American biomedicine has been rooted in the idea of Cartesian duality. Physicians have been taught to treat the mind, in the spiritual sense, and the body as a separate entity. In our society we have been under the impression that the best and often only method for healing lies within modern science. What many hope is that we are moving toward a more integrative system. What seems as a “new” method for American medicine is anything but new. For thousands of years other cultures have treated the body and the mind together, holistic.
IVF, in-vitro fertilization, has long been thought to be the only remedy for women struggling to get pregnant. Dr. Sarah L. Berga believes that there may be other methods worth trying before spending thousands. She has devoted her career to discovering a possible source of infertility. In a study of 16 women, she showed a strong correlation between a lack of ovulation and stress (Epstein 2007). With women who underwent cognitive behavior therapy 7 of 8 had ovulation restored. When compared to the 2 of 8 that did not receive the therapy that had ovulation restored. Studies have showed that in women whom were not ovulating, there were excess levels of cortisol in the brain (Epstein 2007). This study, in conjunction with many animal studies, has made strong conclusions that stress and ovulation, thus fertility, are linked. Another study looking at IVF and fertility had women undergo emotion-focused coping (EFC) as a way to manage IVF outcomes (Rapoport-Hubschman et al. 2008). In the study the women who used the EFC strategy of “letting go” had higher associations with pregnancy. Those women who were more relaxed, decreased stress, had a better chance of getting pregnant.
Many African cultures such as the Ju/’hoansi of Botswana and Namibia, and the San people believe in the power of healers. Compared to Western medicine, these groups of people use their spiritual beliefs to aid in the healing of their people. From the Spirits of Africa clip we get first hand look at a specific healer, the Tsaukwe clan is a hunter-gatherer society that treat illness with faith (Lee 2012). The healer has a direct gift from God that when he dances around the fire the powers come to him and he can feel who is sick. With the use of his hands he can heal those who are sick around the fire. The Ju/’hoansi believe in healing also, but they do not have just one healer, 50% of their society are healers. They also have a healing dance and their understanding is that illness is caused by selfishness. In their society of hunter-gatherers selfishness can severely impact the health of the group, it can be understood why then they would believe that selfishness could be the root of a persons individual health.
In a study looking at the effects of prayer on depression and anxiety researchers separated people randomly into one of three groups: those who were prayed for indirectly, a control group without prayers, and a group that was directly prayed to (O’Laoire 1997). At the end of the twelve-week study the subjects showed significant improvement in the experimental prayer group compared to the control. They claim that the subject’s improvement was directly related to whether or not they were in the experimental group receiving prayer versus the control. There was also a positive correlation between the amount of prayer and their ending scores (O’Laoire 1997).
Epstein, Randi. 2007. “A Low-Rech Approach to Fertility: Just Relax” The New York Times, September 4. Accessed July 21, 2016.
Rapoport-Hubschman N, Girdron Y, Reicher-Atir R, Sapir O, Fisch B. et al., 2008. “”Letting go” coping is associated with successful IVF treatment outcomes.” Fertil Steril. 92(4): 1384-8. Accessed July 21, 2016. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2008.08.012.
Lee, Ton van der. “San (Bushman)Healing Dance Botswana Africa. Posted (February 2012). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyLF3y1YJKA
O’Laoire S. 1997. “An experimental study of the effects of distant, intercessory prayer on self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 3(6):38-53. Accesses July 21, 2016. http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/9375429