Meditation for health purposes is a
mind-body practice in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)¹ There are many types of meditation²,
most of which
originated in ancient religious and spiritual traditions. Generally, a
person who is meditating uses certain techniques, such as focusing
attention (for example, on a word, an object, or the breath); a
specific posture; and an open attitude toward distracting thoughts and
emotions. Meditation can be practiced for various reasons--for example,
with an intent to increase physical relaxation, mental calmness, and
psychological balance; to cope with one or more diseases and
conditions; and for overall wellness. This Backgrounder provides a
general introduction to meditation and suggests some resources for
finding out more.
- People practice meditation for a number
of health-related purposes.
Resources for published research results on meditation are listed at
the end of this Backgrounder.
- It is not fully known what changes occur
in the body during
meditation; whether they influence health; and, if so, how. The
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and
some other components of the National Institutes of Health are
sponsoring studies to find out more about meditation's effects, how it
works, and what diseases and conditions it may be most helpful for.
- Tell your health care providers about any
alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do
to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
Meditation used as CAM is a type of mind-body medicine³ (one of the four
domains, or areas of knowledge, in CAM). Generally, mind-body medicine
- The interactions among the brain, the
rest of the body, the mind, and behavior
- The ways in which emotional, mental,
social, spiritual, and behavioral factors can directly affect health
People use meditation for various health
problems, such as:
- Mood and self-esteem problems
- Physical or emotional symptoms that may
be associated with chronic illnesses and their treatment, such as:
- Cardiovascular (heart) disease
Meditation is also used for overall wellness.
A large national survey on Americans' use of
CAM, released in 2004,
found that nearly 8 percent of the participants had used meditation
specifically for health reasons during the year before the survey.
¹ - A
group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and
products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional
medicine. Complementary medicine is used together with conventional
medicine, and alternative medicine is used in place of conventional
medicine is medicine as practiced
by holders of M.D. (medical doctor) or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy)
degrees and by their allied health professionals, such as physical
therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses. Some health care
providers practice both CAM and conventional medicine.
² - A
conscious mental process using certain techniques -- such as focusing
attention or maintaining a specific posture -- to suspend the stream of
thoughts and relax the body and mind.
that focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and
behavior, with the intent to use the mind to affect physical
functioning and promote health. Examples include meditation and yoga.
provided this material for your information. It is not
intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your
primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions
about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of
any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCAM.