Holistic Healing

Distance healing: Evidence suggests patients may benefit

June 6 2000 - University of Maryland School of Medicine study

A technique known as therapeutic touch, prayer on someone's behalf and other kinds of "distance healing" may have a positive effect on patients, according to a University of Maryland School of Medicine researcher, who has reviewed dozens of studies. His findings are published in the June 6th edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

John A. Astin, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Medicine's Complementary Medicine Program, analyzed 23 clinical studies involving prayer, a technique called non-contact therapeutic touch, as well as other unconventional forms of spiritual intervention in which there is no physical contact between the practitioner and the patient.

Dr. Astin says 57 percent of the studies showed a positive impact on the patients, such as less pain or a faster than expected recovery time. "Statistically speaking, the figure of 57 percent is highly significant," says Astin, who considers himself an "open-minded skeptic." "This is far more than one would expect to see by chance alone."

Of the 23 studies analyzed, 11 examined therapeutic touch, 5 studied the effectiveness of prayer, and seven tested a variety of other unconventional treatments. Dr. Astin says all of the studies included placebo controls and were chosen for the scientific quality of the research.

The highest number of positive results was found in the studies involving therapeutic touch, a controversial practice founded on the belief that the human body has an energy field. The practitioner moves his or her hands over the patient's body to modify the field and promote healing. This technique does not involve physical contact. Of the 11 studies involving therapeutic touch, seven showed at least one positive treatment effect.

Dr. Astin also reviewed studies that tested the power of intercessory prayer (prayer on another's behalf). In one study of nearly 1,000 heart patients, those who were being prayed for without their knowledge suffered 10 percent fewer complications. That study was published last year in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Although Dr. Astin calls the evidence compelling, he says the results are not conclusive and should be interpreted with caution. He points out that nine of the studies showed no treatment effects, and in one study, the control group got better more quickly.

"On the other hand," says Dr. Astin, "there is certainly no evidence that attempts to heal from a distance cause any harm."

New hope for mushroom medicine

June 3, 2000 - BBC

Compounds found in mushrooms could help to treat diseases like hepatitis C and HIV, claim scientists attending an international conference.

Scientists at the Second Annual Congress on Mushroom Nutrition at Middlesex University believe some species could be used to relieve the symptoms of certain diseases caused by viruses.

Mushrooms have been used in traditional herbal medicines in China and Japan for thousands of years, and Asian mushrooms are commonly used for pain relief and in treating diseases like arthritis.

Certain mushrooms also boost the immune system, and are given to transplant patients to reduce the chances of organ rejection - but little is known about the active ingredients in the fungi and how they work.

Scientists attending the conference in England are looking at ways of combating extreme tiredness caused by viral infections, such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, hepatitis C and even HIV.

Viral infections are very difficult to treat, but Dr John Wilkinson from Middlesex University, who is chairing the conference, says mushrooms could open new possibilities for treatment.

Early promise

"A lot of the components that are found in mushrooms and plants, many of them are anti-viral," said Dr Wilkinson.

"You've not just got one anti-viral compound, but you've actually got a whole compliment that are all battling against viruses at the same time.

"So I think in terms of treatment for viral infections they have great potential, because you are bombarding the organism with many different active molecules."

At the moment there is very little clinical evidence to statistically prove that mushrooms could be used in this way but early studies are promising.

Scientist Says Your Chi Is Key To Optimum Health

May 5, 2000 - FOX News

The work of Russian physicist Yury Kronn is the link that binds science with the mysticism of the energy force the Chinese call chi, says Matt McCormick.

In a nutshell, Kronn says he has used the same quantum physics principles behind lasers to facilitate optimum health through chi.

Kronn and McCormick invite people to hoot and holler at this notion Sunday at the Ervin J. Nutter Center's Berry Room, when Kronn will visit from Southern California to explain and demonstrate. Or maybe, like McCormick 11 years ago, they too will feel effects of the chi that Kronn says he can capture and recirculate.

``As far as some people are concerned, mysticism has long been explaining the quantum field,'' said McCormick, who teaches yoga, tai chi and karate at Wright State University. ``Now with quantum physics, we have the formulas to explain this stuff.''

In Chinese philosophy, chi is an invisible life force energy that pervades the universe and flows throughout people's bodies, traveling through meridians the same way blood flows through vessels. A Chinese physician's traditional job is to maintain health by keeping the meridians in balance, as opposed to treating illness.

Kronn has ``translated these laws into the language of modern science,'' McCormick said. Kronn studied at Gorky University and earned a postdoctoral degree at Lebedev's Institute of Physics in Moscow before emigrating as Yury Khronopulo from Soviet Russia in 1988. At the time, he was as a specialist in laser physics and nonlinear optics.

Having explored the science of chi, Kronn has developed technology that he says can transmit chi to people as surely as a needle transmits medication.

His chi generator ``looks like a ham operator's radio,'' McCormick said. Because chi has electromagnetic properties, Kronn said he can capture it from the atmosphere onto ordinary recording tape.

`When you play the tape in the tape player, it spews the energy back into the room,'' McCormick said. The chi that Kronn generates is readily ``absorbed by your body through energy points'' and into people's meridians.

He can't back up the chi generator with documented scientific research. People have described the state of calm alertness they've reached with chi tapes, including some Wright State basketball players three years ago, but anecdotes carry no scientific weight.

On the other hand, McCormick said, quantum physics is a young field that began with the disturbing scientific notions that light bends, time slows down at high speeds and something called the 'uncertainty principle'' hinders precise measurements of speed and location.

Tribal cures for modern ailments

The deal is a leap into the unknown for the tribe

An Amerindian tribe in Surinam has reached a deal with the outside world to allow the collecting of plant samples in their forest for medicinal research.

The agreement comes as pharmaceutical companies are returning to the Earth's forests in their search for new medicines to cure some of mankind's biggest killers, such as Aids, cancer and malaria. This is called bioprospecting.

But randomly collecting plants is not the most effective way to do this.

According to Conservation International, (CI), an American environmental organisation, if plant collectors work alongside the tribe's shaman, or medicine man, they are 50% more likely to find an active compound. They say that over 74% of today's plant-derived medicines were previously used for similar purposes by indigenous people.

On the organisation's first bioprospecting trip with the Trio shaman Amasina, they found two plant species new to western science, and 14 other plants with previously unknown medicinal properties.

Conservation International have now drawn up a contract with the Trio, in the village of Kwamalasamutu, to go plant collecting for five years.

Both parties, as well as the American pharmaceutical giant Bristol Myers Squibb, are part of the International Co-operative Biodiversity Group (ICBG).

Conservation International have initiated the bioprospecting programme as a way of providing economic alternatives to logging and mining in rainforests, and to help protect biodiversity and indigenous peoples' knowledge of traditional medicine.

Stan Malone, director of CI-Surinam, led a delegation of ICBG representatives to Kwamalasamutu to present the bioprospecting contract to the granman, or chief, of the village.

He explained every aspect of the agreement through an interpreter, using pictures and diagrams to show the process of drug development from shaman to pharmaceutical company.

He is concerned that these tribes might not fully comprehend the implications of these agreements because their outlook on life is so different, and that there is no clear international legal framework to protect their rights in the long-term. He also doubts whether indigenous communities necessarily have the right to surrender plants that might grow in other countries too.

Traditional application of herbal cure

The Trio tribe were converted to Christianity by American missionaries in the 60s, but their lifestyle is still traditional. They hunt, fish, and tend small plantations.

Their staple food is cassava, from which they make cassava bread and brew kasiri, cassava beer.

They have access to western medicine at the government-run clinic, but if that fails then they turn to the shaman.

Improved collection with local shaman

There are very few shamen left in the village. In order to keep the knowledge alive two have started teaching basic plant knowledge in the village school.

According to Amasina "the children want to learn about plant medicine because they want to be able to cure people, but of course the money makes sense to them too, they want to profit from the knowledge".

This village barely has enough electricity and running water at the moment, and they rely on the Surinam Government for goods such as fuel.

They say they want development, by which they usually mean western luxury goods such as refrigerators and televisions. The children love Nike sports clothes and trainers.

The bioprospecting agreement they have signed could potentially provide these things. However they are coming to realise that they must preserve the ancient knowledge they cultivated in the past in order to change their lives in the future.

US Herbal Remedy Sales Total $3.8 Billion In 1998

By Suzanne Rostler - FOX News - New York - January 15, 1999

Herbs, once relegated to the ranks of snake oil or voodoo in the eyes of the medical establishment, are joining the mainstream as people look for fast, cheap ways to cure ailments such as depression, anxiety and memory loss.

Led by baby boomers bent on staying young, Americans spent an estimated $3.8 billion on herbs and other "botanicals" in 1998, up from $2.5 billion in 1995, industry data shows.

"We are the generation that said, 'Never trust anyone over 30.' We don't want to get sick and we certainly don't want to get old," said John Cardellina, a chemist with the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a group that promotes supplements.

This rapid growth has forced doctors and government regulators to take a closer look at the virtues and dangers of herbs and pushed pharmaceutical makers and even food companies to start jockeying for shares of these lucrative markets.

In an attempt to refine its regulatory approach, the federal Food and Drug Administration will meet with industry groups, consumer advocates and health experts next month to discuss tighter restrictions on health claims.

Interest in herbs has been fueled by greater understanding of the link between diet and disease. That interest has turned into an explosion of sales with the help of the Internet, television commercials and the burgeoning number of companies that now market dietary supplements.

A recent Louis Harris survey found 90 percent of doctors and 96 percent of pharmacists reporting an upsurge in consumer demand for herbal supplements over the past five years. Health experts say this trend reflects an attempt among aging baby boomers to stay young and healthy through "natural" methods.

But the perception of herbs as natural can have dangerous consequences. Synthetic drugs as powerful as heart medication digitalis are based on natural plant ingredients. And like synthetic drugs, herbal products can be dangerous when mixed with food and other medication.

The government classifies botanicals as dietary supplements, which are regulated like food. Companies can therefore market these products without the rigorous approval process required for drugs and the FDA can recall a product only after it has been found to be dangerous.

"Anyone can claim that inside a bottle is St. John's wort. I suspect there are less-than-quality products out there," said Raymond Chang, a New York-based oncologist who uses herbs to treat many patients. He accused the media of exaggerating the number of cases of tainted herbs for the sake of a good story.

"Obviously in large quantities, inappropriate doses, or if the batch is tainted it can be dangerous, but by and large herbs are very safe," Chang said.

A growing body of scientific evidence could bear out his claim and help bring the United States up to speed with Asian and European countries with long histories of using herbs.

In the past few years, medical journals have published studies, many of them European, showing that some herbs do have health benefits when tested in controlled clinical trials. For example, saw palmetto has been shown to help men suffering from the effects of an enlarged prostate, ginkgo biloba may help some Alzheimer's patients and St. John's wort seems to help some people with mild symptoms of depression.

But other studies have shown no benefits. A recent trial showed that valerian, promoted as a sleep aid, did not help a significant number of patients. Another recent study found that high doses of St. John's wort may impair fertility.


These studies and market surveys illustrating consumer demand for herbal products have prompted a handful of pharmaceutical companies such as Bayer, American Home Products and SmithKline Beecham to release their own brands.

Warner-Lambert launched its line in October after the Louis Harris survey found that nearly half of all Americans have used herbal supplements at some time in their lives.

"Surveys started to signal to us that the mainstream medical community was opening up to natural compounds," Barry Turner, vice president of complementary medicine at Warner-Lambert, said. "We want to help them understand how to integrate them into their medical practice."

Indeed, the Louis Harris survey found that while most doctors are interested in herbal supplements few understand them. In an attempt to educate physicians, the publisher of the popular Physician's Desk Reference of prescription and other drugs issued a PDR for Herbal Medicines in November.

"The reality is that there is a marketplace and it's just good business to be there," CRN's Cardellina said.

Food companies also hope to get a slice of the market. Products that have hit the shelves so far include potato chips enhanced with kava kava, a herb promoted as relieving anxiety; iced tea spiked with ginseng, alleged to have a range of benefits, and chicken soup laced with echinacea, which supposedly boosts the immune system and wards off colds.

While clinical tests on these supplements have shown mixed results, such "functional foods" now are a nearly $15 billion a year industry, says the Grocery Manufacturers of America.

The many products in this category, which includes Power Bars, Gatorade, and foods fortified with vitamins and minerals, may carry claims about health benefits of herbs, plant extracts and other ingredients. They may not make specific claims to treat, mitigate, diagnose, cure or prevent a disease.

"Most mainstream food companies don't market diet supplements - they market functional foods," Gene Grabowski, a spokesman with the Grocery Manufacturers of America, said. "But the line between the two is getting closer and closer."

So-Called 'Alternative' Medicine Now Used By 40% Of Americans

June 1999 - Reuters - Chicago

Two in five Americans surveyed have turned to some type of alternative medicine not offered by their regular doctors to treat their aches and pains, a report published Tuesday said.  

Alternative medicine was equally popular among different races, income groups and the two genders, according to the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  

Those who tried alternative therapies such as chiropractic or acupuncture did so not because they were fed up with conventional medicine but because they viewed health more holistically, the survey of roughly 1,000 randomly selected people found.

  Better-educated people and those with a less-than- optimum health status were more likely to turn to alternative medicine, the survey by John Astin of Stanford University's School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif., found. Among the 4.4 percent of those who relied primarily on alternative forms of health care, most had a distrust of conventional physicians and hospitals.

After chiropractic, which was used by 16 percent of all respondents, the most popular alternative treatments were lifestyle diet (8 percent), exercise/movement (7 percent), and relaxation (7 percent). The survey also identified homeopathy, megavitamins, spiritual healing, massage, folk medicine, psychotherapy and art/music therapy as alternative treatments employed.

The respondents reported seeking relief from various ailments including chronic pain, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, sprains, muscle strains, addictive problems, arthritis and headaches.