Who would have thought that I would actually be checking in – to check out the Dr Ita Wegman Anthroposophic Clinic in Arlesheim, Switzerland.
My visit to the Ita Wegman Clinic came a day early. On Monday, I was scheduled to find out all about who Dr Ita Wegman was and why she set up the first anthroposophical medical clinic in Arlesheim in 1921.
Nature decided I needed to visit a little earlier.
I’ve been struggling with a chesty cough all week. But there’s far too many exciting things to be checking out in Switzerland rather than resting in bed. Turns out Bronchitis was here and wasn’t planning on leaving anytime soon.
On the positive side, this allows me to share my newly found, first-hand knowledge of how the team at the clinic keep Ita Wegman’s approach to medicine going long after the medical pioneer had left the building.
Who’s Ita Wegman?
Ita Wegman 1876 – 1943 became a doctor in 1911, highly unusual for a woman at the time. Together with Rudolf Steiner they founded of anthroposophic medicine. And Weleda too.
My favourite story that I heard about Ita was that even as a little school girl she wasn’t afraid to take the reins. She gladly moved the coachman who drove her to school aside to get to a faster pace happening! This is such a great showcase of her strength of personality and determination to set her own path.
As well as developing medicines and care products, Dr Ita Wegman also created various therapeutic treatments, including rhythmic massage. This is an anthroposophical medical form of massage carried out by anthroposophic physiotherapists. External therapy is another anthroposophical medicinal therapy and consists of rhythmic rubbing, bath therapy and applications, carried out by specially trained nurses.
What makes her clinic different from conventional clinics?
Dr Ita Wegman, MD founded this Clinical Therapeutical Institute in 1921 in close collaboration with Dr. Rudolf Steiner. PhD. To this day, the clinic offers fully integrated anthroposophic extended medicine.
‘When we look at medicine we see it as an extension to conventional medicine. A way to supply more options. More perspectives. And the patients are looking for it.” Dr (math) Andreas Jäschke
The clinic’s therapeutic approach is based on conventional medicine, but with ‘more options’ created by anthroposophic medicine – such as eurhythmy therapists, music therapy, art therapy, manifold specialists and rhythmic massage. Each individual is examined in their physical, psychological and spiritual-biographical aspects before any diagnosis or treatment is prescribed.
‘Anthroposophic medicine takes into the account the human, as it’s developing. A patient comes in as a person, and the illness belongs to them. Then we ask the question when we look at each individual patient – What do I have to change to fix this illness for this person? What is the next developing stage? And what can we do to help that person to do the next step themselves. This is a different view of the patient, as a developing being.” Dr math Andreas Jäschke
Inside scoop from an inpatient – me!
Over the last two days I’ve had a range of anthroposophical treatments to treat my Bronchitis. This is a whole new world to me, one I still don’t profess to completely understand but I will share with you my personal experience with anthroposophic treatments.
To be honest I thought I was a bit of a text book case for a chest infection. I expected, like in most clinics to have a doctor listen to my breathing, give me my script and send me off to the chemist within five minutes. The consultation was a lot longer and more holistic than that.
My doctor posed questions to discover more not only about my physical symptoms, but my mental and spiritual state too.
The doctor asked me what brought me here, but also the trip, the impact the travel has been having etc. She was looking for the deeper cause of my health imbalance not just the visible symptoms.
It didn’t stop just with questions though, don’t worry science is alive and well here too. My blood was taken to the lab to be analysed as were my blood pressure, temperature and breathing.
After the doctor went to the lab to do all the usual science/medical things she returned for the second consultation.
In texts written by Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman about this clinic, they stress the importance of Anthroposophic medicine working together with conventional medicine. It does not oppose it in any way. They’re approach is that Anthroposophic medicine is an extension of medical practice that already existed – just with the added question of:
‘What does the illness mean for the patient, what does it bring them?’
In the anthroposophic medical view, this opens up a different path to a cure. One that is individual for the patient.
“Anthroposophic Medicine is a human medicine. And we can look at humans in very different ways. Our job is to look at the human as a complicated, biochemical machine. A human that has it’s ‘being’ at its core that is housed in a body. So, if you look at the human in a different perspective, as a self-conscious developing being one may come up with the same way of treating the illness… or maybe a whole different path for therapy.” Dr Math Andreas Jäschke
From the lab findings and from her extended tests she could see the infection was in my blood – Bronchitis it is. Below is the treatment she set for me.
My treatment plan
What I was prescribed was a lot different to medicines and therapies I’ve never been prescribed before. Here’s what I was given…
- An injection to boost my immunity.
- An inhalant so big Snoop Dog would be proud. I was left puffing on that bad boy for about twenty minutes to open up the blocked bronchial in my chest.
- A beeswax pad that I was to place on my chest and heat with a hot water bottle to soothe the bronchial from the outside in too. I am to use this for the next seven days.
- Quartz and phosphorus ‘globuli’… they are like mini tablets to take morning and lunchtime. It is intended to bring more ‘light’ or ‘warmth’ into my being, to soothe the infection. Anthroposophic doctors believes air and light are physical functions and important forms of therapy for respiration issues.
- Myrtle and Pine inhalant to open up the respiratory system. I actually made the mistake and drank this as tea… note to self – use Google Translate for medical directions when using medication from a foreign country!
- Sloe Berry Elixir. What’s that…? It’s a blueberry tonic, one of the best natural sources of powerful antioxidants which acts in our body as a shield against free radicals, viruses and bacteria.
When I returned to the clinic today for my tour I was given first hand access to complimentary therapies. These were meant as part of the Weleda tour but as I wasn’t well we decided to use these sessions to help with my chest infection.
Anthroposophic therapists believe that music penetrates the human being. The belief is that more often than not, the soul lived in a body that is not functioning optimally – that’s struggling to find it’s balance in breathing, movement, motivation and morals. Tones, intervals, rhythms, mirrored tone-sequences and movement-supported sound patterns are used to penetrate through our bodies to make a change.
I experienced two vibration therapies.
A flattened cello like instrument was placed under my feet and played with a string. The vibrations from the notes went through my body through the soles of my feet. I was asked to describe where the vibrations reached as a way for the therapist to gauge my sensitivity and response to the treatment.
As we were treating bronchitis, a chest infection the second treatment revolved around a harp like instrument being played on my back to open up my respiratory system. The pitch of the notes sent vibrations through my torso.
Eurhythmy Therapy was developed in 1921 by Dr. Rudolf Steiner, as an integral part of Anthroposophic Medicine. The instruments of Eurhythmy Therapy are movements that are connected with the creative processes and functions of the organs in the human body – repetition, rhythm and specific leg movements stimulate the patient’s vital energies. In each treatment, the movements are adapted to the individual situation and constitution of the patient, and to the different conditions or illnesses.
Together with the team we did a series of movements, from a dance to symbolise the stability of a tree – it’s truck, it’s leaves, it’s bark. And also fluid movements to simulate moving through waves.
Generally, I prefer to avoid medicine if I can naturally fight against the illness without it. I largely prefer to try and let my own body fight against smaller illnesses with the usual helpers – a good night sleep, good food and lots of water. But getting better is always the main thing… if that takes traditional medicine then I’m all for it too!
Wellness is the end game however that comes!
I’m well open to new treatments. It’s far too soon to tell how my anthroposophical treatment will work but I must say that I am feeling a bit better. My chest feels less restricted, the coughing had reduced and my energy is up.
I used the beeswax chest pad as soon as I got home from the clinic. I’m not going to lie… I was pretty sceptical. But I was surprised by my reaction to the beeswax chest pad. I had it on for about an hour with a hot water bottle to warm it. After taking it off and one hour later it brought up all these red patterns – like the lines of my bronchial which lasted for a few hours afterwards.
I slept all through the night from 9pm – 6.30am. I didn’t wake to have to cough or because of fever symptoms. The next morning, I woke up with my cough still there but it didn’t feel as conjested as it had in the past. It was more of a dry couch. But with nowhere near the intensity as previous days. My headache or pressure behind my brow bone has eased. I also had more energy than other mornings, I could get up within minutes which on other days took me over an hour – the need to eat was the driver to get me up.
The complementary music and euthymic therapies are very new to me and I only experienced them in short sessions but they are clinical and evidence-based therapies that help to accomplish individualized goals, so I’m sure for the right patient they can achieve good things.
I nod my head to holistic, integrated medicines and complimentary therapies. And if I can avoid chemical medicines whilst getting better than that is the road I would prefer to take.
Something I am learning though is that ‘quick fixes’ are the dangerous things. If we are unwell our bodies we need to listen to them – to rest, have good food and drink lots of fluids. If we don’t deal with the cause of the illness then we are just treating symptoms that will highly likely just come back.
“We are working together with the patient, because they need to do it themselves. AM gives the support, how much we can. But in-fact it’s the patient itself that needs to heal themselves.” Claudia Rordorf, Education specialist Ita Wegman Clinic
Have you tired anthroposophical medicine or treatments? What was your experience?