The Edwin Smith papyrus: written in Egypt in 1600 BC, it is the oldest surviving surgical document.


Anthroposophic medicine grew out of the belief that health is a matter of the whole person, not merely an absence of injury or disease.

Anthroposophic medicine at its core is a response to a reductionism in medicine – that is, the idea that health can be understood by examining only isolated parts of a system, its chemical or cellular interactions and their resulting symptoms. Anthroposophic medical practitioners instead view their patients as whole people, with lifestyle, social and spiritual dimensions that contribute as much to their overall well-being as their physical symptoms or injuries.

Anthroposophic medicine has its origins in the wider Anthroposophic movement developed by Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Anthroposophy aims to expand scientific processes to increase understanding of the spiritual and social dimensions that it views as equally important to human beings. Anthroposophy has practical applications in several fields, including: Waldorf education, where analytical thinking is taught alongside activities to foster creativity, imagination and ethics; biodynamic agriculture, which emphasises ecologically-friendly practices, such as using local plant varietals, crop diversification, and avoidance of chemical fertilizers and pesticides; architecture, most notably in the Goetheaneum building in Switzerland; and, more recently, responsible banks and financial institutions that aim to achieve positive social and environmental returns alongside economic returns.  

German scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner in 1905.
Dutch physician Ida Wegman in 1899.

Anthroposophic medicine in particular was developed in 1920 through a collaboration between Steiner and Dutch physician Ita Wegman. Several small anthroposophic hospitals were set up in Switzerland and Germany in 1921, followed by further development of therapies, techniques, and medicines.

In 1925, Wegman and Steiner published the book Fundamentals of Therapy [pdf], which endorsed the scientific principles of conventional medical practice but laid out a way to glean additional insights and enhance health outcomes by understanding a patient as not merely a body, but also an individual with a life, a soul and a spirit [see Therapeutic Approach for more detail].

Between 1925 and 2000, anthroposophic medical therapies continued to be developed and to gain popularity, primarily within Europe. The German Medicine Act of 1976 legally recognised anthroposophic medicine as a therapy system; it was later incorporated into the national health systems of other countries, including Switzerland and Brazil.

Since 2000, anthroposophic medicine has begun to gain popularity worldwide, with interest increasing not only in clinical practice but also in scientific research and publication.

In 2009, the World Health Organization adopted a resolution [pdf] that recognized “traditional medicine” as a resource that could improve “health outcomes, including those in the Millennium Development Goals.” A subsequently published 2014-2033 WHO strategy noted that expanding access to traditional, complementary and integrative medical therapies (including anthroposophic medicine) could help combat escalating levels of illness and health care costs worldwide.

Currently, the IVAA and others are part of a growing global movement to further increase the recognition of anthroposophic medicine into national health systems, to improve access to anthroposophic treatments and therapies and to improve the health of their citizens.