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Andrew Weil, who is a graduate of the Harvard Medical School and the author of a number of best-selling books on medicine, consciousness, health and diet, is one of those rare men who have managed to acquire a prestigious conventional education and then build on that with unconventional experiences in other parts of the world. He has studied botany and medicine in the Amazon jungle and elsewhere, and alternative medicine in the far east before establishing his practice in the United States. This book, first published in 1995, is the result of what Weil has learned over the years. There is nothing spectacularly new here, but there is a carefully presented, enormously compelling argument for the power of our bodies to heal themselves if only we would give them the opportunity.

Problem number one is a medical establishment that sees its interventions as the cause of healing, when it occurs, and the failure of the body, when it does not. Every physician should humbly realize that it is the healing mechanisms of the body that defeat disease, not the treatment. Weil makes this point even in the case of antibiotics: "Antibiotics reduce numbers of invading germs to a point where the immune system can take over and finish the job. The real cause of the cure is the immune system, which may be unable to end an infection because it is overwhelmed by sheer numbers of bacteria and" their toxic products (p. 110). I would add that even in the case of setting a bone or removing a bullet, it is the body that does the healing. Properly understood, Weil advises, the function of the physician is to aid the defenses of the body. This is how medicine is understood in cultures of ancient linage around the world, particularly in the time-honored Chinese and Ayurvedic systems. There is much we could learn from them. The tech-heavy Western approach fails to treat the whole patient--mind, body, emotions and spirit--and therefore has great difficulty in dealing with chronic illnesses. Weil emphasizes prevention, and when illness does occur, the cultivation of habits and a lifestyle conducive to spontaneous healing.

Included in the text are a number of testimonials of spontaneous healing from people given up on by conventional medicine. Dr. Weil is fascinated by these "anecdotal" cases and believes that the medical establishment is missing something by dismissing them because they cannot be scientifically validated. Weil counts heads and comes to the obvious conclusion that something is going on here, whether it can be baselined and graphed or not. People do indeed get well for no apparent reason. There are literately thousands of documented cases. How does this happen? Weil calls it the phenomenon of "spontaneous healing," and believes that we are all capable of performing this "miracle." Personally, it happened to me (if you'll forgive the Yogi Berra-ism) at my daughter's wedding. I had strained the instep of my right foot playing basketball and it would not heal. Weeks went by. I either could not stay off it enough and/or I was re-injuring it to the point where I could not walk without pain. A friend and I walked around the Stanford campus during the day, which I should not have done. The pain was very annoying, but in the evening, fortified with the festive occasion and the refreshments, I danced wildly, joyously, one might say, ignoring the pain, realizing that I would pay for it the next day. But in the morning when I woke up there was no pain at all, and although it has been almost ten years, the pain has never returned.

Not exactly a miracle, but proof enough to me that spontaneous healing is a reality.

What Dr. Weil does here, relying on his wisdom and experience, is to present a program of right practice, right habit, right diet, and right attitude (e.g., "Regard illness as a gift...a powerful stimulus to change...[an] opportunity...for personal growth and development..." p. 251) that will, he believes, greatly increase anyone's chance of healing spontaneously. (Chapter 17, "Seven Strategies of Successful Patients" is a precise prescription.) I think he makes a cogent and compelling case. And, as usual, his felicity of expression, almost meditative in tone and effect, is a huge plus. Weil has a gift for making the spiritual and mysterious aspects of our existence seem the very bedrock of rationality! Noteworthy is a chapter on "Medical Pessimism" in which Weil argues that conventional doctors consciously or unconsciously infect their patients with a reverse placebo with their negative attitudes. "Simply put: too many doctors are deeply pessimistic about the possibility of people getting better, and they communicate their pessimism to patients and families" (P. 59). He calls this "medical hexing" (p. 64). He adds, on page 61, "So-called voodoo death is the ultimate example of a negative placebo response."

Weil believes that the pessimism of the medical profession has its roots in "the lopsided nature of medical education, which focuses almost exclusively on disease and its treatment rather than on health and its maintenance...the word <healing> is used rarely...the term <healing system> not at all."

This last point, I believe, points directly to what is the central problem with conventional medicine in this country. Medical schools are too exclusive and expensive, preventing many people who would truly love to help others from attending. Their programs are also flawed because of a too narrowly focused curriculum that ignores the thousands of years of experience of practitioners from around the world. The emphasis is on the exclusivity and status of the profession and not on the healing arts. Dr. Weil, because he is a rare product of that system, is a man especially to be listened to. I consider this book a "quiet classic" that someday will be recognized as a catalyst that helped revolutionize conventional medical practice. At least I hope so.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "Yoga: Sacred and Profane (Beyond Hatha Yoga)"
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on February 23, 2001
Dr. Andrew Weil is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and was for 15 years a research Associate in Ethnopharmacology at the Harvard Botanical Museum. He is founder and Director of the Program of Integrative Medicine at the U. of Arizona. His educational background, medical formation and years of professional experience are formidable and, I feel, give him the authority sufficient to write a book of this caliber.
For the last 7 months I have been receiving his monthly newsletter which discusses natural remedies to health problems and maintenance. They are wonderful. Over the Christmas holidays I purchased three of his books. By the time I finished reading Spontaneous Healing I had already sent a copy of the book to my mother, an LPN under treatment for Leukemia, and a friend of mine with Rheumatoid Arthritis. With another friend, who suffers from chronic eczema, I've shared my copy.
In this book Dr. Weil covers a number of case studies and explains how traditionally non-conventional medicine (herbal treatments, Traditional Chinese Medicine, hypnotherapy, creative imagery, etc.) has alleviated or cured sicknesses or health problems for which conventional medicine offered little to no relief. However, that is not to say he is an opponent of conventional medicine. He names instances in which he feels it is best to turn to it.
One of the case studies which made me reflect deeply on "alternative" medicine was of a 70 yr. old woman who had suffered her entire adult life with Rheumatoid Arthritis. After a series of dietary changes he recommended to her, her symptoms (i.e. her pain) decreased significantly. His recommendations included adding to her diet omega-3 fatty acids, organically grown produce and flax seed; eliminating from her diet all polyunsaturated and partially hydrogenated fats, dairy products, and most meat; taking a number of herbal remedies and practicing breath relaxation. Simple (and affordable)recommendations, but with very powerful benefits.
I have found Dr. Weil's suggestions for health maintenance more than reasonable. He makes sense. This book is well written, enjoyable to read, easy to understand and with suggestions that can make a difference between feeling well or ill. I highly recommend it to all and any interested in improving one's health.
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on January 3, 2000
The idea that your body possesses natural ability to heal and maintain itself is usually not within the realm of believability for many. But this Harvard M.D. presents evidence and explains body mechanisms that can overcome life-threatening illness and pain.
A "how to" book, on the one hand, Dr. Weil also points out shortcomings of our medical system. He calls it "medical pessimism" because the end result is that often nothing more can be done. This comes about, he contends, because modem medical practice is based on the view that human beings are an assemblage of structures that can be neatly programmed. Western medicine, the Chinese, for example, believe the human organism has defensive spheres such as ~onsils, adenoids and appendix, which can be stimulated and are components of an immune system. Modem medicine, he believes, also writes off the importance of the mind, looking instead for physical causes of changes in health or illness.
A realist, Dr. Weil concedes that life is uncertain and while we don't have control over life and death, we have the ability to understand how the human organism can heal itself and this is reason enough for doctors and patients to be optimistic.
"My purpose in writing this book," he states, "is to convince more people to rely on our innate potential for maintaining health and overcoming illness but, he goes on to say, "I cannot easily give you a picture this system (I) because there is a lack of organized research (2) the human organism is complex and (3) the ability of the body to repair itself is a complex function."
The DNA healing system: Is always on call and works continuously; it diagnoses damage; removes damaged structures and replaces them; acts to neutralize injury and make corrections. The challenge is to discover how to turn the right switches to activate this process. The author maintains that the final cause of all cures is the healing system with or without outside treatment. When treatments work, they do so by activating innate healing mechanisms
You can boost the efficiency of your healing system but this does not necessarily produce immediate, noticeable change. It is a long-term investment in the future. These areas seem to be emerging from current studies of diet and health: Modify diet to reduce calories; eat a limited diet one day a week; reduce animal fats (replace with fish and soy protein); increase consumption of polyunsaturated fats found in corn, soy, sesame, safflower, olives, canola, peanut and avocado oils; eat more fruit, vegetables and whole grains such as wheat and oat bran.
Greatest threats to everyday health and well-being: Toxic overload from harmful substances in the environment including chemical fertilizers, toxins in the workplace, water we drink, air pollution. The author suggests some anti-toxin formulas: Vitamins C and E, Selenium, Beta Carotene, Ginseng, Garlic, Ginger, Green Tea, Milk Thistle, Astragalus, to name a few.
The seven strategies of successful patients: (1) Don't take "NO" for an answer. Believe there is help to be found somewhere. (2) Search for help. Ask questions; read books; go to libraries; ask for ideas, visit promising practitioners. (3) Talk to others who have been healed. (4) Form partnerships with health professionals who support your search for answers. (5) Don't hesitate to make radical lifestyle changes. (6) Regard illness as a stimulus to change (7) Remember that change is more likely to occur in a climate of self-acceptance than in one of confrontation with the universe.
This popular book suggest ways to optimize your healing system and paints this upbeat scenario of the level of good health we have a right to expect. Says Dr. Weil: "We pay little aft ention to our health when it is good. "You recover from illness and injuries heal uneventfully "Stresses of ordinary life may be annoying, but they don't derange digestion or blood pressure. "Sleep should be restful, sex enjoyable. "Aging of your body occurs gradually, allowing you to moderate your activity appropriately and live out a normal life span without discomfort. "You would not get heart disease or cancer in middle age, be crippled by arthritis in later life or lose your mind to premature senility. "This scenario is possible and worth working toward because the body wants to be healthy," says Dr. Weil.
Well worth reading if you want to live in better health whatever your age.
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HALL OF FAMEon June 1, 2000
In these 352 pages, the renowned Andrew Weil, M.D. offers you his theories on spontaneous healing. He helps you examine the body's ability to heal itself naturally, and clearly explains how the body performs self-diagnosis, self-repair, and self-regeneration. He walks you through the natural, ways to cure disease, covering areas from acupuncture to biofeedback, herbal medicine and more. You'll learn how to help your body maintain its healthiest state. There is data on your diet, the outside environment, exercise, reducing stress, and vitamins and food supplements. He tells you how to build-up your body through the use of the proper diet, vitamins and supplements, exercise, mind and body techniques. He discusses actual case histories and methods from throughout the world. Included is an eight-week program to help your body heal itself and ward off disease. All of the information is presented in easy to understand language. He discusses how the mechanisms of self-diagnosis and self-regeneration have worked in practice (not just theory) to resolve life-threatening diseases, trauma, and chronic pain. He notes that the best medicine works with the body's natural defenses to overcome illness, and not just to reduce symptoms or cure infection. A very useful book, one that can really improve your health and well being.
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This uplifting book desribes very well when alternative medicine can be an option, e.g. for allergies and stomach problems and when it isn't such a good idea, e.g. when one has operable cancer or a serious bacterial infection. This, I believe, gives this book high credibility. It combines the best of worlds and focuses on the ability of self-healing that can be enhanced by, for instance, better living, a change of attitude, new eating habits and learning hos to breath right.
I became very interested in finding out more about visualization therapy, something that Weil strongly recommends trying, but in Stockholm where I live, I haven't been able to find a therapist in this field.
The book includes lots of "things to try" or advice you might call it. These things have made me more observant of my body and mind, my breathing and how I feel. I might add that I am not exactly sick, but stressed a lot and find it difficult to relax. I have problems saying no and always feel pressure at work that I should be getting more things done. My interest for alternative medicine started when I started seeing a homeopath that has done wonders for my immune system. I used to get sick all the time and that has changed.
I don't know what I would think of this book if I had a serious disease. One very good idea of Dr Weils for sick patients is trying to connect them with people that have survived similar illnesses. I myself would like to discuss my everyday problems with people that experience the same thing and have found a solution or a way to live a more relaxed life.
I have recommended this book to several people already.
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on July 8, 2000
Dr Weil pulls together the medical knowledge from around the world to explain the human healing system. He offers suggestions for diet, natural herbs, vitamins, and much much more. I practice medicine as a Physician Assistant in Boise, Idaho. I have a web page "At Ease Medicine" that deals with natural healing, I recommend this book to all of my patients. I think it should be required reading in high school. Buy it, read it, let Dr. Weil change your life for the better.
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on October 13, 2001
This is such a great book, I don't know where to start! It has changed the way I look at food and over-the-counter medicine. I am buying this book for my mother, and for my sister-in-law who is training to be a nurse and believes that echinacea only works if you take it before you get sick. (I'm in no position to offer medical advice, but in my family echinacea and vitamin C will shorten any cold to just two days! and that includes my 2 year old son). I recommend this book for anyone who wants to feel good and be healthy. I especially recommend this book to anyone and EVERYONE in the medical professions.
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on March 21, 2002
This is book offers basic, non-complicated ways to understand and implement alternative/homeopathic methods to not only heal, but just as importantly, to maintain good health. The author does tend to use some medical terminology when referring to western medicine but the rest is pretty straight forward and easy to follow. If you know nothing or little about homeopathic methods, then this book is a great start to get a general understanding and possibly guidance to where you can begin your research into more specific areas to study should you have a nagging condition that you can't seem to get rid of. I am young and in prefect health, but knowing how to maintain my health naturely is what prompted me to buy this book and I'm glad I did. I own both the book and the audio book. The tape is read by the author and he is a bit monotone so you might drift off into daydreaming while listening to it from time to time. You'll definitely have to listen to it several times, but worth it. The audio book is great for listening while I drive to work since you will have to read it or listen to it several times in order to absorb all of the information in it, but the tape doesn't offer as many examples of success stories that the book offers so it might be good to get both like I did. While the information is great, the stories are the ones that really inspire.
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on February 4, 2004
If you've had little success with chronic or "incurable" ailments or would like to avoid them in the future, your money will be well spent on this book. I've been practicing many of the suggestions Dr. Weil makes, yet I still found plenty of new material to learn from.
The book highlights the inadequacy of modern traditional medicine. From the lower success rates for treating a vast number of ailments, to the ineffectiveness of drug treatments, to the ever climbing costs of health care, it reveals what many medical professionals won't tell you or, even worse, don't know about themselves.
If you'd like to regain control of your health and keep it that way at the lowest reasonable cost, this book gives you the "fishing pole" for how to do that.
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on May 30, 2006
Everyone knows who Andrew Weil is and he has certainly made a splash in the area of integrative medicine. As a Harvard trained physician, he has added enormous credibility to alternative treatments. This is a major contribution to the field of healing.

In this book, Dr. Weil presents a number of amazing and inspiring case studies of Spontaneous Healing. I read this book because my mother underwent a similar experience herself. As Dr. Weil suggests, many of the people who have had these experiences just don't go to doctors once they are healed, so they are assumed dead! This certainly fit my mom's profile because she hated going to doctors or hospitals, sometimes checking herself out in the middle of the night.

There is a lot of good information in this book on diet, optimizing your healing system, getting proper rest and having a meaningful spiritual life. However, much of this specific information is a repeat of what is presented in Eight Weeks to Optimum Health.
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