FULL DISCLOSURE - I have lymphoma and have been a patient of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for over three years, including a five month chemotherapy regimen. Besides being the author of this book, which is sub-titled "How to Enhance Your Body''s Natural...
FULL DISCLOSURE - I have lymphoma and have been a patient of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for over three years, including a five month chemotherapy regimen.
Besides being the author of this book, which is sub-titled "How to Enhance Your Body''s Natural Ability to Maintain and Heal Itself", who is Andrew Weil?
Well, he''s a Harvard graduate (Botany) and Harvard medical school graduate, did an internship and then basically dropped out of the standard or orthodox medical field. Spent the next twenty years or so traipsing around the world talking with various shamans, Chinese herbalists, gurus, etc.
And he''s gotten to be a very influential guy.
He has been a big proponent of natural therapies for the healing of maladies. While not opposed to allopathic or conventional medicine, Weil heavily criticizes the establishment for emphasizing "disease and it''s treatment, rather than health and it''s maintenance" (P. 65). He emphasizes natural healing and a variety of alternative therapies. In Weil''s view, the body heals itself, it is a "healing system." And the healing system is a functional system, "not an assemblage of structures that can be neatly diagrammed" (P. 65).
Of course this is a point that has been noted by many people, and is obvious to anyone who thinks about it. If you get a cut, the cut heals itself. My son''s currently broken ankle will mend itself; he has a cast on simply to protect the ankle from further damage. The cast doesn''t heal the break. And the overwhelming opinion is that most cancers heal themselves; our immune system is constantly destroying abnormal cells before they get to any size or we know they are there.
Weil makes a point (P. 110) that "Treatment originates outside you. Healing comes from within."
The book is 280 pages long and divided into three parts. The first section is entitled "The Healing System" and is filled with stories and cases of people who were healed by alternative therapies. Herbs, acupuncture, aromatherapy, certain forms of classic osteopathic medicine, visualization, mind-body interactions, stuff like that.
The second and third sections are entitled "Optimizing the Healing System" - what to do to maintain good health - and "If you get sick". Weil lays out a variety of programs of preventive care. Much of it pretty basic like don''t smoke and go for relaxing walks. And then stuff like using tonics and vitamins. The last section is a bit encyclopedic with short sections on various alternative approaches - Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ayurvedic medicine, imagery and visualization therapy, chiropractic, on and on.
What about cancer? Weil points to the three standard therapies, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, with strong reservations on the latter two. Too much of a bludgeon approach, with chemotherapy especially having possible deleterious effects on other body systems. He suggests that the ultimate "cure" for cancer will come when we figure out how to "turn on" the immune system to attack and destroy the cancer cells, which somehow escaped or inoculated themselves from the body''s immune system. As mentioned above, the standard opinion now is that most cancers develop due to an immune system failure. I think his opinion on the ultimate cancer cure is pretty much the standard opinion in the conventional medical establishment.
Of course the whole problem with Weil''s approaches - diet, herbs, aromatherapy, "healing touch", is that there is scarcely any real scientific evidence for the efficacy of any of these approaches. It''s all anecdotal. Where are the double blind studies, the comparisons between groups - all the studies that can lend credence to the anecdotes?
Weil admits there aren''t many studies, and urges the studies be done. And as one of my physicians said to me, "There are no scientific studies. On the other hand, 2,000 years of Traditional Chinese Medicine has to have something to it."
As you can imagine, Weil has some really strident critics in the medical fraternity. No sense going there in this review.
What do I think? Well, Weil is not just another New Age Wacko. Not that I''ll be trading my Sloan Kettering doctors for aromatherapy any time soon. BUT I have started taking an immune system support capsule that Weil recommends (I figure it can''t hurt - got it at Shoprite) as well as taking glucosamine chondroitin three times a day for my joints, rather then just the occasional pill.