Anthroposophic medicine

Anthroposophical medicine

Anthroposophical medicine is a complementary medicine founded in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner in conjunction with Dr Ita Wegman. Its advocates see it as a holistic and salutogenetic approach to medicine which focuses on ensuring that the conditions for health are present in a person. Therapies are intended to enhance the organism's capacities to heal.

Anthroposophical medicine is employed as an extension to conventional medicine, not as an alternative to it; conventional medical treatments including surgery and medications are employed as necessary. Anthroposophical physicians must have a conventional medical education, including a degree from an established and certified medical school, as well as supplementary training in the anthroposophical approach.


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 Arlesheim, Switzerland. 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 Ascona. 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.


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.

Studies of efficacy

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The multicenter PARSIFAL study, involving 6,630 children age 5 to 13 in 5 European countries, concluded that certain practices of anthroposophical doctors, such as restrictive use of antibiotics and antipyretics, are associated with a reduced risk of allergic disease in children.
  • 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

Anthroposophical medicine has been criticized by some current day advocates of evidence based medicine such as Wallace Sampson and Edzard Ernst who have argued that practitioners of anthroposophical medicine and other forms of alternative medicine deliver treatments for which the efficacy or safety hasn't been adequately demonstrated through strictly controlled medical and scientific testing.

Mistletoe treatment for cancer

A cancer treatment based on mistletoe extracts was first proposed by Rudolf Steiner and developed by anthroposophical researchers; various forms of this medicament are now widely used in Central Europe, where up to two-thirds of all oncology patients' treatment regimen includes mistletoe, in Holland, and in Great Britain. 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. According to an on-going randomized study of mistletoe's effectiveness, "Recent basic studies reported tumor response and survival prolongation in number of treatments with Mistletoe preparations. There are evidence based data for using this drug as side effect reducer when used in combination with chemotherapy regimen treatment.

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, inflammations under the skin.


  • 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). A number of laboratory experiments suggest that mistletoe extracts may have some potential to combat and kill cancer cells, but these results have yet to be reflected in human trials. 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.


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, since osmotic pressure at the capillary level generates more blood pressure than the heart itself, a view that has been confirmed by recent medical research.

Present-day clinics and doctors

There are currently anthroposophical medical practices in more than 60 countries. Anthroposophic medicine has been integrated into a traditional hospital in Switzerland. Clinics in English-speaking countries include:



  • Holywood Community Health Initiative in Holywood, Co. Down



  • Fellowship Community Medical Clinic in Chestnut Ridge, NY
  • Raphael House in Fair Oaks, California
  • Rudolf Steiner Health Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan



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


  • 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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