Anthroposophic medicine is a medical direction in which the human being as an individual stands in the foreground. It includes, among other things, natural-philosophical and religious elements and describes itself as a supplement to conventional medicine.

Anthroposophy is also called “science of man”. This not only looks at people from a scientific point of view, but also takes into account mental and spiritual aspects.

The Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1865-1925) is considered the founder of anthroposophic medicine, which he developed in 1920 together with the doctor Ita Wegmann.

What exactly is anthroposophic medicine?

Anthroposophic medicine fundamentally recognizes scientific methods . Unlike traditional medicine, however, illness and symptoms are not reduced to physical dysfunction. The doctrine comprehends the essence of man as an interaction of body, soul and spirit.

In the diagnosis and treatment of diseases not only the measurable findings, but also the general constitution and the individual life situation of the patient are considered. In general, anthroposophic medicine does not want to replace conventional medicine, but only to expand humanities knowledge and healing methods.

According to anthroposophic medicine, man consists of four levels (essences) that are in a balanced relationship. The levels are called the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body and the anthroposophical ego.

Diseases are therefore processes that arise when the interactions between the levels can no longer seamlessly intermesh and a level gains the upper hand. Each disease is considered at all four levels and is unique in its severity. For this reason, the treatment of a disease can never be sweeping, but must always be tailored to the individual patient.

Who treats according to the principles of anthroposophic medicine?

In Germany, about 1,200 practicing doctors practice additional training in anthroposophic medicine. The Society of Anthroposophic Doctors in Germany (GAÄD), however, assumes that anthroposophic medicines and treatments are being prescribed by far more doctors. It is estimated that around 2,000 to 3,000 doctors could be described as “anthroposophically oriented”.

The training in anthroposophic medicine is based on regular medical studies and specialist training. In addition to their conventional scientific and medical training, the doctors who practice anthroposophic medicine also learn a Goethean methodology based on Goethe, which is used to record the processes of life. Then there is the study of anthroposophical spiritual science and its research methods as well as the training of artistic skills and basic knowledge in eurythmy therapy and artistic therapy. The training period is at least three years in theory and practice.

In addition, there are around 15 acute hospitals and rehabilitation clinics that treat patients according to anthroposophic and medical principles. A number of nursing homes, hospices and nursing services also work according to their holistic approaches. At the University of Witten-Herdecke there is a chair for anthroposophic medicine, medical theory and integrative medicine. Two vocational training centers each for state-recognized health and nursing staff as well as geriatric nurses train on the basis of anthroposophic care.

Anthroposophic medicines and treatment methods

Anthroposophic medicine does not see itself as an alternative to conventional medicine, but as complementary complementary medicine . In addition to general medical and primary care, anthroposophic medicine encompasses all medical disciplines from surgery to internal medicine, paediatrics, oncology, women’s and obstetrics, neurology and psychiatry.

The diagnosis and treatment of diseases relies on both the cutting edge of modern medicine. Conventional drugs, imaging, surgical techniques and laboratory tests are part of the medical standard. In addition, doctors and therapists implement anthroposophic medical approaches that focus on the individuality of the patient.

Thus, the conventional treatment is supplemented by various natural remedies from vegetable, mineral, animal or metallic substances. These remedies are often available as homeopathic remedies , for example as glucose beads or tablets.

An important component of anthroposophic medicine is eurythmy therapy, in which the patient finds a healthy rhythm with the help of special movements and improves his muscle tone. Other focal points in the treatment of diseases are art therapy and biography work.

The patient as a partner of the doctor

The goal of all approaches is to stimulate the body’s own self-healing powers so that the organism can heal or alleviate the disease on its own. In addition, the patient should be taught what body, mind and soul need to stay permanently healthy. Anthroposophic medicine generally sees the patient as an active partner involved in his recovery process.

Application areas and costs

Representatives of anthroposophic medicine use this method for all acute and chronic complaints . For particularly serious illnesses, such as HIV and AIDS, multiple sclerosis or mental disorders, anthroposophic medicine can be used alongside therapy.

Mistletoe therapy, a separate form of therapy for anthroposophic medicine, plays a major role in the treatment of cancer patients . Rudolf Steiner used extracts from the parasitic plant to counteract tumor diseases. Among other things, it contains substances that kill cancer cells and also stimulate the immune system. There is no reliable proof of efficacy, it could only be shown that mistletoe treatment can improve the quality of life in cancer patients. 

Admittedly, mistletoe therapy is licensed for the concomitant treatment of cancer . However, the statutory health insurance companies cover the costs only if patients suffer from incurable cancer and the mistletoe preparations should improve their quality of life. As adjuvant, concomitant cancer therapy, for example, to reduce the side effects of radiation or chemotherapy and to prevent the spread of cancer or prevent neovascularization, mistletoe preparations are no longer a statutory health insurance.

A number of statutory health insurance companies take over the costs of non-prescription medicines (such as homeopathy , phytotherapy , mistletoe therapy) and anthroposophic treatments, however, as a statutory benefit in whole or in part . Affected persons should inform themselves about the exact regulations at their cash register.