Mind Medicine: What Proof?

Washington Post/March 21, 2006
By January W. Payne

A research review published in 2002 in an Australian medical journal linked transcendental meditation (TM) to decreased hypertension. The authors concluded that the technique was promising for prevention and treatment of heart disease.

A similar review published last year in the Journal of Hypertension found insufficient evidence to conclude whether TM lowers blood pressure.

Inconsistent results like these leave people understandably baffled about the value of so-called mind-body treatments, a branch of alternative and complementary therapy that includes meditation, hypnosis, imagery and mindfulness-based stress reduction. Each of these techniques assumes that altering one's mental state can affect bodily health. Enthusiastic testimonials and gripping media reports notwithstanding, the research record on mind-body medicine remains thin and inconclusive.

Still, these techniques are used, both with and without standard medical treatments, by millions of people seeking relief from conditions ranging from stress to heart disease. Many users report benefits; risks are low. The chart below examines the uses and research findings for several mind-body approaches. Scientific investigation continues.

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