Mind Body Medicine Pioneers

By Val Silver

What do John Sarno, Herbert Benson, Bruce Lipton, Candice Pert, and Rye Hamer have in common? They are all pioneers in the field of mind body medicine that have challenged the status quo to bring holistic health and healing to the masses.

Mind body medicine has a history that goes back many thousands of year, but until the last forty years or so, the idea and practice of mind body healing was overshadowed by conventional medicine in the west. Thanks to the work of these five doctors and researchers, and many others, science has been able to catch up with the concept and practices of healing the whole person that humans have known intuitively all along.

What were once thought of as diseases originating in the physical body, may now seen as diseases triggered by the psyche. Not surprisingly, healing can also originate from the mind with no real medical intervention.

Once thought of as the domain of 'new agers',  prominent physicians have come to the forefront of mind body healing. They have opened the way for others to join their ranks as holistic physicians. These doctors, and the patients they serve, have come to realize that there is a better way to provide health care than treating parts and dispensing drugs. 

With the help of  modern technology, these pioneering doctors are proving that not only is there a connection between mind and body, but that it is virtually impossible to separate the two. 

Quite by accident, pharmaceutical companies have also been significant contributors to the study of mind body medicine.

During pharmaceutical drug studies and medical treatment studies, researchers have to account for the seemingly random and uncontrollable healing power of the mind, which accounts for at least one-third of all improvements reported by participants  in these studies.

Dr. Herbert Benson - The Relaxation Response

Cardiologist Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School was one of the first American doctors to break away from the mold and focus on stress as a factor in illness and to bring the spiritual practice of meditation as a way to relax mind and body. He released his bestseller, The Relaxation Response in the 1970's (updated 2009), bringing the concept of body mind health into the public eye. Dr. Benson explained how relaxation techniques had the opposite affects of the stress response and helped correct certain health conditions.

His research led to findings about how the mind body connection could be accessed using techniques such as biofeedback to help people relax and be healthier. Harvard now houses the Mind Body Medical Institute.

Dr. Ryke Geerd Hamer - German New Medicine

Dr. Hamer practiced conventional medicine in Germany until he was faced with his own health challenge. He developed testicular cancer three months after his son's tragic death. He was suspicious of this coincidence and began researching the personal histories of thousands of cancer patients to see if they had experienced some shock or trauma before becoming ill.

Based on his extensive research, Dr. Hamer concluded that disease is only brought about when we are not prepared for the shock or distressing event we experience. When the distress is resolved, mind body healing occurs and the body can return to its normal state.

Like other medical pioneers, Dr. Hamer was ridiculed for his work and developing a form of mind body medicine called German New Medicine. His methods are gaining some acceptance and have been made more accessible to laymen thanks to its offshoot, MetaMedicine.

Cellular Biology - Bruce Lipton, PhD

Dr. Lipton was performing stem cell research in the 1970's when he observed that the genes in the petrie dish behaved differently depending on the environment within their petri dishes. The DNA sequence did not change, but how the genes expressed themselves did. The cell may have begun as a muscle cell, but it could become any other kind of cell.

His work contributed to the study of epigenetics, which challenged conventional thought about how genes affect our health. The word epigenetics means 'over the genes'. This means that, with the exception of inborn genetic defects, your health is not primarily predetermined by your genes,  but by your environment and your consciousness

Dr. Lipton explains epigenetics in this way. He says,

"genes are the 'blueprints' for the body's construction and epigenetic mechanisms resemble a contractor that can select and modify the gene blueprints to fit the perceived needs of the body."

With the environment of genes being determined by your mental state and lifestyle choices, the possibilities for positively affecting your DNA through mind body medicine is enormous.

Dr. John Sarno - Rehabilitative Medicine


Another famous holistic physician is Dr. Sarno, professor of clinical rehabilitation medicine at New York University School of Medicine, and attending physician at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University Medical Center. He authored three books including The Mind Body Prescription.

Dr. Sarno is probably best known in the world of mind body medicine for his work with back pain. He theorizes that most back pain has mind body origins, most notably from stress. 

This phenomenon, known as tension myositis syndrome, occurs when muscle tension from rage, stored negative emotions and other self-induced stress limits oxygen to the muscles. This oxygen deprivation can result in may pain in the lower back, upper back, neck, knees and feet. 

Dr. Sarno claims a 70% success rate for curing severe musculo-skeletal pain without medical procedures. His mind body therapy consists of guiding people to examine their emotions. His patients ask themselves, "I wonder what I am angry or anxious about?" He found that it is important to observe and flow with the feeling with non-judgmental awareness and notes that the process may unfold over time.

Molecular Biology - Candice Pert, PhD

Dr. Pert gained notoriety and fame for her brain biochemistry research at the National Institute of Mental Health in the 1980's. Her work led to a new field of study called psychoneuroimmunology and her well known book, Molecules of Emotion,  which were met with great resistance and hostility, especially in the early years before other researchers made similar discoveries.

Psychoneuroimmunology is based on the idea that the mind and body, including the immune cells, glands, and nerve cells, constantly communicate information with each other through molecules that attach to specific cell receptors. These molecules, consisting of proteins called peptides, simultaneously affect body functions and emotional states.

Thanks to these five mind body medicine pioneers and others like them.

Because of leading edge physicians and researchers like them, the number of medical professionals bringing validity to mind body healing is rapidly growing.

American psychiatrist, George Engel developed his comprehensive biopsychosocial approach to help determine his patients level of holistic wellness.

Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt took integrative medicine into the 21st century with his focus on why and how mind body medicine can bring healing to the five levels of the human energetic field

Almost every holistic health or major magazine carries articles about the mind body connection and how it relates to certain medical conditions. Holistic doctors and licensed therapists using mind body techniques are spreading the word and building thriving practices.

Mind body medicine is slowly becoming integrated into modern medicine as doctor interest and patient demand grows.  Holistic practitioners and health and wellness coaches can also help you incorporate a holistic approach to your body mind health plan. It seems this is just the beginning of a new medical paradigm that could have great benefits for everyone.

Continue reading about the Mind Body Spirit Connection

For Educational Purposes Only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult with your health provider before using natural remedies and/or complementary therapies if you are pregnant, nursing, or you are being treated for a medical condition. Be aware that certain herbs and supplements interact with medications.

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