Anthroposophic Medicine—Bridge-building as integrativemedicine

In many countries, Anthroposophic Medicine is classified as complementary or alternative medicine (CAM). This is true insofar as anthroposophic physicians and therapists extend the conventional spectrum of medicine by using complementary approaches in diagnostics and therapy.

They incorporate earlier medical views in a new form, such as the Hippocratic teaching of the four elements and Paracelsian concepts such as the Tria Principia. The intention is not to return to the practice of these old teachings. They are often rightly regarded as outdated and scientifically untenable; it is the underlying views and concepts that still characterize all medicine today and can be very fruitful in their contemporary renewal. One way to renew medicine is to connect with directions such as traditional naturopathy and phytotherapy, homeopathy, Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, as an addition to conventional medicine. However, Anthroposophic Medicine has developed new diagnostic and therapeutic concepts from the very beginning, such as functional threefolding, the concept of the four members of the human being, and the seven-year cycles in human biographies. Rudolf Steiner’s methodical approach has always striven for a scientific and contemporary understanding of the aspects of life, soul, and spirit and the bridging of past and future, East and West, natural science and spiritual science.

Anthroposophic Medicine has thus seen itself from the outset as integrative medicine, which Ita Wegman and Rudolf Steiner formulated as follows in 1925 in their book “Extending practical medicine. Fundamental principles based on the science of the spirit”:

“It is not a matter of opposition to contemporary medicine, which works with the scientific principles and methods accepted today; we fully recognize its principles. [...] However, we add further insights, gained through other methods, to what can be known about the human being through today’s recognized scientific methods, and out of this extended insight into the world and the human being we find ourselves impelled to work also for an extension of the art of medicine.” (1, p. 7)

Integrative medicine in outpatient and inpatient care

Anthroposophic clinics cover a broad medical spectrum from acute hospitals with a statutory duty to provide care, to specialist and affiliated clinics, to rehabilitation facilities. This integrative approach is therefore not based on additional specialization, it permeates existing specializations—from emergency medicine, surgical and internal medicine, to psychosomatics and psychiatry. In addition to orthodox medical procedures and medical devices, patients experience specific remedies, a holistic care concept, as well as artistic therapies or eurythmy therapy.

There is also a broad network of general practitioners and anthroposophic specialists in private practice, e.g., in pediatrics, gynecology and obstetrics, dermatology, orthopedics, ophthalmology and dentistry. There, too, patients appreciate the fruitful cooperation that they find between doctors and therapists.

Pharmaceuticals, external applications and therapeutic methods

The prescription of medications—including protective vaccinations, antibiotics, psychotropic drugs, immunotherapy and chemotherapy—is based not only on the guidelines of evidence-based medicine and the previous experience of the treating physician, but above all on the individual situation of the patient, her expectations and values. Over 2000 specially produced medications from the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms are used to support healing processes, mostly in a phytotherapeutic or potentized form. Anthroposophic medications are administered internally as dilutions, subcutaneously or intravenously as injections, or as inhalations. Among the best-known pharmaceutical manufacturers are WELEDA and WALA, as well as other pharmaceutical manufacturers specializing in mistletoe therapy.

In addition to medications, high therapeutic value is attached to external applications such as compresses, rhythmical oil applications and baths. Special body therapies and forms of massage are used in addition to proven physiotherapy—such as rhythmical massage therapy according to Wegman/Hauschka and massage therapy according to Simeon Pressel. Artistic therapies include therapeutic sculpting and painting, music therapy, therapeutic speech formation and eurythmy therapy (curative eurythmy). Anthroposophic psychotherapy and biography work address each human being as an individual who is processing his or her illness and destiny. 

This comprehensive system of treatment has proven itself in the outpatient and inpatient realm for almost 100 years and, according to the current definition of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine, it is one of the first successful models of integrative medicine:

“Integrative Medicine is the practice of medicine and health that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic and lifestyle approaches, healthcare professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.” (2)

Integration corresponds to the nature of the human being

The more diverse the therapeutic approaches in a particular form of medicine become, the more important it is that they can be applied and experienced not only side by side, but actually in a meaningful composition. Just as body, soul and spirit are interconnected in a human being, integrative medicine will only be able to prove itself if it finds a common language—a comprehensible rationale between the various healing methods.

Anthroposophic Medicine pursues an approach in which it is the human being himself who unites the various kingdoms of nature, the elements, and artistic qualities of color, sound and speech in the different aspects of his nature. With the plant kingdom, human beings share life processes such as growth, regeneration and reproduction. Human beings are connected to the animal kingdom through shared capacities for movement and consciousness, as well as an ability to create physical and mental interiors. Cosmic elements such as light, warmth and air interact with the light, warmth and breathing in the human organism, and they show corresponding physical, mental and spiritual effects. Every human being forms a unique reflection from the surrounding world, a microcosm within the macrocosm. It is this common language between the human being and the world that anthroposophy attempts to decipher, while bridging the gap between different medical systems and therapeutic approaches. This language of integration corresponds to the nature of the human being. This means that the human being can become a bridge builder of holistic medicine, and also a bridge that is healing. Against this background, disease can be understood as disintegration, healing as reintegration.

Central links

Website of the Medical Section of the School of Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum, with information about research, training, organizational structures and further links to associations in each country: www.medsektion-goetheanum.ch

Further information on the CARE process and the results of the working groups: www.anthromedics.org

Website of the Vademecum Project, with currently 1,778 indications and 627 medicinal product groups—with detailed information on composition, administration form, dosage, and approved areas of application. There is special consideration of anthroposophic oncology and mistletoe therapy (in the latest German edition), as well as a separate portal for external applications in anthroposophic nursing: www.vademecum.org
www.pflege-vademecum.de

The Association of Anthroposophic Clinics, with a presentation of the various facilities and specializations: www.anthro-kliniken.de

Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine: www.imconsortium.org

1 Steiner R, Wegman I. Extending practical medicine. Fundamental principles based on the science of the spirit. London: Rudolf Steiner Press; 2000.

2 Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine. In: Rosenthal B, Lisi AJ. A Qualitative analysis of various definitions of integrative medicine and health. Topics in Integrative Health Care 2014; 5(4).