CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Benefits of mantra meditation make mainstream headlines

Gingko? Forget about it! And other mysteries including the power of mantra.

NCCAM news:

The National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has added four new Centers of Excellence for Research on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CERCs) to its research centers program.

The new centers will add to knowledge about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) approaches and their potential in treating and preventing diseases and conditions that are common among Americans.

In NCCAM's CERC program, highly accomplished researchers across a variety of disciplines apply cutting-edge technology to projects in CAM.

A new book recommends simple movement to help fibromylagia:

Stacie L. Bigelow, Fibromyalgia: Simple Relief through Movement

* This book has some very practical and safe exercises for persons with chronic pain. It offers sound advice that can be carried out at home without expense. This disease is very debilitating and some of the exercise programs that we try to enforce in this...

* An excellent book on how to exercise if you suffer from Fibromyalgia. Offers specific strategies to reduce pain with a careful, gradual approach to movement & then exercise. Explains which movements & excercises to avoid, which one to try, how to deal...

* You might mention the fact that this author has suffered from fibromyalgia since teenagehood. That she writes from experience and knows exercises which are gentle enough to help without causing additional discomfort and pain makes this book a rare find....

Gingko failed a trial:

The dietary supplement Ginkgo biloba was found to be ineffective in reducing the development of dementia and Alzheimer's disease in older people, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association1. Researchers led by Steven T. DeKosky, M.D., formerly of the University of Pittsburgh, vice president and dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, conducted the trial known as the Ginkgo Evaluation of Memory (GEM) study at four clinical sites over the course of 8 years. GEM is the largest clinical trial ever to evaluate ginkgo's effect on the occurrence of dementia.

This research was co-funded by five components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH): National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM); National Institute on Aging (NIA); National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the Office of Dietary Supplements.

"We have made enormous progress in understanding the basic mechanisms involved in Alzheimer's disease, and we continue to pursue a vigorous program to translate what we know into the development and testing of new potential therapies for this devastating disease," said Richard Hodes, M.D., director of the NIA. "However, it is disappointing that the dietary supplement tested in this study had no effect in preventing Alzheimer's disease."

GEM enrolled 3,069 participants age 75 or older with normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment. Those with dementia were excluded from participation. After extensive medical and neuropsychological screening, participants were randomly assigned to receive twice-daily doses of either 120 milligrams of ginkgo extract or an identical-appearing placebo. The 240 milligrams daily dose of ginkgo was selected based on current dosage recommendations and prior clinical studies indicating possible effectiveness at this dose. The products used in the study were supplied by Schwabe Pharmaceuticals, a German company.

"According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, ginkgo is one of the top 10 natural products used by Americans," said Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., M.P.H., acting director of the Division of Extramural Research at NCCAM. "It is important to conduct studies and build the scientific evidence base regarding botanical supplements through rigorous research, such as the GEM trial."

The study was conducted primarily to determine if ginkgo would decrease the incidence of all types of dementia and, more specifically, reduce the incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Secondarily, the study evaluated ginkgo for its effects on overall cognitive decline, functional disability, incidence of cardiovascular disease and stroke, and total mortality. The primary endpoint was the diagnosis of dementia as determined by an expert panel of clinicians using standard criteria for diagnosis. The patients with a diagnosis of dementia underwent magnetic resonance imaging scans to determine their dementia type.

"The results of this study confirm the importance of randomized trials in the development of new therapies for dementia and Alzheimer's disease and in determining therapeutic benefit not only for conventional therapies but also complementary therapies like ginkgo," said Dr. DeKosky, principal investigator on the GEM study. "If older patients are considering using ginkgo for preventing dementia, I urge them to speak with their health care providers about the results of this study and work together to create the best treatment plan."

Study participants were followed for an average of approximately 6 years (maximum of just over 7 years). During the study, 523 participants were diagnosed with dementia, 246 in the placebo group and 277 in the ginkgo group. Thus, ginkgo showed no overall effect for reducing all types of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. In addition, in analyzing safety data, the GEM study did not find significant adverse effects from ginkgo, in particular there was no evidence for increased bleeding risk in persons taking ginkgo.

Cognitive status was known for more than 93 percent of all participants at the end of the trial and 60 percent of active participants were taking their assigned study medication. There was no difference in adherence to taking medication between the ginkgo group and the placebo group.

"While this study revealed that ginkgo does not have an effect on reducing dementia in the study population, it does provide us with important information about how to design and conduct large dementia prevention trials in older adults" said Dr. Jeff Williamson, a geriatrician and principal investigator of the GEM Clinical Coordinating Center at Wake Forest University. "Future analyses will provide us with additional information on ginkgo's possible effects on cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression and other age-related conditions. We are especially grateful to the more than 3,000 older adults who dedicated many hours to helping us answer the important questions addressed by GEMS."

The GEM results will prove useful in determining how many participants are needed in future trials to provide clinically significant measures on outcomes such as occurrence of dementia. Future analysis of this study may also identify subgroups of these participants who may be at greater risk for developing dementia.

Data analysis for the trial was overseen by the University of Washington, Seattle and the four GEM institutions that participated in this study were

* University of Pittsburgh
* Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C.
* Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.
* University of California, Davis

Transcendental meditation, which helped me through my Wall Street law practice, seems to be getting more supportive research:

A new scientific research study conducted at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine provides further evidence that people with high blood pressure can find relief through meditation--but the study also found that not all forms of meditation are equally effective. The study compared findings from research on several well-known types of meditation and relaxation practices, and found that the only mind/body practice that produces significant changes in blood pressure is the Transcendental Meditation technique.

According to a definitive new meta-analysis of 107 previous studies on stress reduction programs and high blood pressure, published in the American Journal of Hypertension (Vol. 21, 3: 310-316), the Transcendental Meditation technique was found to produce a statistically significant reduction in high blood pressure--an effect not found with other forms of relaxation, meditation, biofeedback or stress management.

Significant Reductions in Blood Pressure
The new meta-analysis reviewed randomized, controlled trials published in peer-reviewed scientific journals over the past decades concerning stress reduction and relaxation methods used by participants with high blood pressure. Blood pressure changes through the Transcendental Meditation technique included average reductions of 5.0 points of systolic and 2.8 points of diastolic blood pressure, changes which were statistically significant, according to the review. These changes associated with Transcendental Meditation practice were consistent with other controlled studies showing reductions in cardiovascular risk factors, improved markers of heart disease, and reduced mortality rates among participants in the Transcendental Meditation program.

Transcendental Meditation "equivalent to adding a second hypertensive agent"
"The magnitude of the changes in blood pressure with the Transcendental Meditation technique are at least as great as the changes found with major changes in diet or exercise that doctors often recommend," said Dr. James Anderson, principal author of the study. "Yet the Transcendental Meditation technique does not require changes in lifestyle. Thus many patients with mild hypertension or prehypertension may be able to avoid the need to take blood pressure medications--all of which have adverse side effects. Individuals with more severe forms of hypertension may be able to reduce the number or dosages of their BP medications under the guidance of their doctor."

Dr. Anderson stated further: "Adding Transcendental Meditation is about equivalent to adding a second hypertensive agent to one's current regiment, only safer and less troublesome."

Reduced Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke
Anderson added that long-term changes in blood pressure of this magnitude are associated with at least a 15 percent reduction in rates of heart attack and stroke. "This is important to everyone because cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. and worldwide," Anderson said. The study's biostatistician, Maxwell Rainforth, assistant professor of Physiology and Health Statistics at Maharishi University of Management, said the meta-analysis used state-of-the-art statistical methods to review 107 published studies in the field of stress reduction, relaxation and blood pressure. "The twenty-three separate studies included in the final analysis met well-known criteria for high scientific quality. That is, these studies used repeated blood pressure measurements and participants were randomized to either a stress reduction technique or placebo-type control for at least eight weeks. The data we used are all published in peer-reviewed scientific journals," Rainforth said.

Side Benefits of TM vs. side effects of drugs
According to Dr. Robert Schneider, director of the Institute of Natural Medicine and Prevention and co-author, this rigorously conducted meta-analysis indicates that the Transcendental Meditation technique is distinctively effective compared to other scientifically studied techniques in lowering high blood pressure. "For those 100 million Americans with elevated blood pressure, here is a scientifically documented, yet simple and easy way to lower blood pressure without drugs and harmful side effects. In addition, related studies show an integrated set of positive 'side benefits,' such as reduced stress, reduced heart disease levels and longer lifespan with this technique to restore balance in the cardiovascular system, mind and body," Schneider said.

Overturns a previous study on meditation
The new meta-analysis was co-authored by researchers at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, in Louisville, and at the NIH-funded Institute of Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Iowa.

According to Dr. Anderson, the findings of this new study rebut a July 2007 report sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the NIH-National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which concluded that most research on meditation is low quality and found little evidence that any specific stress reduction effectively lowers blood pressure.

The new meta-analysis identified all high quality meditation studies published through 2006 and rigorously analyzed their results, which the previous government report failed to do. Anderson said the new meta-analysis includes only high quality studies on all available stress reduction interventions. The studies on the Transcendental Meditation technique were conducted at five independent universities and medical institutions, and the majority of them were funded by competitive grants from the National Institutes of Health.

As CNN puts it, "Just say om:"

Researchers like Dr. Charles Raison, a psychiatrist at the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, are convinced that meditation serves an important purpose.

"All the studies aren't perfect, but there is more and more data suggesting that meditation is useful for reducing stress responses," said Raison, who is also CNNhealth's mental health expert doctor.

Too much stress puts wear and tear on your body and damages your health, he said.

Even simple meditation techniques such as saying a mantra in your head or watching your breath can make a big difference.

"Relaxing your body will actually turn down your heart rate. It turns down your blood pressure," Raison said. "We've shown that certain types of meditation will actually lower this inflammatory response to stress, which is undoubtedly a big player in heart disease."

Raison isn't the only fan of alternative healing as a means of stress reduction.

Another is Dr. Brent Bauer, director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

"We completely underestimate the severity of stress and the impact on our health," Bauer said. "When you look at what stress does to us, it reduces our immune function, it delays wound healing ... and raises the risk of heart disease."

Healing Seekers and a partnership with an ecological company:

Healing Seekers LLC, a multimedia project that promotes awareness of traditional medicinal therapies and explores their potential for present-day treatments, has entered into a collaboration with Inquiring Systems Inc., a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) corporation in Sonoma, Calif. Inquiring Systems provides ethical and sustainable ecosystem management services to nonprofit organizations, community-based projects, selected value-driven for-profit entities, government agencies and supported projects throughout the world.

Under the collaboration, Inquiring Systems will serve as an agent for business management and financial development activities to enable and sustain project activity by Healing Seekers LLC as it explores, discovers and aids in awareness and application of diverse healing and medical traditions.

Amy Greeson, the Founder and President of Healing Seekers, said, "We are excited about our new partnership with Inquiring Systems, whose mission of ethical and sustainable maintenance of the ecosystem is a perfect complement to that of Healing Seekers.' Inquiring Systems has a long, established track record as a leader in translating well-intentioned ideas into practical, sustainable solutions. We look forward to its expertise and insight, especially as we pursue our anticipated expedition to New Guinea in 2009."

Dr. S. Loren Cole, the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Inquiring Systems Inc., said, "We were drawn to the ethical philosophy and vision of Amy and her team as they continue to explore new frontiers in integrative medicine and centuries-old healing traditions. Healing Seekers' pioneering efforts in medical and medicinal exploration can have tremendous global implications for the treatment of illness and disease, and we're pleased to play a role in its journey of discovery."

For more information about Healing Seekers, contact Greeson at 336-870-0294 or amy@healingseekers.com. Contributions to Healing Seekers in support of its mission and projects are tax-deductible.

About Healing Seekers LLC
Healing Seekers LLC (Amy Greeson LLC dba Healing Seekers) is a multimedia project that explores remote regions of the world in search of therapies, plants and other living organisms that represent centuries-old medical traditions. Healing Seekers, based in High Point, N.C., is a project of Inquiring Systems, Inc., a California nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation founded in 1978.

Healing Seekers was founded in 2006 by Amy Greeson, a registered pharmacist of about 20 years who specializes in integrative medicine. Healing Seekers LLC has education as the basis of its mission: Through compelling film and interactive products, it endeavors to raise public awareness about the origins of medicine, recognize ancient medical traditions and highlight the importance of preserving global environments. Ultimately, Healing Seekers aims to be a catalyst for exploration and discovery of new cures for disease.

Healing Seeker's Web site is www.healingseekers.com.

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