FondsGoetheanum: Medicine, Therapy and Healthcare

News – November 2009

Artistic activity promotes balance.

Interdisciplinary work; unlimited effects

From the very beginning, anthroposophical social therapy and curative education has collaborated closely with anthroposophical medicine, as is especially evident with diagnosis.
Anthroposophical ocial therapy and curative education has always collaborated closely with anthroposophical medicine. When a curative teacher and a doctor consider a child in need of a particular support, in line with their respective trainings they pay attention to different aspects, but they come to a shared image and present their diagnosis together. This is of great benefit to the child.
The curative teacher begins his diagnosis at school or in daily home life, especially taking note of psychic particularities. The doctor begins with a physical examination because, for the anthroposophical doctor, what manifests there tells how a child’s spirit and soul are related to its body.

The way towards joint medical and psychological diagnosis.

He notes above all the physical particularities, building an overall image of the child. What are its bodily proportions? Is it rather thin or corpulent? Is the rhythmical element, at the centre, strong enough to bring balance and harmony, or is it too ‘submerged’? What pathological signs are there? The doctor tries to understand where and how obstacles manifest themselves in the physical body.
The soul expresses itself in three ways – thinking, feeling and willing. Is the child able to concentrate? How is its thinking function? Does it stay blocked? Is it unable to focus? Is it associative or fleeting? In the feeling, is the child open towards and able to take account of others? A healthy person knows how to centre himself again, to transform what he has experienced. Despite imbalance, he knows how to conduct himself in the world. Is the child able to do this, or does he stay to outside himself or, on the contrary, stay imprisoned in himself, in his world, blocked in and closed off, but subject to choleric outbursts that free him? In the will, is he mobile, impulsive, agitated, or, on the contrary, slow, lazy, and with great difficulties to come into movement?

The senses are windows on the world.

For human beings, the senses are windows onto the world, enabling us to come into relationship with the world. The state of these windows condition our way of being. Perceptions from outside constitute a sort of personal treasure, they become ours. Others are related to our sense of well being. Then there are those (smell, taste, sight, sense of warmth) directed towards the outside. Yet others allow us to comprehend the thinking of others, to recognise other personalities.

The core of a human being is healthy.

Taking their departure from recognisable spiritual, soul and bodily elements, the curative educator and the doctor have a preliminary discussion about therapy: how to help bring the person into balance, to help him better relate to the world through the windows of his soul, to realise on earth more aspects of his personality. The doctor supports the work of curative teachers with remedies mainly derived from nature, but also sometimes with allopathic medicine, as well as artistic therapies (eurythmy, speech formation, painting and modelling), massage and physiotherapy. But for the curative teacher, the social therapist and the doctor one thing is very evident: the core of the human being is always intact, healthy.

Dr Christoph Wirz

Bryophyllum protects against premature birth

Bryophyllum: significant effects.

In anthroposophical medicine, bryophyllum has been successfully used for decades to suppress contractions without side effects.

In Switzerland, almost 10% of births are premature and therefore at risk. Premature birth is the cause of half of all complications and deaths in the prenatal period. To avoid them, the mothers concerned are generally treated with an infusion of synthetic medications that block the contractions (Tokolytika). The treatment, which requires hospitalisation, often has serious consequences for both mother and child. One can prevent contractions by the use of tablets originally intended to lower blood pressure (so-called beta blockers). This method is simpler and therefore more often used, but it also often has unwanted side effects.
For decades, anthroposophical medicine has successfully used bryophyllum to block contractions. This plant carries little embryos at the edges of its leaves. Rudolf Steiner recommended it for a (male) patient in 1921 for the treatment of hysteria (from the Greek hystera, the womb). This illness can manifest, at the physical level, as a premature birth in which expressions of the soul are ‘expelled’ too soon.
Earlier clinical studies have shown the benefit of infusions of bryophyllum in relation to classical medications in the case of premature contractions. Bryophyllum also has a specific effect on the uterine musculature during labour. In many cases, a preparation based on powdered bryophyllum has been used, made into tablets and so more easily applied.
In direct comparison with a synthetic tocolytique, a large-scale study, undertaken by Swissmedic and conducted by the Obstetrics Clinic of Zurich University Hospital, is currently underway to prove the efficacy and safety of bryophyllum remedies.
This is the first time in Switzerland that an anthroposophical medication has been compared directly with a synthetic one according to the strict criteria of conventional medicine. When one knows the amounts spent by the pharmaceutical industry – in the millions – to obtain authorisation to put their products on the market, one can well understand that, despite the voluntary participation of many people, such a study needs material and personnel resources that are not usually covered by public funding. But at last, with the new constitutional article on complementary medicine, anthroposophical medicine now has a legal basis that allows it to undertake research in the immediate interest of patients.

Dr Andreas M. Worel

Midwives and obstetricians interested in this work can obtain information on this study from Dr Ursula van Mendach, Obstetrics Clinic, Zurich University Hospital.