Introduction: Anthroposophic Medicine

Anthroposophic medicine is an integrative system that improves health outcomes through a holistic approach to treatment that includes physical, psychological and social health.

Anthroposophic medicine is an integrative approach to treatment that extends and enhances health outcomes by looking outside of isolated symptoms towards a more holistic conception of health. This conception includes physical, psychological and spiritual health, as well as the impact of a person’s environment and social context.

Anthroposophic medicine focuses on how to keep people healthy rather than on why they fall ill; this is called the “salutogenic” approach.

The anthroposophic medical approach is designed to complement conventional medicine. Anthroposophic medical doctors are qualified physicians who have received additional training to integrate anthroposophic medicine into their conventional practices.

Developed in the 1920s by Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner and Dutch physician Ita Wegman, anthroposophic medicine sought to expand the materialistic understanding of health and disease.

In the view of anthroposophic medicine, human health depends on the physical body; processes covering vitality and regeneration called ‘etheric organization’ or life forces; the emotional and instinctual part of the human being, called ‘astral organization’ or soul forces; and finally the capacity for thinking, individuality and sense of self, called ‘I-organization’. In other words, anthroposophic medical practitioners see the condition of a person’s physical body as only one element of health; the condition of a person’s self-healing capacity, soul, and spirit are equally important.

While the language often differs, conventional medical studies are increasingly supportive of this view. The link between individual lifestyle and health outcomes, for example, is well established in particular for non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer, or type 2 diabetes. And more recent research is beginning to establish a connection between physical and mental health and vice versa; for example, changes in gut microbiomes have been linked to psychological issues such as depression and anxiety. And loneliness and social isolation has been found to have profound impact on an individual’s likelihood of developing diseases or disease complications, including death.

Because the anthroposophic medical approach is aware of multiple pathways to illness or health, it is designed around a suite of interventions that act on those different pathways. These types of interventions are discussed in the section on anthroposophy’s therapeutic approach. Further reading about anthroposophic medicine, including peer reviewed studies, can be found here. An explanation of current key issues in anthroposophic care is available here.

The IVAA’s publication The System of Anthroposophic Medicine offers a comprehensive introduction and is available in English [pdf] as well as in Spanish and Russian.