Medicinal Therapy in Anthroposophic Medicine

Matthias Girke, Georg Soldner

Last update: 24.06.2021

There are essential relationships between human beings and the kingdoms of nature that are important for the art of healing. We are familiar with the effect on the heart of the medicinal plants Digitalis and Crataegus (Hawthorn), the pain-relieving effect of poppies and willow bark extract (“aspirin”), the blood pressure-lowering effect of Rauwolfia (Indian snake root) and the manifold effects of medicines derived from animals (such as ACE inhibitors isolated from snake venom). In Anthroposophic Medicine, isolated “active substances” play less of a role than compositions of substances—be it in a single plant such as mistletoe, or in a composition of several medicinal plants—in addition to minerals, metals and animal components (such as from bees or ants). This is comparable to the effect of a symphony, which does not result from any individual tone, but from the composition created when musicians in an orchestra play together. In the production of anthroposophic medicines, special attention is paid to the pharmaceutical process, which prepares the substances used so that they can be absorbed, then act in the human organism. An active, regulation-promoting reaction of the organism is usually sought, which is triggered by the medicinal product. The classical idea of active ingredients is rarely in the foreground, but it can apply, such as to the direct applications of mistletoe to treat tumors.

Anthroposophic medicinal products are produced according to the methods of anthroposophic pharmacy from the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms—either manufactured industrially or compounded individually according to a physician’s prescription. Their indication depends on the patient’s therapeutic needs. If, for example, allergic exudative diseases are present, then the patient needs a limiting and shaping therapy principle. An important medication in Anthroposophic Medicine for allergic diseases and allergic rhinitis consists of Citrus medica and Cydonia (lemon and quince); it has a contracting and consolidating effect that runs contrary to the disease process and which is characteristic of both fruits. Studies from basic and clinical research have shown the efficacy of this medicine (1, 2, 3). Bitter substances can help, for example, when there is too little activity of the constituent members of the human being in the digestive tract (recognizable in, e.g., loss of appetite, constipation). Numerous studies are available on the therapeutic efficacy of bitter substances that confirms the clinical experience of individual cases (4, 5). A medicinal product can also promote healing processes by releasing the organism from a misdirected activity—in effect “replacing” it—and thus free up displaced forces so that they can be led back to an inner balance.  

Medicinal therapy is naturally subject to constant development. Clinical experiences are regularly published in the Vademecum of Anthroposophical Medicines , once they have gone through an editorial evaluation process (see ). The efficacy of anthroposophic medicinal therapy is also being evaluated in a growing number of clinical studies with varied designs. Viscum album (mistletoe therapy in oncology) is a particularly important and widely known medication in Anthroposophic Medicine (see more at ).

Research news

Phase IV trial: Kalium phosphoricum comp. versus placebo in irritability and nervousness 
In a new clinical study, Kalium phosphoricum comp. (KPC) versus placebo was tested in 77 patients per group. In a post-hoc analysis of intra-individual differences after 6 weeks treatment, a significant advantage of KPC vs. placebo was shown for characteristic symptoms of nervous exhaustion and nervousness (p = 0.020, p = 0.045 respectively). In both groups six adverse events (AE) were assessed as causally related to treatment (severity mild or moderate). No AE resulted in discontinuation in treatment. KPC could therefore be a beneficial treatment option for symptomatic relief of neurasthenia. The study has been published open access in Current Medical Research and Opinion

Further information on Anthroposophic Medicine