The Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine

Scott Gerson, M.D., Ph.D. (Ayurveda) Medical Director, Jupiter Medical Center Dept. of Integrative Medicine Division of Education and Research






Lake Mary Clinic, Gerson Ayurvedic Spa, and Panchakarma Facility: at 635 Primera Blvd. Lake Mary, Florida 32746

Jupiter Medical Center at The Calcagnini Center for Mindfulness
1210 S. Old Dixie Highway, Jupiter, Florida 33458, Suite M-117.2




 Telephone: (561) 263-MIND (6463); option 2 (407) 549-2800

Energy Medicine

The concept of a human energetic body dates back to the ancient era and was the basis for understanding life and health at least as far back as 5000 years ago. Within this energy paradigm, man is viewed as primarily an energetic being interconnected to and in harmony with all other universal energies. Man was understood to be a part of a whole. Today, modern integrative medicine is described as the integration or melding of modern medical interventions with the healing practices of the ancient traditional healers. However, because it is inconsistent with basic principles of classical physics and current concepts of biology and therefore difficult to comprehend, energy medicine has been significantly marginalized even within the circles of integrative medicine.

Despite that, two kinds of energy, perceptible and imperceptible, are recognized as having relevance to human life and health. We do not currently understand the relationship of one to the other.

Perceptible (detectable) energies are those that are currently measureable--with specific wavelengths and frequencies. This includes sound vibration, electricity, magnetism, thermal and other types of radiations from the electromagnetic spectrum. Possibly, though unproven, we could add to this list biophotons,[2] and microwave range emissions.

Imperceptible (undetectable) energy (singular), on the other hand, is more difficult to understand or accept. “Vital energy”, “life force”, “prana” (Vedic), “chi” (Chinese), “ka” (Egyptian), “ik” (Mayan), “tona” (Aztec), “manitou” (Cree), “wakonda” (Sioux), “ni” (Lakota), “pneuma” (Greek), “mana” (Polynesian), etc. are terms used to describe ancient concepts that human beings are not only physical flesh and bones but are composed of a certain subtle form of energy. Although called different names in different cultures, the underlying concept is the same: in health, energy circulates throughout the mind-body; illness arises as a result of blockages, imbalances, or disruption of its flow. True healers can sense the status of an individual’s energetic body and, if disturbed, use modalities specific to one’s tradition to restore it and reestablish balance health.

A scientific revolution is quietly underway as the nature of the energy which we call our life force are being validated, documented and to some extent measured. It is like no other force known to science. It responds to consciousness and appears to modify the other basic laws of physics. It is intimately entangled with life processes, and plays a central role in growth and healing. In Ayurveda, as well as many other ancient cultures, manipulating this energy is the central aim of medicine.

Subtle energy research, which for example tries to verify the existence of prana or chi, is difficult to design or evaluate because they are entities which do not necessarily obey basic principles of classical physics nor current concepts of biology, physiology, or even anatomy.

Take for example the phenomenon of Reiki healing or Pranic healing—both of which are non-touch and sometimes even purported to operate at a distance. If a pranic or reiki effect is mediated by some form of electromagnetic energy, we would expect it to have a number of characteristics. First, the effect should be eliminated if the transmission of the energy is blocked by an appropriate shield (e.g. copper or steel). Second, the effect should decrease with increasing distance between the energy transmitter and the target. This is the inverse square law--which applies to all electric, magnetic, light, sound, and radiation phenomena, as well as to gravity. Third, allowing for the time lag due to signal transmission, processing and occurrence of a biological response, the effect should be temporally related the energy emission. Fourth, there should be some sort of dose-response relationship between the quantity or intensity of emitted energy and the magnitude of the effect observed. However, as Reiki and Pranic healing both do not always follow some or all of the four predicted characteristics of energy described above, they are difficult to explain in modern scientific terms or interpret.

Energy, both perceptible and imperceptible, is being shown to play a vital role in health, disease, and healing.

Ayurvedic medicine unambiguously recognizes prana (energy) as a vital, living force present in all forms of life, which regulates both physical health and mental happiness. In disease conditions prana has become disturbed and imbalanced and healing supervenes through activation or restoration of natural energy networks either by innate adjustments or through outside interventions. Ayurvedic medicine in particular can be both a complement to other approaches of conventional medical care or—in certain instances—a complete system for self-healing.

Energy medicine can address physical illness, emotional illness, mental illness, as well as promote optimal levels of physical, emotional, and mental function and peak performance in healthy individuals.

I will outline here the essential energetic principles of Ayurvedic medicine, but these can be generalized to most forms of energy medicine as well.

1) Both bio-electromagnetic and another more subtle, imperceptible energy comprise a living, dynamic, interconnected infrastructure within and surrounding the physical body.

2) The state of that subtle energy—its flow, balance, and harmony­—is reflected in the health of the mind and body.

3) Conversely, when the body is not healthy, corresponding disturbances in its energies can be identified and corrected.

4) To overcome illness and maintain vibrant health, pranic energy must be unimpeded in its natural flow and distribution; the channels through which this energy moves may become blocked (sroto avarana) due to toxins, muscular or other physical constrictions, prolonged mental stress, or interference from other external energies.

5) Flow, balance, and harmony can be non-invasively restored and maintained within an energy system by many and varied means: massage, touch, marma point therapy, yoga postures designed for specific energetic effects, visualization techniques to move specific energies, meditation, herbal medicines used based on a knowledge of their energetic qualities, foods, breathing techniques, music, exercise, light, singing, chanting sound, aromas, and prayer. There are no doubt many others.

One key concept which has emerged recently is the relationship between energy and the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which are in tight equilibrium. These systems typically act in opposition to each other, but are able to function in synergy, making it difficult to predict the effects of autonomic nervous system activation. In general, stimulation of the SNS brings the body to a state of heightened activity and attention, famously called the fight or flight response: heart rate and blood pressure increase, liver glycogen is converted into glucose, the pupils dilate, and peristalsis of the gastrointestinal tract is temporarily inhibited. In contrast, stimulation of the PNS can be summarized as the rest and digest response, as this returns the body functions back to normal: blood pressure lowers, heart rate slows down, gastrointestinal peristalsis is turned on again and the liver resumes storing glucose by producing new glycogen. 

Biochemical and physiological shifts are preceded and regulated by a prior energetic shift. The change in any DNA expression, biochemical value, physiological measurement, or anatomical structure is a downstream effect of the energetic shift. In an analogous manner to how a trigger (e.g. a fire alarm) can activate the sympathetic nervous response, the energy system also is activated. In fact, activation occurs first at the energetic level. The energy shift precedes and regulates the molecular, biochemical, and physiological responses.

In an acute stress situation, an internal process within the subtle energy network enables the body to redistribute energy flow to accommodate the immediate catecholamine needs of the sympathetic nervous response. More specifically, if the body perceives a threat, the protective mechanisms conscript energy away from the parasympathetic repair functions in an effort to augment the required protective response. The nadi (Ayurvedic) or meridian (Chinese) system relinquishes its own energetic balance and coherence to address the urgent situation. After the emergency passes sympathetic-parasympathetic balance in a healthy person is again reestablished. However, in the chronically ill this shift between SNS and PNS does not reset.

All healing that takes place is energetic. Perhaps it is electromagnetic; perhaps more subtle as in prana, chi, life force, etc. But regardless of the intervention, whether its antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, chemotherapy, herbal medicine, meditation, tai chi, or reiki, where there is true healing (i.e. return to homeostasis)—the healthy change occurs first in the energetic field and everything else in the physical dimension follows, including the individual’s thought process and emotional state. Now if it remains changed and balanced, the body heals itself, and in time the biochemistry reorganizes. It is this biochemical reorganization is the target of conventional chemical medicines: β-blockers, calcium channel blockers, hypoglycemic, antibiotics, corticosteroids, chemotherapies, etc. as well as vitamins and supplements. No medicine or supplement has ever cured anything. If healing is seen to occur, the body has cured itself. While it is true that in acute emergency situations, we sometimes need the rapid and potent action of biochemistry, this intervention should never be thought of as a cure of any disease. Pharmaceutical medicine, and its closely-related “integrative medicine” offshoot, functional supplementation,  has never has cured disease, and it never will. If it appears to have cured a condition, it has done so by assisting a change in the energetic field. Only if the field changes can there be a true cure. This concept is a radical departure from the conventional biomedical view that holds biochemistry to be the prime mover.

An individual’s energetic field is not isolated from the environment. As it radiates “out”, it interacts with other energies which are radiating “in,” be it another human being, a pine forest, or a city street. Furthermore, this is a two-way interaction—more accurately an exchange. Three general kinds of energetic interactions can occur.

1) An individual can come into contact with an outside energy and have a very small or no exchange. Either there is naturally no interaction or the individual consciously blocks it. In wave physics, this corresponds to the phenomenon of reflection—when a wave strikes an obstacle head on and bounces straight back in the direction it came from.

2) An individual can be overpowered by the outside energy. We are all familiar with the experience of being “drained” by an event, a place, or another person. It feels as if energetically you’ve been conquered by the event or person. This is analogous in physics to destructive interference—when two waves collide and do not combine but instead one wave is overrun or they cancel each other out. When you finally remove yourself from the situation, you feel liberated!

3) Ideally, there is a mutual beneficial exchange. The energetic fields converge, harmoniously blend and both seem to become stronger and more coherent. This corresponds to constructive interference—when two waves meet and combine to form a larger, stronger wave.

With regard to the practice of medicine, this means that the physician-healer has to begin approximately where the patient’s field is to enable a meaningful interaction. Without this convergence of physician-patient energies, there can be no effective communication or mutual understanding. This is why some physician encounters are effective, comforting and inspiring…and some are not. It’s not because the physician is not knowledgeable, compassionate and well-meaning; nor is it because the patient is unwilling or unable to heal. It is because the energetic field of physician and patient are not harmonious and coherent. This is important in all fields of medicine but especially important in any type of integrative medicine. That energetic connection cannot be forced but sometimes it can be cajoled if the physician is skilled in that.

When I was a student at Brandeis University (1972-1976), I had the honor of knowing the Hungarian biochemist Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, Chair of the Biology Department, who among many achievements was awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering vitamin C and parts of the citric acid cycle in 1937. But our memorable discussions centered around philosophy and the intersection of quantum mechanics and human biology—a subject still in its infancy at that time and considered scientific heresy by many. I remember him counselling his students, myself included, to forever be open to novel and unaccepted avenues of scientific research and to value intuition as much as other forms of knowledge. I conclude with a quote form one of his books:

The cell is a machine driven by energy…No doubt molecular biochemistry has harvested the greatest successes and has given a solid foundation to biology. However there are indications that it has overlooked major problems, if not a whole dimension, for some of the most exciting questions remain unanswered if not unasked. It failed to explain the wonderful subtleties of cellular regulation. Neither did it explain the mechanism of energy transduction, the transduction of chemical energy into mechanical, electric, or osmotic work. These transformations are closely connected to the very nature of life…These failures, hiding in the shadows of success, warrant a fresh approach.”

Szent-Gyorgy, A., Bioelectronics: A Study in Cellular Regulations, Defense, and Cancer Paperback, Academic Press, p.3-4, January 1968.

[2] Lipkova, J. Cechak, J., Human electromagnetic emission in the ELF band, Measurement Sci. Rev., vol. 5, Section 2, 2005, Radar Department, Faculty of Military Technology, Kounicova, Brno, Czech Republic.

[3]The inverse-square law states that a specified physical quantity or intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source.