From the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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Meditation is a mind-body practice in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). There are many types of meditation, most of which originated in ancient religious and spiritual traditions. Generally, a person who is meditating uses certain techniques, such as a specific posture, focused attention, and an open attitude toward distractions. Meditation may be practiced for many reasons, such as to increase calmness and physical relaxation, to improve psychological balance, to cope with illness, or to enhance overall health and well-being. This Backgrounder provides a general introduction to meditation and suggests some resources for more information.

Uses of Meditation for Health in the United States

A 2007 national Government survey that asked about CAM use in a sample of 23,393 U.S. adults found that 9.4 percent of respondents (representing more than 20 million people) had used meditation in the past 12 months—compared with 7.6 percent of respondents (representing more than 15 million people) in a similar survey conducted in 2002. The 2007 survey also asked about CAM use in a sample of 9,417 children; 1 percent (representing 725,000 children) had used meditation in the past 12 months.

People use meditation for various health problems, such as:

Physical or emotional symptoms that may be associated with chronic illnesses (such as heart disease, HIV/AIDS, and cancer) and their treatment.

Studies show that between 60% and 90% of all physician visits are for stress-related complaints. The mind/body connection interaction has important implications for the way we view illness and treat disease. Mind body medicine teaches individuals how to take control of their lives, use their own healing power to reduce stress and other negative behaviors and thoughts, and thus maintain or regain health.

From the Mind-Body Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital

Here is a summary of research findings cited at the Institute of Mind-Body Medicine (They recently changed the name to Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine. (BHIMBM?)

Mind/Body Medical Institute clinical findings include:

Chronic pain patients reduce their physician visits by 36%.
The Clinical Journal of Pain, Volume 2, pages 305-310, 1991

There is approximately a 50% reduction in visits to a HMO after a relaxation-response based intervention which resulted in estimated significant cost savings.
Behavioral Medicine, Volume 16, pages 165-173, 1990

Eighty percent of hypertensive patients have lowered blood pressure and decreased medications - 16% are able to discontinue all of their medications. These results lasted at least three years.
Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, Volume 9, pages 316-324, 1989

Open heart surgery patients have fewer post-operative complications.
Behavioral Medicine, Volume 5, pages 111-117, 1989

One-hundred percent of insomnia patients reported improved sleep and 91% either eliminated or reduced sleeping medication use.
The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 100, pages 212-216, 1996

Infertile women have a 42% conception rate, a 38% take-home baby rate, and decreased levels of depression, anxiety, and anger.
Journal of American Medical Women's Association. Volume 54, pages 196-8, 1999

Women with severe PMS have a 57% reduction in physical and psychological symptoms.
Obstetrics and Gynecology, Volume 75, pages 649-655, April, 1990

High school students exposed to a relaxation response-based curriculum had significantly increased their self-esteem.
The Journal of Research and Development in Education, Volume 27, pages 226-231, 1994

Inner city middle school students improved grade score, work habits and cooperation and decreased absences.
Journal of Research and Development in Education, Volume 33, pages 156-165, Spring 2000

Use of CAM (Complementary and Alternative Meditine) in the United States: 2007 study.

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CAM Therapies Included in the 2007 NHIS
  • Acupuncture*
  • Ayurveda*
  • Biofeedback*
  • Chelation therapy*
  • Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation*
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Diet-based therapies
    • Atkins diet
    • Macrobiotic diet
    • Ornish diet
    • Pritikin diet
    • South Beach diet
    • Vegetarian diet
    • Zone diet
  • Energy healing therapy/Reiki*
  • Guided imagery
  • Homeopathic treatment
  • Hypnosis*
  • Massage*
  • Meditation
  • Movement therapies
    • Alexander technique
    • Feldenkrais
    • Pilates
    • Trager psychophysical integration
  • Natural products (nonvitamin and nonmineral, such as herbs and other products from plants, enzymes, etc.)
  • Naturopathy*
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Qi gong
  • Tai chi
  • Traditional healers*
    • Botanica
    • Curandero
    • Espiritista
    • Hierbero or Yerbera
    • Native American healer/Medicine man
    • Shaman
    • Sobador
  • Yoga