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Volume 2, Issue 3
Autumn 2006:

From an Ample Nation

Arthur Brownstein, MD

Cell 2 Soul. 2006 Autumn; 2(3):a9

Books for Natural Health and Healing

These books are a resource for lay people who might be in need of practical guidance for restoring health. They are the resources I most frequently offer to my patients.

  1. Anatomy of an Illness by Norman Cousins
  2. This all time classic is the first book I recommend to new patients with chronic illnesses, or for those interested in improving their health. It describes one man's ability to use laughter and a little vitamin C to reverse a critical, life-threatening illness. While not a doctor or a scientifically trained person, Cousins refused to be intimidated by a medical system that told him his case was hopeless. Instead, he learned to rally the forces of his own mind and body to affect complete healing. Many doctors and patients have been inspired and positively influenced by this book, which spent 40 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List when it was first released. Considered the Father of the modern Mind-Body Medicine movement, Cousins went on to found the nation's first Program in Psychoneuroimmunology (the science of investigating how the mind influences the immune system, mediated through the nervous system) at UCLA through the generosity of an 11 million dollar research grant sponsored by the Joan Kroc Foundation (McDonalds corporation) and the enthusiastic and open-minded blessings of the Dean of the School of Medicine at UCLA.

  3. Love, Medicine, and Miracles by Bernie Siegel, M.D.
  4. Anyone who tells me they have a friend or loved one with cancer gets this timeless, international-bestseller recommended to them before any other word of encouragement or advice leaves my mouth. A former Yale University cancer surgeon who has been in the trenches fighting this dreadful disease for most of his career, Dr. Siegel is known for his no-holds-barred, surgically precise one-liners in dispensing practical wisdom, wit, and humor about healing. This book offers powerful, uplifting, encouraging advice to anyone afflicted with cancer, or any other life-threatening illness. Love, Medicine, and Miracles is based on Dr. Siegel's twelve years of intimate contact with Exceptional Cancer Patients, who taught him that there is more to life and healing than our medical science may currently know. His endorsement of love as a legitimate healing force represents a refreshing departure from the dry, gloom and doom medical science that most modern western medicine advocates.

  5. Dr. Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease Dr. Dean Ornish
  6. I consider this book to be the bible for anyone interested in improving the health of their heart. Although not a cardiologist, Dr. Ornish was the first person in the world to prove that heart disease, (the number one killer in the western world), could be reversed without drugs or surgery, but rather by employing the simple, natural elements of diet and lifestyle modification. His four-pronged program included a low fat, largely plant-based diet, mild-moderate exercise, stress management (including stretching, relaxing, and meditating), and sharing one's feeling in a safe, non-threatening group, (in the old days, this was known as the family).

    For the first time in history, Dr. Ornish was able to prove that blockages in the coronary arteries could be reversed with concomitant improved blood flow to the heart's muscles after only one year of patient participation. Surprisingly, the oldest, sickest patients demonstrated the greatest amount of reversal and improvement on this program. Upon deeper investigation, the reason became clear. These were the most motivated (perhaps desperate?), and demonstrated the greatest compliance with all the elements of the program, thus proving a direct relationship to adherence and results; the greater the adherence, the greater the improvement in cardiac health. Having worked with and followed Dr. Ornish's career for a quarter of a century, I can personally attest to the efficacy of his program. In addition to this wonderful book, the results of his studies have been published in NEJM, Lancet, JAMA, and many other leading, peer-reviewed scientific journals. An impeccable scientist, Dr. Ornish's greatest asset as a doctor is perhaps his larger humanitarian perspective. My favorite saying of his is the following: "The physical heart is a metaphor for the spiritual heart." Dr. Ornish served as President Clinton's heart advisor during many of his years in office, and took personal pains to train the chefs of the White House, Camp David, Navy Mess, and Air Force One in the fine art of yoga and heart healthy cuisine.

  7. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
  8. Based on what she learned from her own successful recovery from cervical cancer, this book has gone on to become an international best seller. Louise Hay was the first strong female voice in healing to come forth and challenge conventional medical scientific wisdom and advocate the necessity of making your mind your ally in your healing journey. Making the valid point that our bodies don't operate in a vacuum, but more importantly, often reflect what is going on in our lives, Louise Hay explains why it is important to learn to love yourself and release all hatred of your self, your body, and your life, if you would truly desire to improve your health. A down-to-earth, simple, yet clearly written book, her story and her hard-won wisdom from her successful defeat of cancer are practical and powerful. Over the years, I refer to this book repeatedly in citing passages and quoting lines to my patients. I have found this book to be one of the most inspirational, positive, uplifting, and comprehensive books on healing that I know. Although Louise Hay has gone on to write many other books, record numerous audio programs on healing (one of my favorites is called: "One hundred and One Power Thoughts") and even founded her own, highly successful publishing company, to my mind, this one still remains her original classic. One of my favorite quotes of hers:

    "Illness is the body's way of telling us to pay attention. Something we are doing, thinking, or believing, is not for our highest good."

  9. Natural Health, Natural Medicine by Andrew Weil, M.D.
  10. Andrew Weil is a Harvard trained conventional physician who has spent the majority of his career pursuing botanical, natural, and oriental approaches to healing that are safe, reliable and effective. He is also a strong advocate of yoga, meditation, spirituality, and the Mind-Body connection. Although he has written many books, this was his first best-seller, and offers practical advice and wisdom on numerous common disorders, not just how to treat them, but to prevent them as well. This is a great book to read straight through, or also as a reference guide. As a doctor and an enthusiastic advocate of natural approaches to healing, I have come to rely on this book as a valuable, comprehensive resource in health and healing. One of my favorite quotes of Dr. Weil:

    "Wherever nerves are, activities of the mind can travel."

  11. Spontaneous Healing by Andrew Weil, M.D.
  12. This was Dr. Weil's highly successful sequel to Natural Health, Natural Medicine, and, contrary to what western medicine may have us believe, was a strong argument on behalf of the body's natural ability to heal itself. One of the first people in the world to mention the body's healing system, and how we can cooperate with it and enhance its function, this book is a must-read for anyone battling a difficult illness, or who wants to improve their health. This book is an all-time favorite of mine, and I frequently break it out and refer to its wisdom when facing a difficult health problem either in my family or among my patients. A wonderfully uplifting, inspiring must-read for any serious student of healing.

  13. Healing Words by Larry Dossey, M.D.
  14. Dr. Larry Dossey is a prolific writer and physician with a background in theology. He has conducted and collaborated on numerous studies validating the efficacy of a spiritual force in health and healing, especially through the power of prayer. Although he has written many books, and continues to write, over the years I have found this book particularly helpful in bridging the gap between science and spirituality, and how the latter might actually be a beneficial ally to patients.

  15. Homecoming by John Bradshaw
  16. This book served as a healing catalyst in my own life in helping me explore the inner world of my own emotions. It has facilitated my ongoing journey of learning to love my true Self, and has served as an aid in helping me heal the pain of my childhood, while encouraging me to expunge the unhealthy self-image formed during these challenging and tumultuous years. In the words of Jean-Paul Sartre: "We only become that which we truly are by a radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made of us." The message in this book is based on the premise that within each one of us is an inner child-spirit that is the soul and substance of our creativity and intuition, and that if this inner child has been wounded in youth, these traumatic emotions, if not released, are carried forth into adulthood and can serve as fuel for our unconscious, self-destructive, self-sabotaging behavior. This dysfunctional mind-body collaboration forms the roots of our addictions, and can serve as the emotional fodder for chronic degenerative diseases as well. While it is always difficult to go within and face one's pain, this is a necessary part of our healing journey. Otherwise, we end up sweeping the dirt under the carpet, and while we may be outwardly smiling to the world, inside we are often emotionally dying. There is a common saying that describes this phenomenon: "You are only as sick as the secrets you keep. Flush those skeletons out of the closet and you'll be healed."

  17. Who Said So: How our thoughts and beliefs affect our physiology, by Rachel Breslow
  18. (Originally published by Ten Speed Press/Celestial Arts, is now hard to find and most likely out of print. This is a shame, because as a doctor and a former chronic pain patient, it is an all time classic inspirational read.)

    I first found this book at the Institute of Noetic Sciences annual conference in Wash DC in 1991 where Deepak Chopra, Dean Ornish, and Larry Dossey all presented their inspiring work. Soon after reading it, I purchased ten additional copies, and kept them in my medical clinic's "Health and Healing library" back home for many years. As I was too generous a book lender, all but two copies developed legs and never returned. I guard my remaining two copies with my life, and have since made a Xerox bound copy which, if my arm is twisted out of it's socket, on occasion I will lend, on the condition that if it is not returned in two days the borrower will be prosecuted. I am contemplating querying another publisher to have it re-released, it is that good! "Who Said So" is a rather short book, a two hour read at best, but one of the most powerful books I have ever read on the Mind-Body connection, and how one woman learned to use the powers of her mind to overcome Multiple Sclerosis. In fact, if I were teaching a course on Mind-Body Medicine, this would be the only book required, because it so eloquently and succinctly summarizes the underlying theme of the entire field. This is evident not just through the narration of her gripping tale, but through the insights of deep universal healing wisdom which punctuate her story and which I have quoted for more than fifteen years to my patients and in my own books. Rachel Breslow was an ordinary housewife who, after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and upon following the advice of her doctors, prepared to passively accept the life of a terminally-ill patient. This included the requisite life in a wheelchair, the helplessness and dependency, the inevitable degeneration, and early demise that is characteristic of this devastating neurologic disease. Realizing that her whole life's personality could be summed up on one word: "Doormat", Ms. Breslow realized that she'd allowed everyone in her life and family to walk all over her, including her parents, her husband, and her kids. This is where she began her battle to get her life back. Eleven years later, with no trace of M.S. in her mind or body, independent, strong and healthy, she did just that. This book is a vivid description of her journey, both within and without.

  19. Quantum Healing by Deepak Chopra, M.D.
  20. While Deepak Chopra has written and recorded many popular, best-selling books and audio programs over the years, this book was largely responsible for catapulting him to fame, setting the tone for the successful career as a writer, speaker, healer, and teacher that he enjoys today. What I like about his book is its eloquent discussion about the concept of energy and quantum physics, and how these principles, while serving as the basis for the western life sciences, are somehow being neglected by the modern medical educational curriculum and research. Timely when it first came out in the 80's, it is just as appropriate today, as these principles still elude most modern practitioners and medical researchers. Dr. Chopra explains how western medicine is still stuck on Newtonian physics, in which "matter" is considered the fundamental organizing principle of the universe, whereas in quantum physics, formerly ushered into the world in 1945 at Hiroshima, where the horrendous release of destructive energy from the splitting of the atom was first witnessed, the fundamental organizing principle of the universe is more accurately seen as "energy."

    The significance of understanding the principle of energy behind the homeostatic processes of all biological systems, (including the human body), is that it helps us think more in terms of physiological function than merely anatomical structure. This helps us to better understand and clarify the function of the immune system, the Mind-Body connection, the new important field of psychoneuroimmunology, and helps us better understand some of the traditional oriental systems of health and healing, such as yoga from India, which describes the concept of "prana in terms of energy regulated through breathing, and the analogous principle of "Chi" in Chinese medicine, which can be activated through acupuncture meridians and other techniques.

  21. Extraordinary Healing, The Amazing Power of Your Body's Secret Healing System by Art Brownstein, M.D.
  22. I wanted to call this book "Your Body's Amazing Healing System," but the publisher wouldn't allow that.

    This book was inspired by Norman Cousins, shortly before his passing in 1990. We had met in his office at UCLA, and I had corresponded with him over the ensuing six months prior to his death. At the time, he was heading the UCLA Program in Psychoneuroimmunology, and was actively engaged in cutting age research in Mind-Body interactions involving the immune system, the brain, and the nervous system.

    Even though he was actively involved in immune system research, he took time out of his busy schedule to meet me and personally champion the healing system. In his mind, as important as the immune system was, the healing system was even more important.

    It took me 15 years to realize Professor Cousins' mandate. Hopefully it will serve as inspiration to others to systematically investigate this little known, sadly neglected, yet extremely powerful system.

    Extraordinary Healing is written for lay people who might be in need of practical guidance for restoring health. It includes case histories from my own personal files, as well as those of my colleagues. It is written primarily to inform and educate the reader, it also has an equally important message intended to inspire, uplift, and rekindle the fire of hope that may be lying dormant in the heart of an afflicted reader, or an afflicted loved one of the reader.

In late 2005, the editors of Cell 2 Soul and Dermanities launched a new section, "Why Read? — Personal Canons," which is a forum to catalog those works of art which instruct and enrich us as care givers and individuals. We invited some friends, colleagues and teachers to share those they deem canonical — books, poems, the occasional movie to which they keep returning.

The background for these selections is found in a recent editorial entitled: Why Read? An Emerging Canon.

We welcome your Personal Canon. Please click on Canon Guidelines. Kindly follow the format you see here.

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