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Mind Over Medicine: The Awesome Power Of The Mind To Heal The Body

Lissa Rankin's picture

I just finished my upcoming book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), but I’m still researching the topic that has fascinated me for the past four years. I just started reading Consciousness & Healing: Integral Approaches To Mind-Body Medicine, by my friend and IONS president Marilyn Schlitz and Tina Amorok.

Here’s some juicy stuff I found:
  • In 1986, Henry Bennett studied 94 surgical patients scheduled for spinal surgery, who were taught how to use their minds to move blood away from the site of the surgery. Those who did this lost 500 cubic centimeters of blood, compared to 900 cubic centimeters of blood in those who didn’t.
  • In 1994, Lewis Mehl studied 100 pregnant women with breech babies. Under hypnotherapy, these women were encouraged to trust their bodies and nature to restore their babies to the proper head-down position. 81% of the babies of those hypnotized reverted to head-down, compared to 48% of those not hypnotized.
  • In 1998, Jon Kabat-Zinn led a study of patients receiving phototherapy for moderate to severe psoriasis while listening to meditation guidance and instructions on visualizing ultraviolet light slowing the division of skin cells. Those who did the visualizations reached the halfway clearing point 50% faster than the control group that got only phototherapy without the meditation and visualization.

Biochemical medicine cannot explain what happens in these instances. Is the mind supercharging the patients with happy hormones like endorphins and oxytocin, while reducing levels of harmful hormones like cortisol and adrenaline? Are blood cells following orders from the mind in some way? Can babies hear a mother’s thoughts? Are immune cells rushing to the aid of diseased skin cells at the call of the meditation guidance?

In other studies, women visualizing themselves warming their breasts in the sun can increase their breast size.

People allergic to poison ivy do not break out when they are rubbed with poison ivy but told it is elm leaves, but they do break out when rubbed with elm leaves and told it is poison ivy.

Patients with “incurable” congenital ichthyosiform erythrodermis, commonly called “fish skin disease,” with which patients get scale-like hardening of the skin modern medicine can’t treat, can clear up to 80% of the disorder under hynotic suggestion.

What is the link between consciousness, health, and healing?

Inquiring minds like mine want to know!

We know that 18-75% of the time, patients in clinical trials respond to placebo treatment as if they are getting the real drug. As Harris Dienststfrey wrote in his essay in Consciousness & Healing, “I hope this is clear. There is as yet no bottom to the well of the mind’s capacity to do in the body (some bodies) what any newly invented drug can do. The problem the drug is treating does not matter. The mind is expansive enough to treat the problem. Put it this way: The mind so far can do (for some people) what all the pharmaceutical labs of the world together haven't been able to do.”

Doesn’t it blow your mind?

It blows mine, so I keep digging. Somewhere, amidst all this clinical data, lies the truth that we have been ignoring for decades. Somewhere, buried in statistics and medical journals, lies the answer to what really makes us sick and what really predisposes us to illness.

Stay tuned. I’m feisty, stubborn, and on a mission. Make sure you’re on my mailing list to get free updates so you can stay in the loop as I continue to explore the root causes of illness and how we can harness the mind to heal ourselves.

In awe of the mind,


Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.comPink Medicine Revolutionarymotivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.



Tiffany 's picture

Love the intersection of biomechanical med with vitalism ...

Finally, biomedicine is waking up to what it lost by embracing the bio-mechanical model of the body. What was lost was the heart of medicine, the meaning of healing, and the understanding the body and the spirit can not be explained by simple scalar values.

Everybody should read, "God's Hotel" by Victoria Sweet who does a great job describing how much has been lost (and gained) through modern medicine. Don't be scared off by the title, it's an entirely secular read.

Lissa, I'm very excited to read your book. 2013 can't arrive quickly enough!

Eric's picture

Cause/Cure of illness

P.S. to my last comment... Re. "root cause of of illness," something from my own faith tradition I might share is this thought from the founder of Christian Science... "It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony."

Eric's picture

Thanks Lissa!

Another great post, Lissa! Thanks for pushing the envelope – and sharing your discoveries – with others.

Lissa Rankin's picture

Whatever works is welcome in my world

Bring on the army of shamans!

Julie's picture

medical Truth and the more-than-human world

Go Lissa, go Lissa, go! this is wonderful work you're doing!!!

But do you really think "amidst all this clinical data, lies the truth...buried in statistics and medical journals, lies the answer to what really makes us sick"? Don't get me wrong, its super-important to hunt down that part of the Truth in the medical literature. But I don't think Western Medicine and Science have a monopoly on the Truth. I'm thinking of "Blood Memory", "Voices of the Land", and other concepts from various Indigenous cultures. Western Medicine tends to be reductionist, focusing on the individual (worse - just parts of the individual!). Alternative/Complimentary medicine is better because it also looks at Individuals as being in relationship to Others: other humans. But we are also in relationship to the more-than-human world (David Abrams' term from Spell of the Sensuous), to other species. Shamans were healers because they could mediate relationships between individual humans and the wider ecological community that may have been imbalanced because of human action.

Given the way the human species is treating the more-than-human world these days, we might need an army of Shamans to get healthy!

Sarah's picture

The breach baby example is

The breach baby example is just insane! I love this!


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