What Proponents Say About the Health Benefits of TM
The official Transcendental Meditation web site, TM.org, claims there have been more than 600 studies that confirm a wide array of benefits. These studies were done at 250 independent universities and medical schools over the past 40 years.
The web site presents detailed information about research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health on cardiovascular benefits. It summarizes studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals. According to the site, these studies show that TM is associated with benefits such as:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Less use of blood pressure medicine
- Reduced blood pressure in at-risk teens
- Reduced metabolic syndrome
- Reduced atherosclerosis
- Reversal of atherosclerosis
- Relaxation of blood vessels
- Improved quality of life for heart failure patients
- Enhanced longevity
For example, TM proponents cite two studies published in November 1995 and August 1996. The studies suggest that TM is as effective as drugs at reducing blood pressure in older African-Americans.
What Independent Researchers Say About TM
According to the NCCAM, patients often use TM and other forms of meditation to promote overall wellness. They also use it to cope with health problems such as:
- Symptoms associated with chronic illnesses and their treatment
The NCCAM agrees that meditation brings about some changes in the body. However, the agency also says that more research is needed to learn how these changes occur and to identify diseases and conditions for which meditation might be useful. According to the NCCAM, meditation may work by:
- Improving the mind’s ability to pay attention.
- Reducing activity in the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for mobilizing the body for action.
- Increasing activity in the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate and breathing rate, improves blood flow, and increases the flow of digestive juices.
Ongoing NCCAM-supported studies are looking at meditation for:
According to an independent panel convened by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), meditation is one of several relaxation techniques that may be a useful complementary therapy for treating chronic pain and sleeping problems such as insomnia. The American Cancer Society notes that some cancer treatment centers offer meditation and other relaxation techniques along with standard medical care.
In a 2007 systematic review of 813 meditation studies, most of the studies were characterized as being of poor quality. The researchers faulted them for having low numbers of participants. The analysis did show that TM, Qigong, and Zen Buddhist meditation significantly reduced blood pressure. But the researchers said that no firm conclusions about the effects of meditation practices in health care can be drawn based on the available evidence.
They said the preliminary findings warrant further investigation into meditation’s benefits. But they also recommended that future research be more rigorous.