The Mysterious 'Medication' of Meditation
WebMD News Archive
"We knew meditation caused a relaxation response, but we couldn't prove
it. We knew that if you thought in a certain way, with repetition, that
physiologic changes would occur in the body. Here now is proof that mind, in
the form of repetition, is affecting the brain, which affects the body,"
Also studying meditation over the past 12 years are researchers at the
College of Maharashi Vedic Medicine in Fairfield, Iowa. Many of the studies,
sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, have focused on heart disease
and its risk factors.
One study of transcendental meditation, another form of meditation, and its
effects on black people with high blood pressure was published earlier this
year in Stroke. The study was authored by Amparo Castillo-Richmond, MD,
an assistant professor at Maharashi.
In the group that practiced transcendental meditation, there was an
reduction in thickness of one of the arteries that supplies blood to the brain,
a sign that blood flow is increasing, Castillo-Richmond tells WebMD. In the
group that only followed diet and exercise recommendations, "the artery
walls were getting thicker."
The transcendental meditation group also had significant changes in blood
pressure as well as heart rate. "It's possible to reverse heart disease
through meditation," reports Castillo-Richmond.
Another three-month study, published in the journal Hypertension,
showed that transcendental meditation had a much greater effect on blood
pressure than a widely used approach for relaxation, called progressive muscle
"What we found was that conventional education had little or no effect
in reducing high blood pressure, which is what doctors find most of the time.
We tell our patients to change their diet, lose weight, avoid salt, avoid
stress, get more exercise, but they just don't do it. It's hard to change your
lifestyle," Robert H. Schneider, MD, director of the Center for Natural
Medicine and Prevention at the College of Maharishi Vedic Medicine, tells
The group that practiced progressive muscle relaxation showed a small change
in blood pressure, which is consistent with other studies, he says.
However, "the transcendental meditation group had twice the change in
blood pressure as the relaxation group" and had results similar to drug
treatments, Schneider tells WebMD. "This is really critical because
transcendental meditation is widely misunderstood. The original hypothesis 25
or 30 years ago was that all meditation approaches had the same effect.
However, research in the past decade has disproved this hypothesis