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Anthroposophical medicine is a holistic and salutogenetic approach to medicine focusing on strengthening the patient's organism and individuality. The self-determination, autonomy and dignity of patients is a central theme; therapies are intended to enhance a patient's capacities to heal.

The medical system was founded in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner in conjunction with Ita Wegman as an extension to conventional medicine based on the spiritual philosophy Anthroposophy. Conventional medical treatments, including surgery and medications, are employed as necessary and anthroposophical physicians must have a conventional medical education, including a degree from an established and certified medical school, as well as extensive post-graduate study.

Origins

Ita Wegman, co-founder of the medical approach, before 1900 in Berlin.
The first steps towards an anthroposophical approach to medicine were made before 1920, when homeopathic physicians and pharmacists began working with Rudolf Steiner, who recommended new medicinal substances as well as specific methods for preparing these. In 1921, Dr Ita Wegman opened the first anthroposophic medical clinic, now known as the Ita Wegman Clinic, in Arlesheimmarker, Switzerlandmarker. Wegman was soon joined by a number of other doctors. They began to train the first anthroposophic nurses for the clinic.

At Wegman's request, Steiner regularly visited the clinic and suggested treatment regimes for particular patients. Between 1921 and 1925, he also gave several series of lectures on medicine. In 1925, Wegman and Steiner wrote the first book on the anthroposophic approach to medicine, Fundamentals of Therapy.

The clinic expanded and soon opened a branch in Asconamarker. Wegman lectured widely, visiting Holland and England particularly frequently, and an increasing number of doctors began to include the anthroposophic approach in their practices. A cancer clinic, the Lukas Clinic, opened in Arlesheim in 1963.

Methodology

Anthroposophical medicine approaches disease as an imbalance in the biological organism and employs treatment strategies intended to restore this balance. Anthroposophical approaches include anthroposophical medicines based upon modified homeopathic principles, physical therapies including massage therapy and artistic therapies. Many of these are intended to support the patient's capacity for self-healing.

Anthroposophical medicine is based upon the anthroposophical view of the human being which considers the patient's:

Anthroposophical doctors generally restrict the use of antibiotics, antipyretics, and vaccinations. Most children treated by anthroposophic doctors are vaccinated only against tetanus and polio, and most vaccinations are given later than recommended by health authorities.

Distribution of anthroposophical medicine

There are about 28 anthroposophic hospitals, departments of hospitals, rehabilitation centers and sanatoria located in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Italy, the USA and Brazil, as well as over 140 outpatient clinics worldwide. Four of the German and Swiss anthroposophic hospitals are state-sponsored; three are academic teaching hospitals under the aegis of nearby universities. Three European universities (Bern, Hamburg and Witten/Herdecke) have professorships in anthroposophic medicine and other universities offer courses on the field. Anthroposophic medicine is recognized in Germany as a "Special Therapy System", along with homeopathy and herbal medicine , under the Medicines Act and has its own committee at the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices. Anthroposophical medical treatment has been a recognized specialty within Swiss governmental health policy since 1999. The International Federation of Anthroposophical Medical Associations estimates that there are currently approximately 2,000 Anthroposophical doctors worldwide. Based on the number of prescriptions it has been estimated that anthroposophic medicinal products are prescribed by more than 30,000 physicians.

Studies of efficacy

Out of 195 studies of anthroposophic medicine published through 2006, 186 found positive outcomes, defined as comparable or better results than with conventional treatment with respect to at least one clinically-relevant outcome measure, or a clinically-relevant improvement resulting from the treatment. Eight studies found no advantage and one study showed a negative trend. The criteria used in the studies range from subjective judgments of quality-of-life improvements to objectively measured reductions in symptoms. A number of the studies were found to have clear methodological weaknesses, but a significant number of well-designed studies remains.
  • A study of the effectiveness of anthroposophical medicine found long-standing improvements of disease symptoms and quality of life in patients with mental, respiratory, and musculoskeletal diseases and other chronic conditions; the study did not compare results with other treatment regimens, and the participants also received conventional medical treatment, as conventional medical treatments such as surgery and medications are taken alongside this complementary therapy according to most practitioners' recommendations.


  • A study of anthroposophic treatment of chronic illness found that "Anthroposophic therapies were associated with long-term reduction of chronic disease symptoms, improvement of health-related quality of life, and health cost reduction."


  • A comparison of the effectiveness of treatments of chronic lower back pain found that anthroposophically treated patients showed at least comparable improvements to conventionally treated patients, and significantly more pronounced improvement on three scales: mental health, general health and vitality


As with other forms of alternative medicine, for many treatments used in anthroposophical medicine proofs of efficacy have not been made through strictly controlled medical testing.

PARSIFAL study of anthroposophical lifestyle

An analysis of some of the data from the multicenter PARSIFAL study, involving 6,630 children age 5 to 13 in 5 European countries, concluded that certain factors in the anthroposophic lifestyle, such as restrictive use of vaccinations, antibiotics and antipyretics, were associated with a reduced risk of allergic disease. Measles was more common in the Anthroposophic group children, likely because of the reduced use of vaccinations in that group.

Mistletoe treatment for cancer

The use of mistletoe extracts in the treatment of cancer was first proposed by Rudolf Steiner and developed by anthroposophical researchers; it is now probably the best-known anthroposophic therapy. Various forms of the medication are widely available in Central Europe, where the treatment regimens of up to two-thirds of all oncology patients includes mistletoe. The extracts are generally no longer used to reduce or inhibit tumor growth, but to improve the patients' quality of life and to reduce tumor-induced symptoms and the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy; a wide array of clinical studies support the efficacy of the treatment regimen for the latter purposes. There are also phytotherapeutic preparations using non-homeopathic doses of mistletoe; these should not be confused with the anthroposophical preparations.

In the United States, mistletoe "holds interest as a potential anticancer agent because extracts derived from it have been shown to kill cancer cells in vitro" but no forms of the extract have been approved by the FDA for any indications. Mistletoe extracts may not be distributed in or imported into the US except for the purpose of clinical research.

Although preclinical (animal) studies suggested a potential role for mistletoe extracts in cancer therapies, no such effects have been convincingly reported. Evidence for the efficacy of mistletoe as an anticancer drug from human studies is weak. Though numerous cohort studies and case series have reported tumor remission and regression, double blinded studies have tended not to support this effect, and the cohort and case studies have been criticized as biased due to their small size and lack of double-blinding. Mistletoe extracts are also frequently used to treat cancer patients in Hollandmarker, and in Great Britainmarker. The treatment has been approved as palliative therapy for malignant tumors in Germany. In the United States it is approved for clinical trial only, and numerous clinical trials have evaluated its effectiveness.Approximately 30 types of mistletoe extracts are used clinically; the most commonly used is known as Iscador. Though no serious side effects are normally found from mistletoe treatments, in one case a patient allergic to mistletoe went into anaphylactic shock. Minor side-effects of injections reported include redness, pain or, in a few cases, subcutaneous inflammation.

The National Cancer Institute (US) position on mistletoe is: "At this time, there is not enough evidence to recommend the use of mistletoe as a treatment for cancer except in carefully designed clinical trials. These trials will give more information about whether mistletoe can be useful in treating certain types of cancer."

Reviews

  • One review of studies of mistletoe concludes that Iscador (mistletoe) has been shown to be effective against cancers in animals, inhibiting metastasis, reducing the size of and causing necrosis of induced tumours; that there is evidence that mistletoe stimulates the immune system; but that there is no evidence of its efficacy in treating humans.


  • In a survey of 105 clinical studies, one study concludes that "the best evidence is for a reduction of side-effects from conventional oncological therapies (chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgical removal). An improvement in quality of life is also very probable. That remission of tumors can be induced through injection of mistletoe extracts is well-demonstrated, which accords with pre-clinical research into cytotoxicity and into the use for animal tumors, but this effect appears to be dependent upon the dose and method of application, and is only present in exceptional cases with the usual small doses."


  • One review concluded: "Although there is laboratory evidence of biological activity that may be beneficial to cancer patients, the evidence of clinical benefit from human studies remains weak and inconclusive. Because of the absence of serious side effects and the limited evidence that mistletoe products may offer some therapeutic advantages, further research is warranted."


  • The National Cancer Institute has concluded that mistletoe extract has been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory and to boost the immune system in animals, that there is evidence that mistletoe can boost the immune system in human beings, but that almost all of the studies done on human beings have major weaknesses that raise doubts about the reliability of their findings.


  • According to the American Cancer Society, "A number of laboratory experiments suggest mistletoe may have the potential to treat cancer, but these results have not yet been reflected in clinical trials. Available evidence from well-designed clinical trials that have studied mistletoe did not support claims that mistletoe could improve length or quality of life. Review of evidence from carefully conducted controlled human clinical studies indicates that mistletoe does not have any significant anti-tumor activity. Most of the studies that have found positive results from mistletoe extract in the treatment or prevention of cancer are not considered scientifically dependable....Researchers are working to identify the most important components, which are thought to be the lectins (proteins). Laboratory experiments also hint that mistletoe increases the activity of lymphocytes, which are cells that attack invading organisms. "


  • Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine, suggested that there is a danger that some patients might choose to abandon other cancer treatments.


Other

Steiner's descriptions of certain bodily organs and their functions sometimes differ significantly from those found in medical textbooks of his time. He stated, for example, that the heart is not a pump but a regulator of circulatory flow.

Present-day clinics and doctors

There are currently anthroposophical medical practices in 80 countries worldwide. Clinics in English-speaking countries include:

England

  • Blackthorn Medical Centre in Maidstone, Kent
  • Botton Village Health Centre in Danby, Whitby
  • Hale Clinic in London [222537]
  • Helios Medical Centre in Stoke Bishop, Bristol
  • Park Atwood Clinic in Worcestershire [222538]
  • Raphael Medical Centre in Tonbridge, Kent [222539]
  • St. Luke's Medical Centre in Stroud, Glos.


India

  • Elite Medical Centre in Trikkadeeri, Kerala


Ireland

  • Holywood Community Health Initiative in Holywood, Co. Down


Scotland

  • Camphill Medical Practice in Bieldside, Aberdeen


USA

  • Rudolf Steiner Health Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan [222540]
  • Fellowship Community Medical Clinic in Chestnut Ridge, New York
  • Raphael House in Fair Oaks, California [222541]


References

  1. Kienle, Kiene and Albonico, Anthroposophic Medicine, Schattauer 2006 ISBN 3-7945-2495-0, Chapter 3 and 6
  2. Klotter, Jule (May 2006). Anthroposophical Medicine. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, 24(1):274.
  3. von Rohr et al., "Experiences in the realisation of a research project on anthroposophical medicine in patients with advanced cancer", Schweiz Med Wochenschr 2000;130:1173–84
  4. Cantor, I. S., and Rosenzweig, R. (December 1997). Anthroposophic perspectives in primary care. Primary Care, 24(4):867-87. PMID 9386260 Reprint copy
  5. Ita Wegman Klinik (German). Accessed 2007-12-26.
  6. Lukas Clinic. Accessed 2007-12-26.
  7. Alm, J. S., Swartz, J., Lilja, G., Scheynius, A., and Pershagen, G. (1999). Atopy in children of families with an anthroposophic lifestyle. Lancet, 353(9163):1485-8. PMID 10232315 Reprint copy.
  8. http://www.medsektion-goetheanum.org/lang/en/?p=11
  9. Anthrosana
  10. http://www.ivaa.info/?p=72
  11. Hamre, Harald J., Claudia M. Witt, Anja Glockmann, Renatus Ziegler, Stefan N. Willich, and Helmut Kiene. "Anthroposophic medical therapy in chronic disease: a four-year prospective cohort study." B M C Complementary and Alternative Medicine 7.10 (April 23, 2007)
  12. Hamre et al., "Anthroposophic therapies in chronic disease: the Anthroposophic Medicine Outcomes Study (AMOS)". Eur J Med Res. 2004 Jul 30;9(7):351-60. PMID: 15337636
  13. Hamre et al., "Anthroposophic vs. conventional therapy for chronic low back pain: a prospective comparative study." European Journal of Medical Research, 2007, 12(7), 302-10
  14. Healthwatch Award 2005: Edzard Ernst;
  15. Flöistrup, H., Swartz, J., Bergström, A., Alm, J. S., Scheynius, A., et al. (2006). Allergic disease and sensitization in Steiner school children. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 117(1):59-66. PMID 16387585 Reprint copy
  16. Christine Murphy, Iscador: Mistletoe in Cancer Therapy, ISBN 193005176X, pp. 52-3
  17. Ernst E, Schmit K, Steuer-Vogt MK. Mistletoe for cancer? A systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Int J Cancer 2003;107:262-7, cited in BMJ 2006;333:1293-1294 (23 December)[1]
  18. p.56
  19. National Cancer Institute, Mistletoe: General Information for Health Professionals
  20. pp. 166-172
  21. National Institute of Health: Mistletoe, Human/Clinical Trials
  22. Ernst, E. (2006). Editorial: Mistletoe as a treatment for cancer. British Medical Journal, 333(7582):1282-3. PMID 17185706 Reprint copy
  23. Elizabeth Kaegi, "Unconventional therapies for cancer: 3. Iscador", p. 1158
  24. "Safety and Risk Aspects of Oncological Mistletoe Therapy"
  25. Finall, A.J., McIntosh, S. A., and Thompson, W. D. (2006). Subcutaneous inflammation mimicking metastatic malignancy induced by injection of mistletoe extract. British Medical Journal, 333(7582):1293-4. PMID 17185712 Reprint copy
  26. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/mistletoe/patient/8.cdr#Section_8
  27. Review of mistletoe studies, "Iscador / Mistletoe / Viscumalbum / Plenosol / Helixor / Iscucin", published by the BC Cancer Agency (2007). Article
  28. Gunver S. Kienle, "Mistletoe in Cancer: Clinical Studies - Overview". Accessed 2009-01-10.
  29. Kaegi E, on behalf of the Task Force on Alternative Therapies of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative. Unconventional therapies for cancer: 3. Iscador. Canadian Medical Association 1998;158:1157-59., cited in BCCA
  30. Overview of mistletoe findings, published by National Cancer Institute (2006). Article
  31. Questions and Answers About Mistletoe, published by National Cancer Institute (2006). Article
  32. American Cancer Society website (2007) [2]
  33. Ernst, Edzard, "Medicine man", The Guardian, December 21, 2004, Article


Bibliography

Journal review articles

  • Ernst, Edzard (2004). Anthroposophical medicine: A systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift, 116(4):128-130, ISSN 0043-5325, PMID 15038403.
  • Kienle, G. H., and Kiene, H. (2007). Complementary cancer therapy: A systematic review of prospective clinical trials on anthroposophic mistletoe extracts. European Journal of Medical Research, 12:103-119, PMID 17507307. Reprint (accessed 10/29/2007).
  • Mistletoe and Cancer, Townsend Letter, October 2002


Books

  • Bott, Victor, An Introduction to Anthroposophical Medicine, ISBN 1-85584-177-0
  • Bott, Victor, Spiritual Science and the Art of Healing. ISBN 0-89281-636-8
  • Douch, Geoffrey, Medicine for the Whole Person: A Guide to Anthroposophical Treatment ISBN 0-86315-362-3
  • Evans, Michael and Rodger, Iain, Complete Healing ISBN 0-88010-489-9
  • Goebel, Wolfgang and Glöckler, Michaela, A Guide to Child Health, ISBN 0-86315-390-9
  • Hauschka, Rudolf, The Nature of Substance ISBN 1-85584-122-3
  • Hauschka, Rudolf, Nutrition ISBN 1-85584-117-7
  • King, Francis X., Rudolf Steiner and Holistic Medicine, ISBN 0-89254-015-X.
  • Leviton, Richard, Anthroposophic Medicine Today ISBN 0-88010-265-9.
  • Mees, L. F. C., Blessed by Illness ISBN 0-88010-054-0
  • Mees, L. F. C., Secrets of the Skeleton: Form in Metamorphosis ISBN 0-88010-087-7
  • Murphy, Christine (ed.), Iscador: Mistletoe and Cancer Therapy ISBN 1-930051-76-X
  • Murphy, Christine (ed.), Practical Home Care Medicine: A Natural Approach ISBN 1-930051-09-3
  • Murphy, Christine, The Vaccination Dilemma ISBN 1-930051-10-7
  • Renzenbrink, Diet and Cancer ISBN 0-85440-766-9
  • Steiner, Rudolf and Wegman, Ita, Extending Practical Medicine. ISBN 1-85584-080-4
    • also published as Fundamentals of Therapy, ISBN 0-7661-4688-X
  • Steiner, Rudolf and Weisz, Paul B., Angiogenesis: Key Principles-Science-Technology-Medicine ISBN 0-8176-2674-3
  • Wolff, Otto and Husemann, Friedrich, The Anthroposophic Approach to Medicine ISBN 0-88010-031-1.
  • Wolff, Otto, Home Remedies: Herbal and Homeopathic Treatments for Use at Home ISBN 0-88010-362-0
  • Zieve, Robert, Healthy Medicine ISBN 0-88010-560-7
  • Zur Linden, Wilhelm, A Child is Born ISBN 1-85584-192-4


Lectures by Rudolf Steiner

  • Broken Vessels : The Spiritual Structure of Human Frailty, Michael Lipson (ed.). ISBN 0-88010-503-8.
  • Fundamentals of Anthroposophical Medicine, ISBN 0-936132-80-9.
  • Geographic medicine: The secret of the double. ISBN 0-936132-06-X
  • The Healing Process : Spirit, Nature & Our Bodies, Catherine E. Creeger (ed.). ISBN 0-88010-474-0
  • Introducing Anthroposophical Medicine (Foundations of Anthroposophical Medicine, v. 1). ISBN 0-88010-463-5
  • Medicine: An Introductory Reader, Andrew Maendl (ed.). ISBN 1-85584-133-9
  • Occult Physiology ISBN 1-85584-141-X
  • Pastoral Medicine: The Collegial Working of Doctors and Priests. ISBN 0-88010-253-5


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