in treatment of acute childhood diarrhea in Nica-
ragua. Wi th admi ni strati on of homeopathi c medi ci ne,
researchers found a decrease i n the durati on of di ar-
rhea. These results suggest that homeopathic treatment
may be useful in treatment of this acute childhood ill-
Addi ti onally, an analysi s of the 26 best studi es
publ i shed on homeopat hy recent l y appeared i n t he
medi cal j ournal Lancet. The report showed homeo-
pathi c remedi es to be 66 percent more effecti ve than
no treatment at al l . However, the anal ysi s coul d not
demonstrate that homeopathy was effective for any spe-
ci fi c condi ti on.
European researchers have an extensi ve hi story of
basi c sci enti fi c and cl i ni cal studi es that exami ne the
efficacy of homeopathic remedies. Some of these stud-
ies involve analysis of the effects of microdoses on cells
and ti ssue cultures. Other studi es are cli ni cal research
i nvolvi ng treatment of speci fi c condi ti ons. A research
t eam i n Romani a exami ned t he use of zi ncum
metallicum CH5 in the treatment of patients with liver
ci rrhosi s. They found that pati ents wi th decreased se-
rum zinc levels resumed normal values after 30 days of
Another study publi shed i n Poland evalu-
ated the cl i ni cal effi cacy of Verti goheel i n the treat-
ment of verti go of vari ous eti ologi es. Wi th treatment,
the authors found regressi on of cl i ni cal symptoms i n
the majority of cases.
Finally, a study by researchers in
Great Bri tai n eval uated the effect of homeopathy on
pai n and ot her pat hol ogi cal react i ons aft er acut e
trauma (e.g., bi l ateral oral surgery). They found no
positive evidence for the efficacy of homeopathic treat-
ment of pain or other inflammatory events after acute
soft ti ssue and bone i njury i nfli cted by surgi cal i nter-
venti on.
Despi te a l ack of extensi ve research and cl i ni cal
tri al s for the maj ori ty of remedi es, many heal th-care
practi ti oners and pati ents fi rmly beli eve i n the power
of homeopathy. Pati ents benefi t from i ndi vi dual i zed
care that i s ai med at treati ng the whol e person, not
merel y the si gns and symptoms. Empatheti c doctors
who l i sten to and spend ti me wi th thei r pati ents are
also an important part of homeopathic medicine. This
uni que approach t o heal i ng seeks a nat ural bal ance
between rati onal therapeuti cs and compassi onate pa-
ti ent care.
Ref erences
Mamenko, T. Homeopathy. Drug-FreeHealing. Rodale
Press, Inc.: Emmaus, 1995:23-29.
Zone R. Health: Natural healingAn in-depth look at
homeopathy. Athena. 1998;1(1):83-86
Hershoff, A. Homeopathy for skeptics. Delicious.
Chillot R. Homeopathy: Help or hype? Prevention.
Bowman L. Mainline docs take new look at alternative
treatments. Denver Rocky Mountain News. November 11,
Jacobs J, Jimenez L, Gloyd S, Gale J, Crothers D. Treat-
ment of acute chi ldhood di arrhea wi th homeopathi c
medi ci ne: a randomi zed controlled cli ni cal tri al i n
Nicaragua. Pediatrics. 1994;93(5):719-25.
Badulici S, Chirulesan Z, Chirila P, Chirila M, Rosca A.
Treatment with zincum metallicum CH5 in patients with
liver cirrhosis. Romanian Journal of Internal Medicine.
Marwiec-Bajada A, Lukornski M, Lafkowski B. The
cli ni cal effi cacy of verti goheel i n treatment of verti go
etiology. Panminerva Med. 1993;35(2):101-4.
Lokken P, Straunshen P, et al. The effect of homeopathy
on pai n and other events after acute trauma: placebo
controlled trial with bilateral oral surgery. BMJ.
Spirituality in Medicine: The Healing Within
by Adam Dimitrov, University of Miami School of Medicine
Thehealer knows
Weheal no one
Wecureno one;
To attempt a cure
Disharmony sown in thespirit
Reapsimbalancein theflesh.
To regain thepoint of balance
Only open your heart,
Merelyoffer your life;
Allow theLoveto heal,
Allow theweak to grow;
SayI amthehealer,
You step out of theflow.
For theUniverseflattersno one,
But merelyoffersitsLife
When you offer your own.
From TheTao of Healing
by Haven Trevi no
hroughout medi cal hi story, spi ri tuali ty and medi
cine have been partners in a complicated relation-
ship. Historians recount the dual duty of ancient priests
as that of religious figures as well as local healers. Both
the Old and New Testaments of the Bible contain ac-
counts of heal i ng brought through spi ri tual i nterces-
si ons. Some argue that Jesuss pri mary acti vi ty as de-
scribed by the Bible is that of healer. The Gospel writer
Luke is also documented as being a physician by pro-
fessi on.
For centuri es, the l i nk between physi cal heal i ng
and spiritual intervention was viewed as sinequa non.
That paradi gm remai ned strong wi thi n the Western
world throughout much of the Medieval Period. How-
ever, the Renaissance and Enlightenment brought that
relationship to a bitter halt. The thinking of the 17th
Century l evel ed hi gh l ogi cal standards agai nst al l as-
pects of human society and culture. Religion and spiri-
tual i ty were of l i ttl e use i n the real m of observati on
and experi ment at i on.
Religion survived and remained an important part
of Western culture; however, the associ ati on between
medicine and spirituality gradually dissolved. The prac-
tice of medicine was free to view the human body as
purely physical, divorced of the trappings of an unde-
tectable, non-quanti fi able force. Soon came great ad-
vances i n pati ent care i ncl udi ng Joseph Li sters anti -
septi c techni que and the di scernment of the human
ci rculatory system as descri bed by Wi lli am Harvey i n
his revolutionary work DeMotu Cordis.
patients were also perceived as scientific objects, to be
acted upon by a physi ci an whose knowledge of medi -
cal science determined the course of action. In a sense,
the identity of the patient was less important than the
di sease process. The pat i ent -doct or rel at i onshi p no
longer i nvolved a cooperati ve heali ng i nteracti on, but
rather a setting in which the physician predominantly
determi ned what was best for the pati ent. Thi s new
method of heal i ng, governed by physi cal observati on
and sci enti fi c reasoni ng, rendered spi ri tual i ty al l but
meani ngless wi th respect to health.
In a time when health care is increasingly complex
and expensi ve, Ameri cans have shown an i ncl i nati on
toward alternative or complementary therapies. In part,
that movement has also asserted the importance of the
mi nd-body-spi ri t connect i on for bot h pat i ent s and
physi ci ans. More physi ci ans today are consi deri ng the
spi ri tual aspects of wel l -bei ng on the path to better
heal t h. That t rend si gni fi es, accordi ng t o Dal e A.
Matthews, M.D., Associ ate Professor of Medi ci ne at
Georgetown Uni versi ty, an hi stori c reconci li ati on be-
tween medi ci ne and spi ri tuali ty. Supporti ng thi s ob-
servation, Jan Ziegler writes, It is not as if they were
al ways apart . Through t he cent uri es, t he hi st ory of
medi ci ne was the hi story of rel i gi on. But then came
the discovery of pathogens; and, suddenly, medicinewas
[emphasis added]
It i s i mportant to draw a di sti ncti on between the
terms reli gi on and spi ri tuali ty. Zei gler states that reli -
gion (at least as scientists use the term) implies tradi-
ti onal beli efs, atti tudes and practi ces that are part of
an organi zati on. Spi ri tual i ty may i nvol ve parti cul ar
el ement s of rel i gi on, but usual l y refers t o an
individuals views and the related behaviors that express
relatedness to something greater than the self.
fore, an i ndi vi dual may express a strong spi ri tuali ty
despite being unaffiliated with a particular established
rel i gi on.
Researchers worki ng on t he l i nk bet ween ones
spirituality and health status have found it difficult to
measure an i ndi vi duals degree of spi ri tuali ty. A num-
ber of groups have worked to devi se obj ecti ve ques-
ti onnai res that can gi ve research a rel i abl e measure-
ment. At the Department of Communi ty Health and
Fami ly Medi ci ne at the Uni versi ty of Flori da, Robert
L. Hatch, M.D., headed a study that led to the creation
of the Spirituality Involvement and Beliefs Scale(SI BS).
Thi s i nstrument was desi gned to be wi dely appli cable
across reli gi ous tradi ti ons, to assess acti ons as well as
beliefs, and to be easily administered and scored. SI BS
uses terms that avoi d cul tural -rel i gi ous bi as, and de-
spi te the need for addi ti onal testi ng, appears to have
good reliability and validity.
Despi te the di ffi cul ty i n assessi ng a pati ents de-
gree of spi ri tual i ty, researchers have been qui te suc-
cessful in connecting improvements in certain individu-
als health to a level of spiritual expression. Duke Uni-
versity investigators recently found that elderly church-
goers have a healthier immune system than those who
dont attend rel i gi ous servi ces. Those who attended
church weekl y or more oft en were si gni fi cant l y l ess
l i kel y to have been admi tted to the hospi tal , and of
those who were admi tted, hospi tal stays were remark-
ably shorter (11 versus 25 days) than their less vigilant
counterparts. A number of factors were controlled, in-
cludi ng sex, race, age and educati on. The study con-
cluded that participation in and affiliation with a reli-
gious community is associated with lower use of hospi-
tal servi ces by medi cally i ll older adults, a populati on
of hi gh-users of health care servi ces.
Perhaps the most cel ebrated 20th century prayer
study was conduced in 1988 by Randolph Byrd, M.D.,
a staff cardi ol ogi st at U.C. San Franci sco School of
Medicine. Dr. Byrd randomized 393 patients in a coro-
nary care uni t to ei ther a group recei vi ng i ntercessory
prayer (that is, a group being prayed-for) or a control
group. In this study, none of the patients, physicians
or nurses knew who was receiving prayer. The patients
were prayed-for by vol unteers who never entered the
hospi t al . The resul t s were hi ghl y si gni fi cant . Those
pati ents recei vi ng prayer requi red less venti latory sup-
port, fewer endotracheal intubations and fewer diuret-
i cs and anti bi oti cs. Prayed-for pati ents al so suffered
from less pulmonary edema and required CPR less of-
ten than the control subjects.
One i ndi vi dual rapi dl y becomi ng a househol d
name is Dean Ornish, M.D. Dr. Ornish has written a
number of books on health, diet, stress and the spirit,
including Loveand Survival: TheScientific Basis for the
HealingPower of Intimacyand Eat More, Weigh Less. How-
ever, he i s most recogni zed for hi s hi ghl y publ i ci zed
program for reversi ng heart di sease. Dr. Orni sh con-
ducted a study wi th cardi ovascular pati ents uti li zi ng a
regimen consisting of diet, light exercise, love and stress
management t hrough such t echni ques as st ret chi ng,
controlled breathing, meditation and prayer. The pro-
gram has been studied a number of times, including a
study by the National Institutes of Health. It proved so
successful t hat some i nsurance compani es began t o
cover Dr. Ornishs program as an alternative to future
bypass surgery. Hi s program remai ns t he onl y one
known to reverse vascular damage wi thout the use of
drugs or surgery.
Dr. Ornish recently published the
results of a fi ve-year follow-up study conducted on a
number of pati ents adheri ng to hi s program. Orni sh
found that even more regressi on of coronary athero-
sclerosis occurred after five years on the program than
after only one year.
Addi ti onal studi es i nvolvi ng spi ri tuali ty have pro-
duced significant data. One study found that religious
devoti on appears to act as a buffer i n stressful ti mes
and that individuals who actively partake in the activi-
ti es of thei r reli gi on are less li kely to have depressi ve
Another experiment examined the alleged
abi li ty of humans to transmi t posi ti ve energy fi elds
(posi ti ve i ntenti onali ty) across long di stances.
medi cal research i s certai nl y needed i n thi s fi el d to
further understand the heal i ng power of spi ri tual i ty
and to perhaps touch upon the mechanism by which it
i mproves heal th. However, enough has been offered
to date to support the i nclusi on of spi ri tual i ssues i n
the pati ents heal th care pl an.
How does acknowledgment of the i mportance of
spirituality in patient care affect the physician or phy-
sician-in-training? For one thing, it would seem to de-
mand integration of the issue into medical school cur-
ricula. In 1993, only three medical schools in the United
States offered courses on religious and spiritual issues;
there are now close to 30. A number of medical schools
have recei ved grants to sponsor courses i nformi ng fu-
ture physi ci ans of the role of reli gi on and spi ri tuali ty
i n the li ves of pati ents.
Although the contemplati on
of spi ri tual and rel i gi ous i ssues has been i ncreasi ngl y
i nt egrat ed i nt o t he curri cul um of vari ous medi cal
schools, more needs to be done to ensure that all medi-
cal schools present thei r students wi th thi s i mportant
aspect of the heali ng process.
Secondl y, physi ci ans must be trai ned to compe-
tently and comfortably take a pati ents spi ri tual hi s-
tory. Recent surveys reveal that nearly 80 percent of
Ameri cans bel i eve i n the power of God or prayer to
i mprove the course of i llness. Addi ti onally, nearly 70
percent of physi ci ans report i nqui ri es for rel i gi ous
counseling for terminal illness; yet, only 10 percent of
physi ci ans ever i nqui re about a pati ents spi ri tual be-
liefs or practices.
Through proper training, physicians
will be able to calm their discomfort on approaching a
patient with such questions and may unveil a desire by
the pati ent for the physi ci an to acknowledge parti cu-
lar religious concerns. Shimon Waldfogel, M.D., Ph.D.,
from the Department of Psychi atry and Human Be-
havi or at Jefferson Medi cal Col l ege presents the fol -
lowing questions which may be of use to the physician
engaged i n a spi ri tual assessment:
Tell me of your belief in God or a higher
How important is your religious and spiritual
i dent i fi cat i on?
Tell me about your religious and spiritual
practi ces, such as prayer or medi tati on.
Do you belong to a religious or spiritual
communi t y?
What aspects of your religion or spirituality
would you like me to be aware of as your
physi ci an?
Spi ri tual i ty, as an i mportant determi nant i n the
heali ng process, has begun to return to medi cal prac-
tice, though time will tell if the movement will escalate
to mainstream status or wither away as it did three cen-
turi es ago. Emphasi zi ng technology and research, bi o-
medi ci ne has al l owed peopl e to l i ve prosperous l i ves
and wi ll no doubt produce great cures i n the future.
Despi te the benefi ts of obj ecti ve medi ci ne, one can
easily fathom the distance created between the patient
and physi ci an whi ch i s t ypi fi ed by t he t endency of
modern physi ci ans to i gnore pati ents spi ri tual needs.
Spi ri tual i ty i s an i mportant aspect of many peopl es
lives. As studies have suggested, it might be very help-
ful for a physi ci an to recogni ze and faci li tate spi ri tual
expressi on i n the course of treatment. To what extent
the physician should participate in the spiritual life of
hi s or her pati ents has yet to be determi ned; i t seems
unlikely that each physician could be capable of meet-
ing the spiritual needs of every patient. In such cases,
appropri ate referral to a spi ri tual professi onal would
certai nly be the most appropri ate course of acti on.
Ref erences
Lyons AS and Petrucelli RJ. Medicine: An illustrated history.
Harry N. Abrahms: New York, 1987.
Randall JH. Makingof themodern M\mind. Columbia
University Press: New York, 1976.
Nuland SB. Doctors: Thebiographyof medicine. Random
House, Inc: New York, 1988.
Ziegler J. Spirituality returns to the fold in medical
practice. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 1998;
Hatch RL, et al. The Spiritual Involvement and Beliefs Scale:
development and testing of a new instrument. Journal of
Family Practice. 1998;46(6):476-86.
Koenig HG and Larson DB. Use of hospital services, religious
attendance, and religious affiliation. Southern Medical
Journal. 1998;91(10):925-32.
Byrd RC. Positive therapeutic effects of intercessory prayer in
the coronary care unit population. Southern Medical Journal.
Ornish DM. Dr. Dean Ornishs program for reversing heart
disease. Ballantine Books: New York, 1990.
Ornish DM, Scherwitz, LW, Doody RS, et al. Effect of stress
management training and dietary changes in treating ischemic
heart disease. Journal of the American Medical Association.
Cowley G. Healer of hearts. Newsweek. 1998;131:506.
Ornish DM, et al. Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of
coronary heart disease. Journal of the American Medical
Association. 1998;131:506.
Kendler KS, Gardner CO, Prescott CA. Religion, psychopa-
thology, and substance use and abuse: a multimeasure,
genetic-epidemiologic study. American Journal of Psychiatry.
1997; 154(3): 322.
Dossey L. The return of prayer. Alternative Therapies.
Levin JS, et al. Religion and spirituality in medicine: research
and education. Journal of the American Medical Association.
Waldfogel S. Spirituality in medicine. Complementary and
Alternative Therapies in Primary Care. 1997;24(4):963-76.
Ayurvedic Medicine
by Margaret L. Thomas, University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine
yurveda is a combination of two words from San
skrit that is literally translated as science of life
or living. Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient Hindu sys-
tem of healing and health promotion. Its roots exist in
the Rig Vedaa collection of 1,017 hymns dating from
the second millennium B.C. and the Atharva Veda (1400
The Ayurvedic worldview is based on Hindu
conceptions of humanity in relation to the universe.
Body, mind and spirit are inextricably linked in the
Ayurvedic approach to health and healing.
Ayurveda explains physiology in terms of five theo-
retical constructs: Pancamahabhutas (eternal sub-
stances), Trisodas (Humors), Sapta Dhatus (basic tis-
sues), Agnis and Malas (excretions). Pancamhabhutas
are the generic essences of physical energy represented
by sound, touch, color, taste and smell.
They com-
bine to produce the five elementary principles of Earth,
W ater, Fire, Air and Ether. These enter the body through
food and are reconstituted in the individuals physiol-
ogy. In the body, the five elements take the form of three
humors (the Trisodas). These are wind (vata), bile
(pitta) and phlegm (kapha). The three humors form
the three types of psychophysiological constitutions (de-
scribed below), the mixture of which in a particular per-
son is determined at the moment of conception. Health
is maintained if these humors are in balance; loss of
this balance leads to disease. Healing in the Ayurvedic
tradition is based on a restoration of balance among the
The Sapta Dhatus are the seven basic tissues which
form the body. These are defined as plasma, blood, flesh,
fat, bone, marrow and semen. In keeping each of these
tissues healthy, it is necessary to balance the three hu-
mors, which are believed to exert direct control over
each tissue. Again, an imbalance among humors is the
root cause of disease in the Ayurvedic tradition.
The Agnis are the 13 digestive enzymes. They func-
tion in the stomach, liver and seven basic tissues of the
body. If their functions are impeded, unprocessed food
decomposes in the GI tract, creating ama which blocks
the digestive tract, is chemically transformed into tox-
ins, and thus injures internal organs. Additionally, there
are three basic secretions or Malas. These are urine, fe-
ces and perspiration. They are waste products but also
serve functions in support of the body.
THE DOSHAS. The Doshas are the three psychophysiologi-
cal governing factors. They are composed of related ana-
tomical structures and physiological processes; it is the
balance among them which maintains health. Almost
all individuals have one or two doshas that predomi-
natea blueprint with specific amounts of the three
doshas is determined at conceptionleading to a cer-
tain body type and expression of the personality char-
acteristics of that dosha. The three doshas are Vata, Pitta
and Kapha.
VATA. Vata (wind) includes the nervous and endocrine
systems. Vata is responsible for communication both
within and without the individual. Vata also controls
m ovement within body and mindthus,Vata controls
circulation, breathing, digestion and musculoskeletal
m ovements. Vata is further responsible for the mental
functions of imagination, sensitivity, spontaneity and
resilience, and the emotions of exhilaration, fear, inse-
curity and doubt. It is related to the element of air. It is
the predominant dosha; it coordinates Pitta and Kapha
and governs all physical processes.
The predominantly Vata body is lean; they have
cold, dry skin. A Vata person will move quickly and
have an active imagination. They will learn quickly.
These are the people who seem to always be moving
and who cannot gain weight no matter what they eat.
According to practitioners, various doshas change with
age, season, diet, time of day, amount of exercise, amount
of rest and emotions. Vata is increased by old age, fall
and early winter, evening; dry, frozen or fried foods;
excess exercise, lack of rest and emotions of fear and
PITTA. Pitta (bile) includes gastric and cellular enzymes
and hormones. Pitta structures and functions are re-
sponsible for all the digestion, absorption, assimilation,
heat regulation, sweating and metabolism going on in
the body and mind.
Pitta also controls complexion
and vision, the mental capacities of intelligence, confi-
dence and organization, and the emotions of joy, ex-
citement, courage, anger and jealousy. It is related to
the elements of fire and water.
The predominantly Pitta body has warm, soft skin;
it may have flushed skin and light hair. Pitta people
are sharp and outspoken, articulate and precise. They
have voracious appetites but do not gain weight very
easily. Pitta is increased by the external elements of youth
and middle age, mid-day and summer. It is also in-
creased by foods that are pungent, hot and spicy, and
the emotions of anger and hatred.
KAPHA. Kapha (phlegm) is responsible for growth, sta-
bility, lubrication and storage. Its bodily component is
the musculoskeletal system, including joints. Kapha
controls processes of growth and wound healing, the
mental processes of memory, faith and forgiveness, and
t he emot i ons of l ove, sereni t y, pat i ence, sympat hy,
greed and l ethargy.
The predominantly Kapha body type gains weight
easily. They have a large frame with wide hips and shoul-
ders. They have thi ck, cool ski n, whi ch can be pale
and someti mes oi ly. They move slowly but gracefully
and seem imbued with a sense a calm. They are affec-
tionate and do not express opinions strongly. Kapha is
i ncreased duri ng chi ldhood up to puberty, i n the late
winter and spring, and during the morning hours. It is
also i ncreased by sweets and dai ry products, by exces-
sive rest, and by emotions such as greed.
Di seases are descri bed based on thei r ori gi n: ex-
ternal , i nternal , mental or natural . They are further
cl assi fi ed as curabl e, rel i evabl e, or i ncurabl e. Di sease
i s caused by humoral derangements whi ch are i n turn
caused by i nternal , external or supernatural factors.
Balance of physi cal, sensory and mental di sposi ti ons
[is] vital.... There is hardly a state of disequilibrium of
the humor in which the authors of Ayurvedic texts do
not i mpl i cate j eal ousy, excessi ve desi re, l azi ness, and
so on. By the same token, outsi de i nfluences li ke di -
etetic input may alter psychological states.
I mbal ances of t he vari ous doshas have vari ous
physical and psychological symptoms. For instance, Vata
increase in manifested through weight loss, decreased
energy, pai n, muscle spasms, back and joi nt pai n, dry
or chapped ski n and l i ps, const i pat i on or i rri t abl e
bowel , hypertensi on, col d i ntol erance and menstrual
cramps. I t i s mani fested psychologi cally by an overac-
ti ve mi nd, i nabi l i ty to rel ax or concentrate, anxi ety,
restl essness, depressi on, i nsomni a and anorexi a. Pi tta
i ncrease i s mani fest ed i n i ncreased hunger/ t hi rst ,
heartburn or ul cers, heat i ntol erance or hot fl ashes,
rashes or other skin conditions, body and breath odors.
Emotionally, it manifests with hostility, irritability, an-
ger, i mpat i ence and aggressi on i n word and deed.
Kapha i ncrease i s mani fested by mucus producti on
(chest/ throat/ nasal / si nus congesti on), frequent col ds,
al l ergi es, i ntol erance to col d and damp, obesi ty and
hypercholesterolemi a, edema, cysts, and di abetes. Psy-
chol ogi cal l y, i ncreased Kapha mani fest s as l et hargy,
dullness, depression, oversleep and drowsiness, procras-
ti nati on, greed and overattachment.
Di agnosi s i s based on eti ology, prodromal symp-
toms, mani festati ons of the di sease, pathogenesi s and
response to treatment. A physi ci an i s advi sed to take
into account the reliability of the patient as a historian
and not be too quick to conclude from gross observa-
tion. A patient is to be examined in terms of his consti-
tution, the quality of bodily substances (Dhatus), physi-
cal stature, psychological disposition, appetite, stamina
and age. Most di agnosti c categori es presented by the
authors of Ayurveda are based on symptoms, for ex-
ample, fever, swelling, fainting, paralysis and delirium.
The cl assi fi cat i on i s furt her el aborat ed i n t erms of
anatomy, meani ng the i nvol vement of di fferent body
parts and the three humors.
Treatment i n Ayurvedi c medi ci ne ai ms to correct
humoral i mbal ances by treati ng the body, mi nd and
spi ri t of the pati ent. Treatment has four components:
cl eansi ng, neutral i zati on of deranged humors, proper
di et and adherence t o a t reat ment regi men t hat i n-
cl udes conduct, di et and personal hygi eni c practi ces.
Purgati on, emesi s, uncti on [ appl i cati on of fats] , su-
dat i on [ effusi on] , bl oodl et t i ng and enemas are t he
principal procedures, preparing the patient for the ad-
mi ni strati on of benefi ci al medi cati ons. The i dea ap-
pears to be that fi rst a pati ent needs to have poi sons
removed, channels opened up, passages oiled and body
parts l oosened.
Once the body is thus taken apart, it is ready for
the substances and techniques that put if back together.
Ayurvedi c pharmacopei a i s extensi ve, i ncludi ng frui ts,
bark, l eaves, roots and ani mal products. There i s no
prohibition against meat-eating. The flesh of birds, fish
and domesti c and wi l d ani mal s may be prescri bed....
The basic principle governing treatment is to prescribe
something that fills a deficiency in the patient (for ex-
ample, meat for a pati ent who i s wasti ng) and that i s
cont rary t o t he cause of aggravat i on (for exampl e,
uncti on for dryness).
Di etary prescri pti on i n Ayurveda i s based on the
concept that di fferent foods and tastes can ei ther i n-
crease or decrease the levels of the doshas. The six tastes
are defi ned as sweet, sour, sal ty, bi tter, pungent and
astringent. In general, sweet tastes increase Kapha while
decreasing Vata and Pitta. Sour and salty tastes increase
Pi tta and Kapha whi le decreasi ng Vata. Bi tter and as-
tri ngent tastes i ncrease Vata whi l e decreasi ng Kapha
and Pitta. Pungent tastes increase Vata and Pitta while
decreasi ng Kapha.
Vata predomi nant consti tuti ons shoul d sel ect a
di et whi ch i s calmi ng, strengtheni ng, groundi ng, and
nouri shi ng. Thei r food shoul d be warm, moi st, and
heavy. They should choose sweet, sour and salty tastes.
Pungent, bitter and astringent tastes should be avoided.
Meals should be small and frequent but regular. Food
should be taken warm, steamed or cooked. They should
avoid fast food, instant food and junk food. Before eat-
ing, the Vata person should make sure that she is not
nervous, anxi ous, afrai d or worri ed. She shoul d con-
centrate on eating and avoid watching television, con-
versati on, laughi ng or readi ng duri ng meals.
Pi tta-predomi nant consti tuti ons should choose a
diet which is cooling, slightly heavy and a little dry. They
shoul d sel ect sweet, bi tter and astri ngent tastes and
avoid sour, salty and pungent tastes since these increase
Pitta. Foods which are cool, raw, very lightly spiced and
cooked wi t h l i t t l e oi l are bal anci ng for Pi t t a. They
shoul d avoi d foods whi ch are fri ed and overcooked.
Before eating, Pitta constitutions should make sure that
they are not angry, i rri tabl e or upset. Three regul ar
meals are usually sufficient. Pittas should avoid eating
late at night.
Kapha predomi nant consti tuti ons should choose
a diet that is warming, light and dry. They should avoid
food that is cold, heavy and oily. Recommended tastes
are pungent, bi tter and astri ngent, and they shoul d
avoid sweet, salty and sour tastes. Kapha constitutions
benefi t by taki ng more spi ces and herbs. Kapha i ndi -
vi duals need to eat less i n quanti ty and wi th less fre-
quency. They should not have more than three meals
a day with the main meal at noon. The other two meals
should be light. It is better for a Kapha body type not
to eat i n the eveni ng, especi ally heavy i tems. Fasti ng
seasonally or one day a week is helpful in keeping the
Kapha under cont rol . Avoi di ng breakfast i s anot her
healthy idea for them. Sleeping after eating should be
avoi ded.
Along with diet, various methods of personal hy-
gi ene are deemed essent i al for t he mai nt enance of
posi ti ve health. Collyrium[eye wash] appli cati ons are
recommended for the care of the eyes; fragrant ci gars
are to be smoked for the eli mi nati on of doshas from
t he head ; oral hygi ene, i ncl udi ng t oot h-brushi ng,
tongue-scraping, gargles, chewing of fruits, fresh leaves,
fl ower stal ks and ci nnamon extracts, i s necessary to
strengthen the j aws, gums, and gi ve depth of voi ce;
oi l i ng of the head, nostri l s, ears, ski n, and ful l body
massage wi ll slacken the onslaught of agi ng; bathi ng
i s i mportant to cleanse, remove fati gue, sti mulate the
libido, and to enhance ojas [immunity]; wearing clean
apparel adds to bodi ly charm, pleasure and grace; us-
i ng scents and garl ands to sti mul ate the l i bi do, pro-
duce charm wi th aroma, enhance l ongevi ty, and pre-
vent inauspiciousness; wearing of gems and ornaments
si gni fi es prosperi ty, auspi ci ousness, l ongevi ty, grace,
and prevents dangers from snakes and evil spirits; car-
ing for hair and nails augment libido, longevity, clean-
li ness and beauty; weari ng footwear, carryi ng an um-
brella and using a walking stick offer protection against
the elements, repti les and enemi es.
Addi ti onal l y, good hygi ene i ncl udes nei ther sup-
pressi ng nor provoki ng nat ural body urges such as
elimination, sneezing and sleep. Hygiene also includes
the substitution of positive emotions for negative ones,
because feel i ngs of fear, anger and greed produce
toxi ns that aggravate the bodi l y humors and weaken
the i nternal organs.
As a holistic system, Ayurvedic medicine does not
easily lend itself to the double-blind, placebo-controlled
tri als that are the gold standard of Western sci enti fi c
veri fi cati on. Most current research i nto the effecti ve-
ness of Ayurvedic medicine is focused on specific herbal
remedi es treati ng speci fi c condi ti ons. Thi s approach,
unfortunately, i s li mi ted from the Ayurvedi c perspec-
tive in that the treatment effectiveness cannot be con-
si dered wi t hout prepari ng and support i ng t he body
wi th the appropri ate di etary and hygi eni c practi ces.
Nevertheless, several studies are under way in the U.S.,
Europe and India to examine the efficacy of Ayurvedic
treatments in a variety of conditions. In the meantime,
Ayurvedi c physi ci ans conti nue to treat pati ents both
here and abroad usi ng t hese anci ent pri nci pl es and
pract i ces.
Ref erences
Crawford, Cromwell. Ayurveda: The science of long life in
contemporary perspective. Eastern and Western approaches
to healing: Ancient wisdomand modern knowledge. Sheik AA
and Sheikh KS (eds). John Wiley and Sons: New York,
Desai, Prakesh N. Health and medicinein theHindu
tradition: Continuity and cohesion. Crossroad Publishing
Company: New York, 1989.
Shanbhag, Vivek. A beginnersintroduction to Ayurvedic
medicine, thedcienceof natural healingand prevention through
individualized therapies. Keats Publishing, Inc: New
Canaan, 1994.
Therapeutic Touch
by Miki Crane, The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health
to all parts of the human system. Seven major chakras are
identified that work with the universal energy to affect physi-
ologic functions, as well as the psychological, mental and
spiritual dimensions of human life.
The seven chakras are
named below with a very brief description of their influ-
ROOT CHAKRA is located at the base of the spine. Associ-
ated with kinesthetic, proprioceptive and tactile senses. Sup-
plies the body with vital life energy and supplies energy to
the spinal column, the adrenal glands and the kidneys.
SACRAL CHAKRA is located just below the umbilicus. Re-
lated to sensuality and sexuality and supplies the sex organs
and immune systems with energy.
SOLAR PLEXUS CHAKRA islocated near the solar plexusat
the base of the sternum. Supplies energy to the stomach,
liver, gall bladder, pancreas, spleen and nervous system. As-
sociated with our intuition, identity and connection to the
universe and others.
HEART CHAKRA islocated in the center of the chest. Brings
energy to our heart, circulatory system, thymus, vagus nerve
and upper back. Through thischakra we sense love and strive
to live a healthy balance between love and will.
THROAT CHAKRA is located in the middle of the neck.
Associated with the senses of hearing, tasting and smelling.
Supplies energy to the thyroid, the bronchi, lungs and ali-
mentary canal.
BROW CHAKRA islocated in the middle of the forehead.
Supplies energy to the pituitary, lower brain, left eye, ears,
nose and nervous system. Associated with sight, conceptual
understanding and the process of carrying out ideas.
CROWN CHAKRA islocated above the middle of the head
where the fontanel closes. Suppliesenergy to our upper brain
and right eye. Related to the integration of personality with
spirituality. Supplies energy to the pineal gland. This is the
highest energy vortex in relation to the physical body; it works
with all the chakras.
It isinteresting to note that the caduceus, the symbol of
the Western medical profession, hasitsorigin from the chakra
descriptions. The pointsof contact of the two intertwining
snakes on the rod, which symbolizes the spinal cord, are the
loci of the first five chakrasin contact with the vital energy
level. The wings above the snakes heads represent the en-
ergy spiralsof the sixth chakra. Finally, the upward spiral of
the snakes signifies the direction of the flow of energy that
connects the universal and the bodily energy fields.
Blockagesof these chakrasresult in depletion of energy
in the physical, emotional or mental dimensions associated
with each. For example, a blockage of the root chakra can
result in dysfunction in the physical energy layer, causing
fatigue or ailmentsof the lower back, hips, legsand perineum.
A blockage may affect the emotional layer resulting in apa-
atientsexpect their healersto perform a physical
exam, no matter how cursory. The power of touch is re-
flected in the feelings of reassurance, calmness and intimacy
between the healer and patient. As a remedy itself, healing
by the laying on of hands has an ancient history. The ear-
liest recorded evidence of energetic healing waswritten 2,500-
5,000 years ago. Hippocrates described a biofield (a biologi-
cal energy) that was a force flowing from peoples hands.
Later, Pythagoras claimed the existence of a luminous vital
energycapable of producing cures. Egyptiansbelieved in en-
ergy centers within the human body and the extension of
energy, which they termed ka, beyond the physical world.
This biofield has been given many other names in various
cultures ranging from the Native Americans and Polynesians
to peoples of the Far East. In Christian religious tradition,
the New Testament makes up to 41 references to Christs
ability to heal. St. Patrick of Ireland healed the blind and St.
Bernard of France healed the blind, deaf, mute and lame. At
one time, royalty in France and England reportedly had heal-
ing powers, curing goiter and throat conditions.
Ancient Indian cultures believed that a universal en-
ergypranaflowed in humansin relation to the spine and
head and activated the life force moving through all living
forms. Specific breathing techniques, meditation and yoga
enhanced this life force. The Chinese named a similar life-
force chi (sometimesspelled qi). To them, a healthy person
was in a state of balance with the universal chi.
ally, each human body had its own energy field that was a
localization of the universal energy.
The human energy field
had varioushierarchical layers, many textsdescribing up to
seven or more. Four levelsare presented below; each issaid
to penetrate through the body and extend outward from the
body. Successive levelshave a higher frequency or higher
octave. The levelswith higher frequency extend farther into
the universe than those of lower frequency.
The following
layers are described from the lowest to highest:
1) Vital (etheric field)most closely associated with
the physical body and interfaces with the emotional
dimension. This layer is most associated with
energy-balancing healing work.
2) Emotionalholdsthe individualsaffective, feeling
3)Mentalembodiesthinking patternsand visual
4)Intuitive (astral body)spiritual dimension of the
In Ayurvedic medicine practiced in India, one central
concept of healing isthrough the activation of chakras, which
can be thought of as human energy vortices. They are recep-
torsfor the inflow of energy from the universal energy field
and appear to aid the communication between the various
energy layers of the body and ensure that energy is flowing
thy or fear. If the patient is exhibiting poor concentration,
confusion, passivity or lack of motivation, the mental layer
may be affected.
A healer assesses the energy fields as they relate to a
patients illness. Some dysfunctions can be detected before
the presence of physical manifestations. It should be noted
that all layersare affected by blockage at a particular chakra.
Disruption in the energy field may be sensed as a difference
in temperature or a tingling sensation. While assessing and
releasing a blockage, an Ayurvedic healer does not drain his
or her own energy resources. The healer is a conduit for the
universal energy, aiding in the movement of higher energy
to a person suffering from depletion.
Therapeutic Touch (TT) is probably the most recognized
clinical approach to energy healing used in hospitals and
nursing facilities in the United States today. Developed in
the 1970s by Dora Kunz, an energy healer and clairvoyant,
and DeloresKrieger, Ph.D., R.N., a professor of nursing at
New York University, TT methodology was influenced by
yoga, Ayurvedic and Chinese healing philosophies. TT is
founded on three fundamental beliefs:
1)Universal healingenergyisavailableto all.
2) Our interconnectednessenablesusto help one
3) What wethink and feel can affect our physical
Additionally, two principlesguide the TT process, com-
passion and intentionality. A practitioners compassion em-
phasizesthe desire to help, but without any expectationsfor
a certain outcome. The intention of the healer is to con-
sciously direct the healing propertiesof the universal energy
to the patients energy deficit.
TT is used to promote the acceleration of the healing
processby transferring energy through the practitioner, boost-
ing the patientsintrinsic healing system. The energized body
isthen capable of recuperation to itsnaturally healthy state.
Conceptually, healing isnot the objective of TT, but rather
the supplementation the life energy needed for a body to
heal itself.
As a meditative process, TT has five phases:
1) Centering the consciousnessfinding an inner
reference of stability. Energetically, the healer
becomesin tune with the universal energy flow.
2) Assessmentsensing of the energy flow and
differences in the balance of this flow within the
patients body.
3) Balancing the Energy Fieldunruffling the field
helpsto remove the patientsenergy block and
restore the energy to flow freely and regain its
rhythm. That isaccomplished by movement of the
healers handsdown and away from the body in a
sweeping motion.
4) Directing Energytransmission of energy to help
the patient repattern hisor her own energiesfor
healing. Thisiswhen the healers handswill
actually touch the body in a specific area, held in
place for three to five minutes, until a change
(fullness or warmth) is perceived by the practitio-
5) Closureending treatment. Thisstep occurswhen
there are no longer any perceived defectsin the
energy field and a sense of balance is felt.
Despite the name, Therapeutic Touch does not involve a
great deal of touching. More often, the practitioners hands
are held palm down, hovering two to six inches above the
patientsbody. A sweeping motion isused to move the healers
hands from the patients head to toe as the healer steps
through the phases of treatment. Usually a session lasts for
20 to 30 minutes.
The Nurse Healers-Professional Associ-
ates, Inc.the organization that supportsTT practitioners
recommends that Therapeutic Touch can be practiced by
anyone who hassuccessfully completed a beginnersTT work-
shop, but within professional practice guidelines. They also
suggest that TT be used on any patient who might be able to
benefit from it.
The purported effects of TT are wide ranging. Dr.
Kriegers experience has found that relaxation, feelings of
well-being, relief of pain and the acceleration of the bodys
healing process are the most common and reliable effects.
Symptomatic relief has been achieved in conditions related
to circulation (edema), the musculoskeletal system (arthri-
tis), some thyroid diseases, and the pain of labor and deliv-
While patientswith genetic disease or a congenital dis-
order may show some symptomatic improvement, the un-
derlying disease is unaffected. Cancer and HIV patients may
also experience relief of symptoms, such as cessation of pain,
but not a remission of the disease.
Many studies have been done to try and explain the
effect of TT scientifically. The NurseHealers-Professional As-
sociatesCooperative1995 Therapeutic Touch Bibliographyin-
cludes over 200 citations of books, journal articles and dis-
sertation/thesis abstracts.
A review done at the Medical
University of South Carolina examined the quantitative re-
search conducted on TT from 1985 to 1995. The study found
evidence to support the practice of TT to reduce levels of
pain or anxiety. However, additional claimsmade by practi-
tionershave not been supported and some of the more de-
clarative findings have yet to be validated by independent
Currently, there seems to be no strong evidence to
support the use of Therapeutic Touch for anything other
than symptomatic pain relief.
A Close Look at Therapeutic Touch, appearing in the
Journal of theAmerican Medical Association (1998; 279:13),
concluded that the claimsof TT are unfounded, and itsuse
isnot justified in a professional setting, despite studying the
therapy outside of normal practice parameters.
The intent
of the experiment wasto investigate the claim that a healer
could sense the Human Energy Field (HEF). Twenty-one
TT practitioners of varying years of experience were tested.
The author hovered her hand over one or the other of the
practitioners hands. The subject was asked to identify which
hand was being covered, presumably by sensing the authors
HEF. The practitioners identified the correct hand only 44
percent of the time. In a strongly written conclusion, the
authors stated that, based on statistical and logical grounds,
the TT practitionershad no ability to detect the HEF. How-
ever, several points should be considered in reviewing this
The methodology of the experiment may be called into
question regarding the consistency of the distance between
the experimenters and subjects hands. The authors also did
not acknowledge the findingsof 28 prior quantitative stud-
iescompleted on TT, though they discounted 46 othersfor
lack of adequate data. As it was designed, the experiment
did not account for the appropriate conditionsduring which
HEF could be detected by those expressing proper inten-
tion. Previousstudiesproduced findingsthat untrained col-
lege studentscould detect another personsenergy field. More
recently, researchersalso concluded that college studentscould
sense anothersintention to interact with them.
A pilot study by Olson and othersevaluated the effec-
tiveness of TT in reducing the adverse immunological ef-
fects of stress on a sample of medical and nursing students
taking professional board exams.
Three hypotheses were
1) Highly anxious students who undergo TT will
have less decrement in levels of IgG, IgA, and IgM
than those students that do not.
2) Studentsthat undergo TT will also have greater T
lymphocyte response to mitogensthan students
who do not.
3) Studentswho were highly anxiousbefore their
board examsand undergo TT will have a greater
response to the Haemophilusinfluenzaevaccine
than those who do not have TT. This vaccine was
used to evaluate the ability of the subject to mount
a general immune response.
The authors used the SpielbergState-Trait AnxietyIn-
ventoryto determine level of stress. The study resultsshowed
a significant difference for IgM and IgA levels, but not for
the subclassesof IgG, for those exposed to Therapeutic Touch.
T lymphocytes were analyzed for CD25 positivity (IL-2 re-
ceptor expression), DNA content and apoptosis. The CD25
and DNA scores changed in the expected direction, but not
in significant degrees. However, T lymphocytes of the TT
group showed a significantly lower rate of cell death. No
differences were found in the titers of antibodies to the H
influenzaevaccine. One possible explanation for the latter
finding was that the degree of stress might not have been
sufficient to cause immunosuppression. The authors cau-
tioned that due to small sample size, the results should be
interpreted carefully. Many reasonscould explain the change
of immunoglobulin levels; for example, the nutritional sta-
tus of the subjects. Better control of this variable may yield
more conclusive results. Another problem cited by the au-
thorswasthe presence of a caring person, a variable that was
not controlled. The authors conclude that no causal rela-
tionship between TT and immunologic changes was dem-
The effect of non-contact TT on surgical wound heal-
ing was examined in one random, double-blind study. The
author hypothesized that subjectstreated by TT would have
a faster rate of wound healing than subjects who did not
receive treatment. Forty-four subjectswere administered full-
thickness wounds with a skin biopsy instrument by a doctor
who wasnot aware of the objective of the experiment. The
wounds were dressed with gas-permeable dressings. The sub-
jectsin the TT group were not aware of receiving TT treat-
ment; the practitioner waskept behind a door and only the
subjects arms were placed through an opening. The wounds
were subjected to a five-minute treatment session with the
first treatment beginning one-half hour after the wounds had
been made and then daily treatments thereafter. Measure-
ments were taken on days 0, 8 and 16 of the experiment for
both the TT and non-TT groups. Results showed a signifi-
cant acceleration in the rate of wound healing for the TT
group on day eight. Thirteen out of 23 TT subjects were
completely healed on day 16 as compared to none of the 21
control subjects. On average, the treated group had signifi-
cantly smaller wound sizes than the untreated groups. The
author of the study confidently accounts for any influences
on the wound healing due to the placebo effect by the de-
sign of the research study. The study concludes that TT can
be an effective healing modality on full-thickness human
dermal wounds.
The scope of the studies of TT are wide-ranging, from
trying to explain a possible physical basis for the healing
and measuring the variable energizing effectsof TT
to how TT affectsvariouspatient populations. Most studies
to date are pilot studies that need further replication with
larger samples. Future research should include the follow-
1) validation of the energy exchange process;
2) determination of protocolsfor administration of
TT and definition of conditions amenable to TT;
3) controls for placebo effect;
4) variationsin the technique of TT, practitioners
experience, length of treatment (five minutesin
some studies versus the usual 20- to 30-minute
sessionsperformed in practice);
5) consistency of methodology; and
6) validation of pain relief and accelerated healing
effects of TT.
Practitioners, teachers, and workshops
Nurse Healers Professional Associates, Inc.
P.O. Box 444
Allison Park, PA 15101
(412) 355-8476
Invitational workshops for health professionals
Orcas Island Foundation
Route 1 Box 86
Eastsound, WA 98245
(360) 376-4526
Pumpkin Hollow Farm
Route 1 Box 135
Craryville, NY 12521
(518) 325-3583
Therapeutic Touch: How to UseYour Handsto
Help or Heal, DoloresKrieger, PhD, RN
A DoctorsGuideto Therapeutic Touch, Susan
Wager, M.D.
HealingTouch: A Resourcefor Health Care
Professionals, Dorothea Hover-Kramer, EdD,
Touch Research Institute: University of
Miami School of MedicineMost studies
done to date are on the benefitsof massage
Opinions and views on Healing Touch and
Therapeutic Touch
Hover-Kramer, Dorothea. Healingtouch: A resourcefor
health careprofessionals. Delmar Publishers:Albany, 1996.
Krieger, Dolores. TherapeuticTouch: Inner workbook. Bear and
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Brennan, Barbara Ann. Light emerging. Bantam Books:New
York, 1993.
Wager, Susan. A doctorsguidetoTherapeuticTouch. The Berkley
Publishing Group:New York, 1996.
Snyder, Mariah and Lundquist, Ruth (edts). Complementary/
alternativetherapiesin nursing, 3rd Edition. Springer Publish-
ing Company:New York.
Cassileth, Barrie R. Thealternativemedicinehandbook: The
completereferenceguidetoalternativeand complementary
therapies. W.W. Norton and Company, Inc.:New York, 1998.
Spence JE and Olson M. Quantitative research on Therapeutic
Touch. Scandinavian Journal of CaringSciences. 1997;
Rosa L, Rosa E, Sarner L, Barrett S. A close look at Therapeu-
tic Touch. Journal of theAmerican Medical Association.
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energy registration: evidence for implicit performance and
perception. SubtleEnergies1995;6,2:183-200.
Schwartz GER, Nelson L, Russek LGS, Allen JJB. Electrostatic
body-motion registration and the human antenna-receiver
effect: a new method for investigating interpersonal dynamical
energy system interactions. SubtleEnergiesand Energy
Medicine. 1996;7,2:149-184.
Schwartz GER, Russek LGS. Interpersonal registration of
actual and intended eye gaze: relationship to opennessto
spiritual beliefsand experiences. Journal of ScientificExplora-
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Olson, M, Sneed N, LaVia M, Virella G, Bonadonna R,
Michel Y. Stress-induced immunosuppression and Therapeutic
Touch. AlternativeTherapies. 1997;3(2):68-74.
Wirth DP. The effect of non-contact Therapeutic Touch on the
healing rate of full thicknessdermal wounds. SubtleEnergies.
Berden M, Jerman I, Skarja M. A possible physical basisfor
healing touch evaluated by high voltage electrophotography.
Acupunctureand Electro-TherapeuticsResearch. 1997;22(2):127-
Wirth DP, Cram RJ, Chang RJ. Multisite electromyographic
analysisof Therapeutic Touch and Qigong Therapy. Journal of
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