Evidence-based research on Ayurveda's ability to treat chronic disorders

For over 25 years, The Raj has offered spa-goers the benefits of the world’s oldest system of natural healthcare, Maharishi Ayurveda. The results are profound and have been well documented both in research and case studies. The research validates the timeless effectiveness of Maharishi Ayurveda, providing evidence that the diagnostic and therapeutic approach of this traditional science of natural medicine can be applied in multiple clinical settings and verified through scientific investigation.

Over the past 33 years, more than 600 scientific studies conducted at over 200 independent research institutions in 30 countries have demonstrated a broad range of health benefits for people using Maharishi Ayurveda programs. The following is a small sampling of the many research studies that have been conducted on components of the Maharishi Ayurveda program.

Published Studies

A study published in the Sept./Oct. 2002 issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found that Panchakarma, the centuries-old Ayurveda purification program, reduced fat-soluble toxicants such as DDE (a by-product of DDT) and PCBs by about 50 percent. Such toxins tend to remain in the body for a very long time (up to 40 years). To date there is no other proven means of eliminating this class of disruptive chemicals from the physiology.

Lipophilic (fat-soluble) toxicants are generally considered to be among the most problematic of environmental contaminants. They accumulate in plants and animals and thus accumulate in higher quantity up the food chain. For this reason levels of lipophilic toxicants increase in humans with age and can be passed from mother to child. These toxicants have been associated with hormone disruption, immune system suppression, reproductive disorders, several types of cancer, including breast cancer, and other diseases, including childhood obesity. DDE (the by-product of the pesticide DDT after it enters the body) has recently been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

The results of the two-month longitudinal study showed that levels of PCBs and levels of several pesticides including DDE were reduced by 46 percent and 58 percent respectively after a 5-day treatment program. Without this intervention, the expected drop over two months would be only a fraction of one percent. No other method had been scientifically verified to reduce levels of these lipid-soluble toxicants in the human body without causing negative side effects.

Robert Herron, Ph.D., lead author of this study, noticed that PCB and DDE levels appeared to be unexpectedly high in the general population. “These toxicants were banned decades ago and were assumed to be declining to negligible levels in the U.S. population. Our findings, however, suggest that they are still entering the food chain and appear to be increasing. One possible explanation is that produce imported to the U.S. from other countries may contain banned toxicants since these hazardous chemicals are still widely used for agriculture and malaria control in other countries,” said Herron.

This summary presents an overview of selected research studies performed on various components of Maharishi Ayurveda. Research includes studies on Maharishi Vedic herbal preparations, Vedic physiological purification procedures, the Transcendental Meditation® program, and other therapeutic modalities. Over 600 such studies have been conducted at more than 200 independent universities and research institutions, including Harvard Medical School, the Ohio State University College of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles Medical School, and University of Colorado Medical Center. The research has been published in scientific journals including: American Journal of Cardiology, Hypertension, Stroke, Science, Respiration, American Journal of Physiology, Scientific American, American Journal of Psychiatry, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, American Journal of Managed Care, Journal of the Canadian Medical Association, Japanese Journal of Industrial Health, Japanese Journal of Public Health, Harefuah (Journal of the Israel Medical Association), Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, Indian Journal of Clinical Practice, New Zealand Family Physician, Journal of Behavioral Medicine, Psychosomatic Medicine, Journal of Applied Physiology, International Journal of the Addictions, Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, Biochemical Archives, International Journal of Neuroscience, Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, Experimental Neurology, Complementary Medicine International, Nutrition Research, European Journal of Pharmacology, Neuropharmacology, Physiology and Behavior, Hormones and Behavior, Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology Journal, Homeostasis in Health and Disease, Journal of Human Stress, American Psychologist, Journal of Clinical Psychology, The Journal of Psychology, British Journal of Psychology, British Journal of Educational Psychology, Education, Journal of Mind and Behavior, The Journal of Counseling Psychology, Journal of Research and Education in Indian Medicine.

Government Funded Research: The National Institutes of Health has awarded four major grants totaling approximately $7 million to follow up the original blood pressure study and examine the long-term effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. In addition the National Institutes of Health awarded $8 million to the College of Maharishi Vedic Medicinie (Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa) for the establishment of a Center for Natural Medicine and Prevention. The purpose of the Center is to conduct further research on Maharishi Ayurveda. 

General Physical and Mental Health
Reduced Medical Care. An eleven-year study used Blue Cross/Blue Shield data to analyze medical utilization patterns of individuals participating in several components of Maharishi Ayurveda, as compared with normative data and matched control groups. The study found significant reductions in medical care utilization in program participants: overall medical expenditure was 63 percent lower compared to normative data, with 80 percent fewer hospital admissions and 55 percent fewer out-patient doctors’ office visits. Those over the age of 45 using Maharishi Ayurveda had 88 percent fewer hospital days than controls. Analysis by disease categories showed that hospital admission rates were 92 percent lower for immune, endocrine, and metabolic disorders; 92 percent lower for cardiovascular disease; 92 percent lower for mental health and substance abuse, and 94 percent lower for musculoskeletal disorders. American Journal of Managed Care 1997, 3:135-144. 

Herbal Supplements
Cardiovascular Diseases 
Antioxidant Effects. Maharishi Vedic herbal formulations have been found to provide exceptionally powerful protection against both free radical and non-radical oxidants, which are considered to play a central role in the ageing process and in many disorders, including coronary heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes mellitus, and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Free Radicals in Biology and Medicine 1995, 18: 687-697; Pharmacology, Biochemistry & Behavior 1994, 48(2): 505-510; Biochemical Archives 1994, 10: 25-31;Pharmacology, Biochemistry & Behavior 1992, 43: 1175-1182; Biochemical Archives 1992, 8: 267-272; Indian Journal of Clinical Practice 1991, 1: 23-27; Pharmacology, Biochemistry & Behavior 1991, 39: 649-652; Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology Journal 1995, 9(3): 141; Free Radicals in Diagnostic Medicine: A Systems Approach to Laboratory Technologies, Clinical Correlations, and Antioxidant Therapy (1995, New York: Plenum Press). 
Enhanced resistance to lipid oxidation (LDL). A number of Maharishi Vedic herbal preparations were found to be more than a thousand-fold more powerful in preventing oxidation of human LDL cholesterol in vitro than either vitamin C, vitamin E, or probucol. A subsequent clinical study found significantly enhanced resistance of low density lipoproteins to oxidation in human subjects with elevated cholesterol using a Maharishi Vedic herbal supplement. Pharmacology, Biochemistry & Behavior. 1992, 43:1175-1182; Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology Journal, 1995, 9(3): 141. 

Prevention of platelet aggregation. A Maharishi Vedic herbal supplement was found to be highly effective in preventing aggregation of human platelets in response to four different stimuli: catecholamines, which are released during stress; collagen, which is exposed when vascular endothelium is injured; arachidonic acid, which is released from injured cell membranes; and ADP, which is released from injured red blood cells and platelets. Clinica & Terapia Cardiovascolare1989, 8(3): 227-230. 

Improvement in atherosclerosis (animal research). Addition of a Maharishi Vedic herbal supplement to the diet of Watanabe rabbits — a species that is genetically highly susceptible to hyperlipidemia and atherosclerosis — led to 53 percent reduction in coronary artery atherosclerosis and protection from organ damage. Atherosclerosis protection was independent of cholesterol-lowering diet. Biochemical Archives 1997, 13: 285-296; Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 1996, 2(4): 463-478. 
Improvement in angina pectoris (human study)

A clinical study of patients with angina pectoris who took two Maharishi Vedic formulations found significant reductions in the frequency of chest pain and need for sub-lingual anti-anginal medication, as well as increased well-being. Journal of the Association of Physicians of India 1994, 42(6): 466-467. 

Improvement in diabetes. Patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) given a Maharishi Vedic herbal supplement showed improved blood glucose control, as measured by decreased levels of HBA1C, and significant decreases in serum cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as reduced symptoms. Overall, 70.7 percent patients studied achieved good or acceptable diabetic control according to criteria of the American Diabetes Association. Complementary Medicine International, 1996, 3: 21-23. 
Chronic Disorders
Improvement in common chronic disorders. In a three-month pilot study, Maharishi Vedic herbal preparations, diet, and behavioral advice led to clear improvement in 79% of 126 subjects with one of ten common chronic disorders (asthma, chronic bronchitis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic constipation, eczema, psoriasis, hypertension, non-insulin-dependent diabetes, chronic sinusitis and chronic headaches). These patients had suffered from their disorders for an average of 17 years prior to the study and had not gained relief from other forms of treatment. Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Integrale Geneeskunde 5(35): 586-594. 

Immune Function: Protection against Chemical Toxicity
Enhanced immune cell functioning. In vitro studies have demonstrated that Maharishi Vedic herbal supplements enhance the response to foreign antigens of two cell types that are fundamental to the immune system, without affecting their properties when not challenged. T lymphocytes showed enhanced proliferation in response to mitogens, together with increased production of interleukin-2, an important immunomodulator. Macrophages showed increased efficiency in killing tumor cells and enhanced production of nitric oxide, which is involved in the elimination of bacteria and cancer cells. Biochemical Archives 1993, 9:365-374; Biochemical Archives 1990, 9:267-274; Japanese Journal of Hygiene 1995, 50: 901-905; Journal of Applied Nutrition 1996, 48(1-2): 10-21; Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine 1997, 2(1): 35-39. 
Protection against chemical toxicity.

Maharishi Vedic herbal formulations have been found to protect against tissue damage caused by the chemical solvent toluene, which is a potent inducer of free radicals and important industrial health risk. Biochemical Archives, 1994; 10:25-31; Free Radicals in Biology and Medicine 1995, 18: 687-697; Pharmacology, Biochemistry & Behavior 1994, 48(2): 505-510. 

Cancer and Protection against Toxic Effects of Cancer Chemotherapy
Protection against cancer (animal research). In studies on laboratory animals, herbal compounds used in Maharishi Ayurveda reduced the development, growth, spread, and mortality of cancer. In one series of experiments, an herbal supplement used in Maharishi Ayurveda provided up to 88 percent protection against carcinogen-induced breast cancer, with effects during both promotion and initiation phases of carcinogenesis. Also, 60 percent of the control animals that had developed fully-formed tumors showed tumor regression when their diet was subsequently supplemented with the herbal compound. In 50 percent of these animals, the tumors regressed completely. Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior 1990, 35: 767-773; European Journal of Pharmacology 1990, 183: 193; Nutritional Research 1992, 12: 51-61; Journal of Research and Education in Indian Medicine 1991, 10(3): 1-8.

Reduction in cancer metastases (animal research). This study showed significant reduction in number and size of metastatic nodules in mice with a rapidly-metastasizing form of lung cancer using a Maharishi Vedic herbal supplement. Nutritional Research 1992, 12: 667-676. 

Reversal of malignant process (in vitro). Studies showed that a Maharishi Vedic herbal supplement reversed morphological and biochemical changes associated with malignancy in neuroblastoma cells in culture. Neuropharmacology 1992, 31: 599-607. 

Inhibition of malignant transformation (in vitro). Laboratory studies reported by the chemopreventive branch of the National Cancer Institute indicated that a Maharishi Vedic herbal supplement inhibits processes of malignant transformation in animal epithelial cells and human lung tumor cells. Proceedings of the American Association of Cancer Research 1991, 32: 128. 

Reduced toxic effects of cancer chemotherapy (human study). This controlled prospective study of a Maharishi Vedic herbal supplement was conducted on people receiving combination chemotherapy for various types of cancer, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, oral cancer, and osteogenic sarcoma. Chemotherapeutic agents included cyclophosphamide, vincristine, methotrexate, doxorubicin, prednisone, cisplatinum, adriamycin, and 5-fluorouracil. The study found significant reductions in toxic effects of chemotherapy, including reduced vomiting and diarrhea, and improvements in sleep, weight, and overall well-being compared to control patients. In addition, patients taking the herbal preparation showed reduced free radical activity and decreased hematological toxicity, as measured by maintenance of higher leukocyte and platelet counts, compared to the control group. Proceedings of the Sixteenth International Cancer Congress 1994, Vol. 1., pp 3099-3102. Bologna, Italy: Monduzzi Editore. 
Protection against toxic effect of chemotherapy.

A Maharishi Vedic herbal supplement was found to enhance the in vitro activity of the glutathione anti-oxidant system, which provides a vital natural defense against toxins. Further investigation showed that the herbal compound also prevented toxic effects of the chemotherapeutic agent cisplatin on this system, enhancing liver and kidney glutathione (gsh) and glutathione-s-transferase (gst) activity.

Proceedings of the XVI International Cancer Congress, 1994, Vol.1, pp 589-592. Bologna, Italy: Monduzzi Editore. Reduced toxic effects of chemotherapy (animal research). Maharishi Vedic herbal supplements significantly reduced cardiotoxicity and mortality caused by the chemotherapeutic drug adriamycin. Biochemical Archives 1992; 8: 267-272.

Published in Behavioral Medicine, September, 2000, this case series describes the outcome of four patients participating in an integrated, multi-modality Maharish Vedic Medicine program. The participants, one with Parkinson’s disease, one wth sarcoidosis, a third with renal hypertension and a fourth with diabetes/essential hypertension/anxiety disorder, were evaluated before, during and after the treatment program. Results suggested substantial improvements as indicated by reductions in major signs, symptoms and use of conventional medications.

Published in Abstracts of the American Public Health Association 127 Annual Meeting and Exposition, 1999. In a longitudinal evaluation, serum levels of participants were measured before and after undergoing the purification procedure known as Maharishi Rejuvenation treatments. After treatment, mean levels of PCB’s (-46%) and b-HCH (-58%) changed significantly. The results indicate that the Maharishi Rejuvenation treatments provide significant reduction in levels of lipophilic toxicants. Lipophilic toxicants (including PCB, h-HCH, DDT and dioxins) have been associated with hormone disruption, immunosuppression, cancer and other disorders.

Maharishi Rejuvenation treatments were given for 3 – 5 days to 31 subjects (15 male and 16 female) with a mean age of 40.6 years. Fasting blood samples were tested for biochemical parameters before, one week following and 2.9 months following the treatments. Total cholesterol decreased in all subjects and HDL cholesterol rose 7.5% (p=0.015) after 2.9 months if original values were less than 15 mg/dL. Lipid peroxide, a measure of free radical damage, rose during Maharishi Rejuvenation treatments, then fell to lower levels at 2.9 months. Pulse and diastolic blood pressure were reduced after the treatments. State anxiety measures improved significantly. These results indicate that Maharishi Rejuvenation treatments are useful in improving cardiovascular risk factors.

Maharishi Ayurveda Shirodara is a treatment prescribed for alleviating neurological and psychological disorders. The influence of this treatment on the dynamics of brain activity were measured by EEG and results show two contrasting modes of brain activity during the procedure. The first, a low level of activation, is similar to meditative periods of the Transcendental Meditation® technique; the second was indicative of brain excitation. Findings indicate that Maharishi Ayurveda Shirodara generates high coherence in neural systems, thereby supporting more comprehensive states of conscious awareness

A 1998 double-blind, randomized study on Maharish Vedic Vibration Technology and chronic arthritic patients in Europe reported that three fourths of the 179 patients reported immediate 60% or greater relief and half of these reported 100% relief.

Dr. Robert Schneider’s 1995 study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension has shown that high blood pressure — which afflicts over 40 million Americans — can be treated as effectively using the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program as with traditional medications.

A five-year 1987 study on health insurance statistics evaluated 2000 people across the country who practiced the TM program. The data was collected by the insurance company. The statistics from the meditation group were compared to those of a control group selected by the insurance company to match the TM group for age, education, profession and other variables. Compared to the control group, the TM group went to the hospital 56% less often for illness or surgery. In addition, the TM group needed 50% fewer doctors’ visits. (Orme-Johnson) published inPsychosomatic Medicine.

A 1996 Harvard Univerity study of 77 elderly nursing home residents compared three types of meditation and relaxation techniques (TM, “mind-fulness training” and “mental relaxation”). The three year study showed the TM group had the greatest reductions in stress and blood pressure. The TM group also had a significantly higher survival rate: they were the only group in which no one died during the study, although the average mortality rate in non-participating residents during those 3 years was more than one third. After 8 years, the TM group’s mean survival time was 65% higher than that of the other groups combined.

This study compared the effects of Maharishi Vedic Sounds (Sama Veda), hard rock music (AC/DC, Back in Black) and no sound on the growth of cells in culture. Five human tumor cell lines (lung, colon, brain, breast and skin) and one normal cell line (fibroblasts) were tested. The recordings of Sama Veda and “Back in Black” were normalized to maintain the same maximum amplitudes, with no significant effect on the results. Maharishi Veda Sounds significantly decreased the average growth rate across cell lines. In the presence of hard rock music, growth rate of cells was significantly increased but the effect was not consistent. The study concludes that sound has an effect on the growth of neoplastic and normal human cells in vitro.

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