Psychomedicine

July 5, 1974

Report Outline
Trend Toward ‘Whole Human’ Approach
Biofeedback: Mind-Body Links Revealed
New Assault on Psychosomatic Disorders
Receptivity to Exotic Medical Art Forms

Trend Toward ‘Whole Human’ Approach

The mystical interaction of mind and body in maintaining—or disrupting—human health was recognized intuitively long before the advent of modern medicine. So it would have been no surprise to the ancients to learn that certain men of science today are trying to “teach” patients how to relieve or cure physical ailments by concentrating their mental faculties on that goal. This remarkable process is known as “biofeedback,” a term redolent of the age of technology although its effects, if validated, are more suggestive of black magic. Nor would the ancients have been surprised to learn that other men of science are trying to reduce patients' mental and emotional miseries by dosing them with various miraculous potions or by cutting into their brains. Scientists call these measures “psychopharmacology” and “psychosurgery,” but despite the scientific non-menclature, these procedures also have mystic overtones.

Meanwhile, modern medicine is showing new respect for exotic therapeutic techniques developed outside the western tradition, which has relied mainly on “hard fact” knowledge provided by the scientific method. Scientists long have acknowledged the beneficial effects of herbal medicine used by primitive peoples, especially when the plant's chemical properties were assisted by the powers of “faith healing.” A number of medically useful modern drugs have been developed from herbal sources.

Respect for folk medicine was boosted 20 years ago when clinical trials proved the efficacy of the first tranquilizing drug, Reserpine, derived from a plant that had been used medicinally in India for more than 3,000 years. Now Western doctors are giving credence to evidence that acupuncture—practiced in China since 2500 B.C.—can suppress pain, even though science still cannot explain how or why it works.

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