Anthroposophic medicine is a complementary medicine that combines elements of conventional medicine with homeopathy and naturopathy. It is based on the spiritual philosophy of anthroposophy, which regards human wellness and illness as biographical events connected to the body, mind and spirit of the individual. It often incorporates physical and artistic therapies, and biographical counselling. Anthroposophic medicine was founded in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner in conjunction with Ita Wegman.
According to its practitioners, anthroposophic medicine uses a holistic approach ("salutogenesis") that seeks to support the preconditions for health by strengthening the patient's physiology and individuality, as well as addressing the specific factors that cause disease. The self-determination, autonomy and dignity of patients is a central theme. Practitioners believe the therapies enhance a patient's capacities to heal. Conventional medical treatments, including surgery and medications, are employed as necessary,[when?] and anthroposophical physicians must have a conventional medical education, including a degree from an established and certified medical school, as well as post-graduate study. There are currently anthroposophic medical practices in 80 countries worldwide.
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Skeptics, including many scientists and mainstream medical doctors, regard anthroposophic medicine as unscientific, pseudoscientific, "a system of medicine that extends medical science into the realm of the spiritual", and quackery due to its incorporation of objectively unverifiable ideas such as patients' "karmic destiny".
Key concepts 
Anthroposophic medicine seeks to extend, not replace, mainstream Western medicine. Its practitioners do not regard it as an "alternative", but as an extension, to conventional science-based medicine:
Anthroposophic medicine is based on Steiner's concept that spiritual awareness is the foundation of individual health and of the health of society. Steiner believed that many of the oldest systems of healing, such as traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, and Tibetan medicine, were based on a spiritual perception of the world that modern science has lost. Steiner wanted medicine to get back in touch with spirituality, and at the same time keep and use wisely the gains that science and technology have made. Thus, conventional medicine needed to be extended beyond physical science to include a holistic spiritual science.
—"Anthroposophic medicine", AltMD , 
- Physical constitution;
- Life or etheric body, sometimes considered to be analogous to chi or prana;
- The physio-psychological organization (also called the astral body), understood as the bearer of both the emotional or psychological state (affect), and of consciousness;
- The 'ego', source of the self-reflection and free will that co-form the patient's biography.
Each of these is considered to have an influence on a patient's health.
In particular, anthroposophic medicine raises the question of a chronic or acute illness' significance in the biography of the patient: in what ways does the illness express, or appear as a result of, what is happening in the patient's life; and in what way does it open up or close down life paths? The events of an illness are considered to constitute decisive decision points in the patient's life: through overcoming an illness a patient may open up biographical doors and/or develop aspects of his or her being that he or she might not otherwise have achieved. The medical goal is then not necessarily to restore the previous condition of the patient, which led to the illness, but rather to achieve a new and healthier condition. Biographical rhythms including seven-year phases of development are often considered in understanding the patient's path of life.
Practitioners believe that spending time with a patient is important to discern the most important factors about the patient, and that aspects of patients' well being are not helped by the rush; many doctors, both anthroposophic and conventional, are critical of the stresses on the medical system today that lead to rushing patients through.
Anthroposophic doctors try to minimize the use of antibiotics, antipyretics, pharmaceutical drugs, and vaccinations. In particular, some children treated by anthroposophic doctors are vaccinated only against tetanus and polio, while for others vaccinations may be given later than recommended by health authorities. Steiner believed that vaccination "interferes with karmic development and the cycles of reincarnation". When this was put into practice, it caused a pertussis outbreak in a waldorf school due to a lack of inocculation, causing the school to be temporarily closed.
To find remedies to treat a particular illness, anthroposophic medicine considers the nature of the source of the substances used. The character of a mineral, plant or animal is considered to have been formed by the substances that are most active within it. Thus this character may also reveal what the substance will accomplish when given to treat another organism. This is related to Samuel Hahnemann's Doctrine of signatures. Willow, for example, has an unusual character:
... plants that grow near water are usually heavy, with big, dark green leaves that wilt and break easily. An exception is... the white willow, a tree that always grows near water and loves light. However, unlike other "watery" plants, the willow has fine, almost dry leaves and looks very light... Its branches are unbelievably tough. They are elastic and cannot be broken. They bend easily and form "joints" rather than break. These few signatures can give us the clue to what salix can be used for therapeutically: arthritis, deformation of joints, swollen joints...—
There is no scientific evidence that the shape of plants has ever caused a new medical property to be discovered. The intent of the medical approach is to consider both the effective substances and the character (not just shape) of the mineral, plant or animal these substances are drawn from, however.
Steiner described the heart as not a mechanical device in which the heartbeat can be distinguished from the blood circulation. For Steiner, the heart was a regulator of flow, flow that in the blood of the circulatory system is, as Marinelli put it, "propelled with its own biological momentum, as can be seen in the embryo, and boosts itself with induced momenta from the heart".
Mistletoe treatment for cancer 
In 2005, a Swiss government study identified 178 clinical studies of anthroposophic medicine. For many treatments used in anthroposophic medicine, however, proofs of efficacy have not been made through strictly controlled medical testing.
The use of mistletoe extracts in the treatment of cancer was first proposed by Rudolf Steiner and developed by anthroposophic researchers; it is now probably the best-known anthroposophic therapy. Various forms of the extract are available in Central Europe, where the treatment regimens of up to two-thirds of all oncology patients includes mistletoe. The extracts are generally no longer used to reduce or inhibit tumor growth, but to improve the patients' quality of life and to reduce tumor-induced symptoms and the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy; a wide array of clinical studies support the efficacy of the treatment regimen for the latter purposes. There are also phytotherapeutic preparations using non-homeopathic doses of mistletoe; these should not be confused with the anthroposophic preparations.
In the United States, mistletoe "holds interest as a potential anticancer agent because extracts derived from it have been shown to kill cancer cells in vitro" but no forms of the extract have been approved by the FDA for any indications. Mistletoe extracts may not be distributed in or imported into the US except for the purpose of clinical research.
Although preclinical (animal) studies suggested a potential role for mistletoe extracts in cancer therapies, no such effects have been convincingly reported. Evidence for the efficacy of mistletoe as an anticancer drug from human studies is weak. double blinded studies have tended not to support this effect. Though numerous cohort studies and case series have reported tumor remission and regression, the cohort and case studies have been criticized as biased due to their small size and lack of double-blinding. The National Cancer Institute (US) suggests that many studies done on human beings have major weaknesses that raise doubts about the reliability of their findings; in some studies without such weaknesses no significant effect was found.
The institutes's position on mistletoe is: "Extracts of mistletoe have been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory and to boost the immune system (the complex group of organs and cells that defends the body against infection or disease). For this reason, mistletoe has been classified as a type of biological response modifier (a substance that stimulates the body's response to infection and disease). Extracts of mistletoe have also been shown in the laboratory to prevent the growth of new blood vessels needed for tumors to grow....At this time, there is not enough evidence to recommend the use of mistletoe as a treatment for cancer except in carefully designed clinical trials. These trials will give more information about whether mistletoe can be useful in treating certain types of cancer." 
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."
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). Laboratory experiments also hint that mistletoe increases the activity of lymphocytes, which are cells that attack invading organisms. "
Approximately 30 types of mistletoe extracts are used clinically; the most commonly used is known as Iscador. Mistletoe extracts are used to treat cancer patients in the Netherlands, 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. 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, subcutaneous inflammation.
The first steps towards an anthroposophic 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.
Modern history and prevalence of practice 
There are about 28 anthroposophic hospitals, departments of hospitals, rehabilitation centers and sanatoria located in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Italy, the USA and Brazil, as well as over 140 outpatient clinics worldwide. Four of the German and Swiss anthroposophic hospitals are state-sponsored; three are academic teaching hospitals under the aegis of nearby universities. Three European universities (Bern, Hamburg and Witten/Herdecke) have professorships in anthroposophic medicine and other universities offer courses on the field. Anthroposophic medicine is recognized in Germany as a "Special Therapy System", along with homeopathy and herbal medicine, under the Medicines Act and has its own committee at the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices. Anthroposophic medical treatment has been a recognized specialty within Swiss governmental health policy since 1999. The International Federation of Anthroposophic Medical Associations estimates that there are currently approximately 2,000 Anthroposophic doctors worldwide. Based on the number of prescriptions it has been estimated that anthroposophic medicinal products are prescribed by more than 30,000 physicians.
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- "As an extension of Western medicine, anthroposophic medicine builds on three preexisting movements and therapeutics....natural medicine or naturopathy...homeopathy...[and] modern scientific medicine." From "Alternative Systems of Medical Practice", in Alternative medicine:expanding medical horizons : a report to the National Institutes of Health on alternative medical systems and practices in the United States. Prepared under the auspices of the Workshop on Alternative Medicine, Chantilly, Virginia September 14-16, 1992, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md., 1995
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- Angaben zu Pflanzeninhaltsstoffen bei Rudolf Steiner. Merkurstab 1994; 47:561- 80
- Marinelli, R., Fuerst, B., et al. "The Heart is not a Pump: A refutation of the pressure propulsion premise of heart function", Frontier Perspectives 5(1), Fall-Winter 1995
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- Kaegi E, on behalf of the Task Force on Alternative Therapies of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative. Unconventional therapies for cancer: 3. Iscador. Canadian Medical Association 1998;158:1157-59., cited in BCCA
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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).
- 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
- Denjean, Barbara and von Bonin, Dietrich, Anthroposophical Therapeutic Speech ISBN 0-86315-418-2
- 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
- Medical Section at the Rudolf Steiner Archive, An Online Library
- Anthroposophic Medical Library, An Online Resource
- International Federation of Anthroposophic Medical Associations
- Physician's Association for Anthroposophic Medicine (North America)
- European Federation of Patients' Associations for Anthroposophic Medicine
- Anthroposophic Health and Social Care (Great Britain and Ireland)