Anthroposophic Nursing and External Applications

Anthroposophic nursing was initiated by Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman and through its development has now spread worldwide. It is used in inpatient and outpatient care and in all areas of medicine (oncology, intensive care, pediatrics, etc.). Anthroposophic nursing is based on an understanding of the human being and an ethical attitude that leads to encountering each patient with respect for the person’s autonomy and human dignity, and as an individual possessing a body, a soul and a spirit (1).Nursing care measures do not consist only of their “outer” characteristics, they also have “inner” qualities which are decisive for their efficacy. Basic nursing care thus encompasses a living, enlivening caregiving process, expressed in the way that each measure is implemented, as well as in the external care itself. This can, for example, significantly promote the patient’s ability to experience and immerse himself in the day—and, then at night, to sleep. In addition, great importance is attached to accompanying the soul of the patient. The significance of the soul for healing and, in particular, wound healing, has been by now well documented. Wounds heal less well in patients suffering from depression, agitation or mental tension (2, 3). Rudolf Steiner drew attention to the importance of the soul for healing already almost 100 years ago: “Contentment […] strengthens the etheric body in relation to its life force [so] that wounds […] in a satisfied person […] heal more easily […]” (4, p. 215). A caregiver’s inner attitude can have a direct effect on the mental/emotional world of the patient and thus promote the person’s vital forces in wound healing. Finally, the nurse’s therapeutic attitude has key importance for nursing work. When therapeutic measures follow spiritual goals, inner convictions and therapeutic intuition, they have a stabilizing effect on patients. The patients experience a will to heal that can give rise to new prospects, even to hope, and this can have a positive effect on the course of the illness and possibly also on the prognosis. Thus, different dimensions develop within the nursing activities which directly connect with healing and therapy. These qualities require ethical and spiritual development in addition to professional training. They belong to the identity of the nursing profession, and they are indispensable in modern patient care (see also career profile Nursing: ).

To the Vademecum of External Applications: .

1 Heine R (ed.). Anthroposophische Pflegepraxis. Grundlagen und Anregungen für alltägliches Handeln. 4th corrected and expanded ed., with DVD. Berlin: Salumed Verlag; 2017.

2 Godbout JP, Glaser R. Stress-induced immune dysregulation: implications for wound healing, infectious disease and cancer. Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology  2006;1(4):427–427. [Crossref]

3 House SH. Psychological distress and its impact on wound healing. An integrative review. Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing 2015; 42(1): 38–41. [Crossref]

4 Steiner R. Paths and goals of the spiritual human being. Life questions in the light of spiritual science. Hudson: Rudolf Steiner Press; 2015.

Research news

Yarrow liver compresses in cancer patients and their effect on the autonomous nervous system    
Liver compresses are frequently used in Anthroposophic Medicine for cancer treatment and are believed to have an energizing effect. In a randomized pilot study, the influence of this external application on the autonomous nervous system was now evaluated. For this study, heart rate variability was measured in metastatic cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy and suffering from cancer-related fatigue (CRF). A total of 20 patients (10 per group) were available for analysis. The results show that yarrow liver compresses led to increase sympathetic activity during the day in the intervention group, while increased parasympathetic activity was observed in the control group, which received no external application. The study is published open access:
Previously in 2021, Georg Seifert´s research group had demonstrated that liver compresses reduced (CRF) in this clinically relevant range. The current study clarifies the correlation.

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