Annotated research review on Maharishi Ayurveda
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.
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 Cardiovascolare 1989, 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.
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.
Physiological Purification Therapies
Improvement in general health.
A study of subjects participating in the Maharishi Vedic physiological purification therapies found improvements in anxiety, depression, fatigue, vigor, well-being, energy, vitality, stamina, digestive patterns, rejuvenation, and previous complaints, as compared to control subjects. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 1990; 5: 1-27. Reduction of cardiovascular risk factors. Other studies on Maharishi Vedic physiological purification therapies have shown improvements in cardiovascular risk factors, including decreased total cholesterol and increased HDL cholesterol; reduced diastolic blood pressure; and decreased free radical activity. Complementary Medicine International 1996; 3: 17-28.
The Transcendental Meditation Program
Decreased Health Care Requirements
Decreased health care utilization. A five-year study of 2000 people using Blue Cross/Blue Shield data found decreased outpatient and inpatient utilization in those practicing the Transcendental Meditation program. Overall reductions were more than 50 percent as compared to norms, based on the health care utilization rates of 600,000 members of the same insurance carrier. In the over-40 age group, the reduction was over 70 percent. Hospital admissions were significantly reduced in all 17 disease categories studied, including 87 percent less for disorders of the heart and blood vessels, 55 percent less for neoplastic diseases, 73 percent less for respiratory problems, 87 percent less for neurological disorders, 49 percent less for gastrointestinal conditions, and 30 percent less for infectious diseases. Psychosomatic Medicine 1987, 49: 493-507.
Reduced health costs.
A retrospective study of government health statistics in Quebec analyzed the medical expenses of people practicing Transcendental Meditation for 3 years before and up to 7 years after learning the technique. Monthly data on payments to physicians for treatment under the provincial health insurance scheme were adjusted to account for ageing, inflation, and other influences using normative data provided by the Quebec government. After commencing Transcendental Meditation, real expenses declined by 5 to 7 percent annually over the seven-year follow-up period. American Journal of Health Promotion 1996, 10(3): 208-216. A follow-up, controlled study of 2836 enrollees in the Quebec provincial health insurance scheme examined data over 14 years retrospectively. Before beginning Transcendental Meditation, the TM group did not differ significantly from a control group in terms of payments to physicians. However, after learning Transcendental Meditation, mean payments declined by 1 to 2 percent each year over six years in the TM group, while the control group's mean payments increased by nearly 12 percent annually. Thus, the mean annual difference between the two groups was approximately 13 percent. Cumulatively, after 6 years, payments to physicians were 56 percent lower for subjects practicing Transcendental Meditation compared to controls. American Journal of Health Promotion 2000, 14(5): 284-291.
Reduction of high blood pressure.
A randomized controlled trial on hypertension published in 1995 found that the Transcendental Meditation program produced significant reductions in systolic and diastolic pressure comparable to those commonly found with anti-hypertensive medication, but without any side effects. The Transcendental Meditation program was found to be twice as effective as a relaxation technique (progressive muscular relaxation) in reducing blood pressure. A control group who received a “usual care” program of advice on weight loss, salt restriction, exercise, and reduced alcohol intake showed no significant change in blood pressure. Hypertension 1995, 26: 820-827.Further examination of the results showed that Transcendental Meditation was effective in reducing blood pressure across a range of patient subgroups, stratified according to five dimensions of hypertension risk. Hypertension 1996; 28:228-237.
In a separate analysis, Transcendental Meditation was found to be equally or more cost-effective in reducing hypertension than any of the five most commonly used classes of anti-hypertensive drug. American Journal of Managed Care, 1996, 2: 427-437.
Improvement in angina pectoris. Over an eight-month period, subjects with documented ischemic heart disease (either by previous myocardial infarction or positive coronary angiography) who were instructed in the Transcendental Meditation technique showed significant improvements compared to controls as measured by exercise stress testing, including improvements in exercise tolerance, maximum work load, and onset of ST depression on ECG. These findings suggest improvement in coronary perfusion with practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. Other studies have shown that the Transcendental Meditation technique improves major risk factors for coronary heart disease, including hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, smoking, and psychological stress). American Journal of Cardiology 1996, 77:867-870.
A randomized, controlled clinical trial found that practice of Transcendental Meditation led to a significant decrease in carotid artery atherosclerosis, assessed by ultrasound measurement of intima-media thickness. A control group who received health education showed an increase in atherosclerosis. Stroke 2000, 31(3): 568-573.
Improvement in patients with cardiac syndrome X. A recent pilot study found significant positive effects of Transcendental Meditation on objective exercise test variables and quality of life in patients with cardiac syndrome x (anginal chest pain, positive response to exercise stress testing, and normal coronary angiogram). American Journal of Cardiology 2000, 85: 653-655.
Comprehensive improvements in mental health. Studies employing the technique of meta-analysis have shown that the Transcendental Meditation technique is markedly more effective in reducing anxiety, improving overall psychological health, and reducing substance abuse than relaxation techniques and other forms of meditation. Journal of Clinical Psychology 1989, 45: 957-974. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 1991, 6(5): 189-247. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly 1994, 11: 13-87.
Reduced alcohol, cigarette and drug abuse.
A meta-analysis of studies on reducing alcohol, nicotine, and drug consumption found that the Transcendental Meditation technique produced a significantly larger effect on stopping consumption than conventional treatment and prevention programs specifically designed to motivate people to quit. Moreover, in contrast to the time course of conventional programs, whose initial success rates drop off precipitously in the first three months following completion of treatment (and continue to decline gradually thereafter), abstinence patterns as a result of Transcendental Meditation were maintained or increased up to 2 years later (the longest period studied). Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly 1994, 11: 11-84.
Improvements in post-traumatic stress disorder.
A random-assignment study on Vietnam veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder showed that the Transcendental Meditation technique decreased depression, reduced anxiety, decreased insomnia, decreased alcohol consumption, improved family problems, reduced severity of delayed stress syndrome and decreased emotional numbness, as well as leading to greater success in obtaining employment. By contrast, a control group receiving psychotherapy did not improve significantly on any measure. Journal of Counseling and Development 1986, 64: 212-215.
Aging and Longevity
Younger biological age.
A number of studies on individuals practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique have shown enhanced biological youthfulness as measured by the hormone aging marker DHEAS and by physiological measures of biological age combining blood pressure, near-point vision, and auditory acuity. Journal of Behavioral Medicine 1992, 15: 327-341; International Journal of Neuroscience 1982, 16:53-58.
A randomized, controlled study at Harvard University demonstrated enhancement of longevity in elderly nursing home residents (mean age 81 years) who learned the Transcendental Meditation technique. All of the subjects in the Transcendental Meditation group were still alive three years after the program began, as compared to significantly lower survival rates in three control groups. In addition, the TM group show significantly greater improvement on measures of mental health, cognitive and behavioral flexibility, blood pressure, and self-assessed well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1989; 57:950-964.
Changes opposite to aging. Over the past 30 years, research has demonstrated more than 40 physiological, psychological, and behavioral effects of Transcendental Meditation that are opposite to the deteriorations associated with the aging process. For example, memory, blood pressure, cholesterol, arterial health, sleep quality, reaction time, reflex efficiency, learning ability, and perceptual acuity all deteriorate with aging and have been demonstrated to improve with the Transcendental Meditation technique. Memory and Cognition 1982; 10: 207-215. Hypertension 1995; 26: 820-827. Journal of Human Stress 1979; 5: 24-27, Stroke 2000, 31(3): Japanese Journal of Public Health 37: 729; 568-573, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1989; 57:950-964, Perceptual and Motor Skills 1980; 50: 1103-1106, Experimental Neurology 1983; 79: 77-86, Perceptual and Motor Skills 1974; 38: 1263-1268.