00.00.0000 - History, research, literature, seminars: What is Mind-Body Medicine?

The Clinic of Complementary and Integrative Medicine in the Essen Central Clinic treats patients with methods of Mind-Body Medicine since 1999. The clinical treatment is accompanied by scientific evaluation and research since 2004, conducted by the Chair

Mind-Mody-Medicine (MBM) focuses on health-promoting interactions between the psyche, the immune and nervous systems and body functions. By encouraging and practicing cognitive processes and behavior modifications, it supports the ability of the organism to self-regulate and its ability to heal itself. It improves self-awareness and self-care and also addresses spiritual needs. In therapeutic practice it draws on self empowering elements of traditional therapies (e.g. yoga, tai chi, qigong, meditation) and modern relaxation techniques like Progressive Muscle Relaxation and on ways of cultiviating awareness such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, imagery, and cognitive behavior modification. In addition MBM also includes diet, exercise and social support as an integral parts of a healthy life style. There is a thematic overlap with naturopathic life style medicine (Ordnungtherapie), which in our clinical practise adds a naturopathic perspective and naturopathic methods to MBM. These include Kneipp therapies, the use of herbs, wrappings, ointments and acupressure, all of which enable health-promoting regulatory processes in the body and psyche. MBM  interventions are frequently practiced in group settings, fostering social support. All mind-body therapies aim at the development of self-perception and self-regulation. They are both used to ease acute symptoms as well as to strengthen the resources for long term healing and health by promoting a health promoting life style.

In all traditional healing systems the connection or interrelation between mind and body is given great importance. But with the mechanistic orientation of academic medicine since the industrial revolution this perspective had receded into the background. During the mechanistic phase of scientific medicine mind and body were seen separately. Research on stress, psychosomatic phenomena and psycho-immunology started to acknowledge and investigate the complex relationships between body, mind and the nervous system again. The American rheumatologist George Solomon, for example, discovered in the 1960s that rheumatoid arthritis worsened when the patient suffered from depression. He began to investigate the association between inflammatory diseases, the immune system and emotions (see mind-body medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/mind-body-000355.htm).

In the 1970s the American cardiologist Herbert Benson began to investigate the influence of meditation on cardiovascular disease. As one of the pioneers of mind-body medicine, he founded at Harvard University in Boston, the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body-Medicine. The focus of his work is the "relaxation response" that has its roots in stress research. Benson was able to show that the physical reactions to danger or psychological stress could be reversed by specific meditative exercises by regularly eliciting the so-called "relaxation response". It leads, for example, to a change in metabolism to a slower heartbeat, muscle relaxation and to lower blood pressure.

Around the same time the American molecular biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn developed his program Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Core of his program is stress management through intentionally focussed attention and the development, practice and stabilization of  mindfulness in everyday life.

In the U.S. all major hospitals and university clinics now have set up separate departments for Mind-Body Medicine. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), part of the National Institutes of Health NIH, sees MBM as a separate component of complementary medicine and provides substantial research funds. (Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/mindbody).

In Germany, clinical MBM was established at the naturopathy department of Kliniken Essen-Mitte in 1999. Since 2004 we hold the endowed Chair for Naturopathy and

Integrative Medicine at the University of Duisburg-Essen now teaching hospital. In our clinic for internal medicine we offer MBM interventions both for in-patients as well as for out-patients. Since 2010 cooperations with the oncological departments of Kliniken Essen-Mitte  are established in order to offer MBM and naturopathy to cancer patients.

Other German centers with similar approaches to MBM are led by former colleagues at the Immanuel Hospital in Berlin, Teaching Hospital of the Charité University Hospital as well as at the Institute for Mind-Body-Medicine (IMBM) in Potsdam and at the Competence Center for Complementary Medicine and Naturopathy (KoKoNat) Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technical University Munich.


Scientific evidence for the effectiveness of MBM is constantly growing, so that the

Association of the Scientific Medical Societies in Germany (AWMF) has included it now into the guidelines for the treatment of ulcerative colitis and breast cancer.


With the increase of lifestyle-related, often chronic diseases in the industrialized

countries, the subject of prevention through the promotion of healthy lifestyles rapidly gains

importance. In this context MBM interventions, which aim at the training and cultivation of self-regulatory and self-healing skills and behaviors are increasingly included into preventive programs for both individuals as well as within the so-called setting approach in the

context of health promotion in businesses, schools, kindergartens etc. Many of these interventions are financed or reimbursed by the public health insurances according to § 20, SGB V.

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