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The best-selling books of Andrew Weil, "the guru of alternative medicine," (San Francisco Examiner) offer a comprehensive blend of traditional and alternative methods that help to achieve better health in the modern world.
Dr. Andrew Weil’s groundbreaking handbook for people who want to take control of their lives and their health, Health and Healing presents the full spectrum of alternative healing practices, including holistic medicine, homeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic, and Chinese medicine, and outlines how they differ from conventional approaches. The philosophical basis for his work in integrative medicine and optimum health, Health and Healing draws on Weil’s own vast clinical and personal experience, as well as on case studies from around the world.
|Publisher:||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.77(d)|
About the Author
Andrew Weil, M.D., has degrees in biology and medicine from Harvard University. Author of the best-selling Spontaneous Healing and Eight Weeks to Optimum Health, he traveled the world experiencing and studying healers and healing systems and has earned an international reputation as an expert on alternative medicine, mind-body interactions, and medical botany. He is the associate director of the Division of Social Perspectives in Medicine and the director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Date of Birth:June 8, 1942
Place of Birth:Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Education:B.A. in Biology, Harvard University, 1964; M.D., Harvard Medical School, 1968
Read an Excerpt
A Homeopathic Cure?
In February of 1980, while on a business trip to Berkeley, California, I had a sudden attack of a pain I had never before experienced. It started in the center of my chest and eventually radiated to the center of my back, left shoulder, throat, and right lower jaw. The pain was steady, with a penetrating, boring quality. It was associated with a feeling of difficulty in swallowing, as if something were lodged in the very bottom of my esophagus. There were no other symptoms.
The first episode came out of the blue in the evening, two hours after eating a regular meal, when I was relaxing after a stressful day. The pain was unrelieved by drinking water, eating, or doing anything else simple I could think of. It lasted two hours, then subsided as I lay down to sleep. The next morning it was gone.
My anxiety about this experience was as great as the actual discomfort. I was then thirty-seven and in good health, but as a nonbeliever in regular physical examinations, had not had a general medical checkup in four years. Moreover, my training and background as a physician have made me reluctant to go to doctors or hospitals except for real emergencies. I have practiced paying attention to my body, diagnosing my own problems, and treating them myself whenever I can. As a result of this practice, I have become a sharp observer of changes in my body, usually detecting illnesses at very early stages and having a good sense of their nature.
In this case my intuition gave me some hunches but left a lot of questions. I was quite sure the pain came from my digestive system, probably from the upper end of it. If I'd had to guess, I would have said it arose from the upper part of the stomach or near the junction of the esophagus and stomach. It had some of the quality of the heartburn I'd had years before in college and medical school when I ate poorly and was much less caring of my body, but it was stronger and seemed to me to indicate a potentially serious problem. The main question was, would it recur?
It did, about a week later, when I was in New York City, again on business and again during a stressful time. The second episode started in the morning, just after eating a light breakfast. It got so bad, I had to lie down and give up trying to work on an article I wanted to finish writing. This time I tried taking an antacid — baking soda was the only one available in the apartment I was staying in. It helped for a few minutes, but the pain quickly returned, more persistent and penetrating than ever. It lasted most of the morning, finally disappearing around noon. Eating lunch did not reactivate it.
In the next week, it recurred three times, generally lasting longer and making me steadily more anxious. Now there was no doubt that something was wrong.
For many men of my age and their doctors, pain in the chest can be especially alarming as a symptom of heart disease. My intuitive sense that the pain came from my digestive tract was strong enough to allay any fears I had about my heart. To be absolutely sure, I went for a run during one occurrence of the pain and satisfied myself that it had no correlation with exertion. My heart and lungs behaved normally. I could also find no correlation with time of day or with intake of any particular kind or quantity of food or drink. Nor could I find an effective method to get relief.
After these distressing recurrences, I returned home to Arizona, and the symptom went away. For two weeks I had not a twinge of it. Then, suddenly, it started up again, once waking me up from sleep at night, once lasting all day, and once starting within minutes of finishing a carbonated drink and reaching a new level of intensity.
Running over all the possibilities I could think of, I came up with five, none of them cheering. The first and strongest was ulcer, but ulcer pain should be relieved by eating and antacids; this was not. Also, intuition tells me I am not an ulcer type. Thesecond possibility was hiatal hernia, in which a portion of the stomach protrudes upward through the diaphragm around the esophagus. That condition is usually accompanied by other signs of indigestion and is relieved by lying down with the upper part of the body elevated. I had no other digestive symptoms and got no relief from changes in position. A third possibility was gall bladder disease, but gall bladder pain usually comes regularly after eating, is more common at night, and rarely lasts more than three hours. My pain had no consistent relationship to meals, was long lasting, and was more frequent in daytime.
A fourth possibility was some sort of parasite in the upper intestinal tract. I had made a number of visits to the South American tropics and had not been tested for parasites in a long time. I liked this possibility best, because it would be an external cause, easily treated. I knew the location of the pain and absence of intestinal symptoms were against it, but I eagerly submitted stool samples to a laboratory for examination. They were consistently negative for parasites. Finally, a pancreatic problem was a possibility, although an exceedingly slim one, and, again, intuition told me that was not it.
I still was not ready to go to a doctor, because I did not (or did not want to) consider the problem a real emergency. Instead, I talked it over with a friend who was finishing a medical internship at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center. I had met him when I lectured to his freshman medical school class and had become friends with him over his student years. I trusted his book knowledge of orthodox medicine, since it was much fresher than mine.
My friend felt that ulcer was the most likely answer, that I should try aggressive treatment with strong antacids and submit to diagnostic X-rays if the pain continued. It did continue, and strong antacids did not affect it. Reluctantly, I decided to consult a gastroenterologist. Six weeks had passed since the first occurrence. The episodes were now more frequent and more severe. I could find no remedy, and I had no clear understanding of what was wrong. I try to act as my own physician, as I have said, but in so doing I stay very aware of the limits of my knowledge and experience. This problem was out of the range of my previous experience and lay beyond those limits.
My intern friend recommended a gastroenterologist he likedboth professionally and personally. I made an appointment for a few days hence and resigned myself to being a patient.
On the day I went to his hospital office I had no pain. I recited my story to the doctor, precisely describing the symptom and my sense of it. He listened, examined me briefly, then told me his opinion. He said I had given him almost a textbook description of the pain of esophageal spasm: an episodic constriction of the muscular tube that carries food to the stomach. The spasm occurs near the junction with the stomach and is often of unknown cause. It is not usually associated with any more serious pathology of the gastrointestinal tract and can be alleviated, if not eliminated, by adjusting diet, experimenting with antacids and changes in position, and other methods. The gastroenterologist sent me to have an electrocardiogram to make sure I had no heart problem (I didn't), then wrote out a requisition to the X-ray department for a barium swallow, in order to prove the diagnosis of esophageal spasm.
Drinking a preparation of barium sulfate makes the esophagus visible on X-ray. I would have to wait until I was having the pain to take this test; only then would any constriction in the esophagus be apparent. If it did not show up, it might be brought out by adding some hydrochloric acid to the barium to simulate irritation from stomach acid. An instruction for this procedure was included in the X-ray requisition.
I left the hospital in better spirits than I had been in for weeks. My condition had a name. It was not nearly as serious as ulcer or most of the other possibilities I had considered. I did not have to go through extensive diagnostic tests, and the treatments did not sound horrible. Best of all, my intuition was confirmed: the pain originated just where I thought it did. I had no doubt the barium swallow would confirm the presumptive diagnosis of esophageal spasm.
I rather hoped the pain would return that day or the next in order to get confirmation by X-ray, because I had to leave for San Francisco the following day for a week of business. It did not so oblige me, however, and I was unable to do the barium swallow before I left.
On the way to San Francisco, I had a sudden inspiration. I had been meaning to look up another doctor friend, a young man who, after a number of years of working as an emergency room physician, had become a homeopath. He now practiced at a homeopathic clinic in Berkeley and also saw private patients in Marin County. He had been wanting me to visit so he could tell me about his new career.
I had long been interested in homeopathy, but my knowledge of it came mainly from reading. I had never consulted a homeopathic practitioner nor watched one at work. In learning about different systems of medicine, I have found it essential to seek experience of them as well as intellectual knowledge. The best way I know to do that is to present myself as a patient and see what happens. A limitation to this method is that it requires some need for treatment. If I am generally healthy, as I usually am, I cannot play the role of patient satisfactorily.
Now I had a real symptom, one that cried out for relief. This would be a perfect opportunity to be a homeopathic patient and see what that system could do for me. Since the gastroenterologist in Tucson did not seem to have any surefire cures to offer, I had all the more reason to seek a remedy elsewhere.
My friend, Dr. Greg Manteuffel, told me how his dissatisfaction with conventional medicine led him to explore other forms of treatment and finally apprentice himself to a homeopath in Chicago. In this course, he followed in the path of most of the homeopaths in history; most have been M.D.'s who rejected the methods they first learned, then studied the theory and practice of homeopathy as apprentices to established practitioners of that system.
My friend told me he was much more successful in treating people since his conversion; he was also much happier, had better rapport with patients, and for the first time in his life really enjoyed practicing medicine. He felt he was able to stimulate genuine healing in sick people, whereas before he just suppressed symptoms, often by plying patients with toxic drugs and using other methods he now considered more harmful than beneficial.
I proposed that he show me how he practiced by taking me on as a new patient, especially since I had a recent health problem that had been bothering me. He agreed, going right to work by doing an "intake" on me, which is the homeopathic equivalent of a medical history. Sitting across from me with a notepad, he began to ask me questions.
The questions went on for a very long time. Many of them seemed strange, certainly not the kinds of questions I was taught to ask patients as an allopathic doctor. For example: Are you a warm person or a cold person? What position do you sleep in? Do you like the fat part of meat or the lean? Do you feel better under clear skies or cloudy? Do you crave any flavors of food?
There were familiar questions about symptoms also, but Greg wanted to know all my symptoms, even the ones that seemed trivial to me, and he did not seem to attach greater importance to those I thought were the big ones, like my pain. He wanted to know all about the pain, but only from my subjective point of view: its quality, duration, location, and so forth. He could not have cared less about the name "esophageal spasm" so recently attached to it, nor about my speculations on its nature. He recorded the pain as just one entry in a comprehensive list of all my complaints, regarding it as only one detail of a larger picture. I would never have thought to mention most of the other symptoms to the gastroenterologist; to my mind (and surely to his) they would have been irrelevant to the story of the pain in my digestive tract. They included a tendency to neck stiffness, a sore left knee, depression, occasional skin eruptions, sore throats from time to time, and so forth.
At the end of the questioning, which took more than an hour, Greg made a number of notes on his pad, then looked up and gave me his diagnosis as a homeopath. He told me I had given him almost a textbook description of the symptoms provoked by elemental sulfur.
Homeopaths believe people get sick in individual ways, showing distinctive patterns of symptoms. Whether one person's symptoms resemble another person's symptoms is of no import. Homeopaths do not believe in the existence of "disease entities" like hepatitis or ulcer common to many patients with similarsymptoms. Rather, they concern themselves only with identifying the particular pattern of symptoms of an individual patient, and this they do by means of the curious questioning I went through. Little emphasis is placed on physical diagnosis — on examination or testing of the patient.
Once the symptom pattern is clear, the homeopath then tries to match it with the one substance that most closely reproduces these symptoms in the normal person. The method here is to consult large volumes of "provings" that homeopaths have compiled over the years. These are records in great detail of the results of giving small amounts of many different substances to volunteer subjects in good health. Simple chemicals, minerals, extracts of plants, dilute preparations of animal and insect venoms and of disease-causing germs, as well as of some standard drugs, are all included in the homeopathic provings. It is most important to match the patient's symptoms with the one substance that most closely reproduces them, because homeopathy asserts that a single dose of that substance, highly diluted and properly prepared, has the capacity to cure the ailing patient.
In my case the match was easily made, because elemental sulfur is a common and familiar homeopathic remedy that rapidly produces very clear symptoms. Apparently I was a recognizable sulfur type. Greg invited me to meet him in Berkeley the next day at the clinic where he worked. He wanted me to watch him process patients there and promised to give me his homeopathic prescription — a single, tiny dose of sulfur that he felt would give me good results.
The Hering Family Health Clinic looked like a clinic, complete with nurses and visiting medical students, but it lacked much of the paraphernalia of an allopathic facility. There was a pharmacy and a library filled with the works of the chief theorists of homeopathy, along with many editions of the homeopathic materia medica and provings.
I sat with Greg as he talked with several patients, doing intakes on new ones, reviewing the charts and checking on the progress of old ones. The patients were a cross section of Berkeley's heterogeneous population, no different from those I would expect to find as outpatients in a regular hospital in that city. One middle-aged Englishwoman told me how delighted she had beento discover the clinic. She had used homeopathic doctors all her life and had feared that on moving to California she would not be able to find one.
At the end of the morning, Greg gave me a small vial partly filled with tiny white pellets. The pellets, he told me, were lactose — milk sugar — on which he had placed a drop of a dilute suspension of sulfur. One of the most peculiar tenets of homeopathy, and the one that makes it least comprehensible to orthodox scientists and doctors, is that substances become more powerful as remedies when they are diluted. Some homeopathic remedies are such extreme dilutions that little or none of the original substance is present. Yet these "high potencies," as they are called, are the very preparations said to be most powerful and requiring most caution to prescribe. What possible sense can a conventional doctor make of that belief?
The dose of sulfur I got was a fairly high dilution. Greg told me to place the contents of the vial on my tongue, let it dissolve, then drink some water. He also told me that sulfur is one of the quicker-acting remedies and that he was sure it was the right treatment for me. He cautioned me to avoid from then on all coffee and any form of camphor, for either external or internal use. These two substances are homeopathic antidotes that will negate the therapeutic effect of a remedy even years later. (Not being a coffee drinker, I would not find this advice difficult to follow.) I thanked Greg and left the clinic, not quite sure how I felt about this method of diagnosis and treatment. Reading about it was one thing. Experiencing it as a patient was another.
Excerpted from "Health and Healing"
Copyright © 1998 Andrew Weil.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Preface to the 2004 Revised Edition,
Treatment and Cure: The Strange Case of Homeopathy,
A Homeopathic Cure?,
Like Cures Like, and Less Is More,
Why Does Homeopathy Work?,
What is Health?,
Health as Wholeness; Wholeness as Perfection,
Health as Wholeness; Wholeness as Balance,
Ten Principles of Health and Illness,
The Nature of Healing,
A Bewildering Array of Therapeutic Choices,
Allopathic Medicine I: Physicians and Surgeons,
Allopathic Medicine II: Materia Medica,
Allopathic Medicine III: Sins of Omission,
Some Medical Heresies: Osteopathy, Chiropractic, Naturopathy,
Shamanism, Mind Cures, and Faith Healing,
What Do All These Therapeutic Systems Have in Common?,
Mind and Body,
Why Warts Fall Off,
The Placebo Response,
Medical Treatments as Active Placebos,
Powers of the Mind and the Problem of Harnessing Them,
Health and Healing in the Twenty-First Century,
What Doctors Can Learn from Physicists,
New Medicine for a New Century,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
To me, this book says it all. Personally, I don't believe anyone should be without this book in their library. I met Dr. Weil in April of this year and he is as genuine in person as his words in all of his books. Anyone interested in health and wellness should honestly have this book. I am a student of Alternative Medicine and feel both physicians and students can learn a great deal about Integrative Medicine. Likewise, anyone concerned about his or her health should read this. Dr. Weils advice is a spot unmatched. Thanks again Andy for another great book.