Meditation
Various forms of meditation have been practiced for thousands of years throughout the world, with many techniques originating in Eastern religi...

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Theory

Numerous theories have been advanced around the mechanisms of action and potential benefits of meditation. It has been suggested that meditation reduces activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the "fight or flight" response, leading to a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure, slowed breathing, and muscle relaxation. Multiple studies of transcendental meditation® have noted decreased metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and oxygen consumption. Changes in blood flow to the brain and in brain wave patterns have been reported, as well as alterations in hormone levels. Decreased lactic acid levels have also been reported. Better quality studies are necessary around the mechanism of action of different forms of meditation before firm conclusions can be reached.

Evidence

DISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Aging: Meditation may help to improve cognitive function and blood pressure in the elderly, which may in turn promote overall health and longevity. More research is needed to identify the specific effects of meditation on aging. However, based on the available evidence, meditation can be recommended as a health-promoting activity for the elderly.
Grade: B

High blood pressure: In general, it appears that regular practice of meditation may promote relaxation and reduce blood pressure. More research is needed before recommendations can be made. However, meditation can be recommended, in addition to healthy diet and exercise, for the prevention (vs. treatment) of hypertension.
Grade: B

Quality of life (cancer): There is good evidence that various types of meditation may help improve quality of life for cancer patients. Studies have shown benefits for mood, sleep quality, and the stresses of treatment. The specific effects of meditation are not fully understood. However, meditation can be recommended as a form of support for cancer patients.
Grade: B

Stress: The evidence indicates that meditation may help healthy people reduce the effects of stress. More studies are needed to further examine the dynamics of stress and meditation, but meditation can be recommended as a general health-promotion activity.
Grade: B

Alcoholism: Meditation may offer general stress-reducing effects for treating or preventing alcohol abuse. However, more studies are needed before clinical recommendations can be made for or against meditation for alcoholism treatment or prevention.
Grade: C

Anger: Studies suggest that meditation may offer some benefits for anger management. However, more studies are needed to recommend meditation as a form of behavioral intervention for anger.
Grade: C

Anxiety: Various forms of meditation, including mindfulness, transcendental meditation®, and "meditation-based stress reduction programs" have been studied for their effects on anxiety. Better studies are needed before a recommendation can be made.
Grade: C

Asthma: Studies suggest that Transcendental Meditation® may benefit asthma patients. Furthermore, Sahaja yoga, which incorporates meditation techniques, may have some benefit in the management of moderate to severe asthma. Further studies of meditation alone are needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Grade: C

Atherosclerosis (clogged arteries): Transcendental Meditation®, along with other therapies, has been reported to help reduce atherosclerosis in older people, particularly in those with apparent cardiovascular heart disease. Further research is needed to confirm any potential benefits from meditation alone.
Grade: C

Balance: Meditation (in the form of Tai Chi or Qi gong) may help to improve balance in healthy elderly people. More research is needed to understand the specific effects of meditation on balance.
Grade: C

Cancer prevention: There is good evidence that meditation may help improve the quality of life during cancer treatment. However, not enough research has shown meditation to help in the prevention of cancer. More studies are needed.
Grade: C

Cardiovascular disease: There is not enough evidence that meditation has any clinical effects in cardiovascular disease. More studies are needed to determine whether meditation may have benefits and whether specific techniques might be more effective than others.
Grade: C

Cardiovascular rehabilitation: Meditation may offer general benefits for mood and stress, which are likely to aid in cardiac care. However, more studies are needed to recommend meditation as a specific treatment during cardiac rehabilitation.
Grade: C

Chronic fatigue syndrome: Mindfulness meditation with Qi gong may contribute to improved overall health. However, not enough studies have examined the specific effects of meditation on chronic fatigue syndrome. More studies are needed before meditation can be recommended as a treatment.
Grade: C

Chronic pain: Meditation, yoga, and other stress management techniques may help to relieve chronic pain. However, since meditation is often used with many other treatments and therapies, the specific benefits of meditation are not clear. More studies are needed that examine the specific effects of meditation as a treatment for chronic pain.
Grade: C

Cocaine dependence: Meditation may not be as effective as other therapies for preventing relapse in recovering cocaine addicts. More studies are needed before meditation can be recommended as a treatment for cocaine dependence.
Grade: C

Cognitive function: Some forms of meditation may have positive effects on cognitive function. However, there is not enough clear evidence that any specific form of meditation can support or enhance cognitive function.
Grade: C

Congestive heart failure: Meditation may improve quality of life in elderly patients, and may even potentially reduce the risk for congestive heart failure. However, there is not enough evidence to make recommendations for meditation in congestive heart failure, and more studies are needed.
Grade: C

Depression: Some forms of meditation may prevent relapse in patients who have had bouts of major depression. However, more studies are needed to confirm that meditation may be used as part of treatment for depression.
Grade: C

Epilepsy: Yoga meditation may help prevent seizures in epileptics, although higher quality studies are needed to make a firm recommendation.
Grade: C

Fibromyalgia: It has been suggested that mindfulness meditation may help improve symptoms in patients with fibromyalgia. Better quality research is necessary before a conclusion can be formed.
Grade: C

HIV/AIDS: Research suggests that meditation may help improve quality of life in patients with HIV/AIDS. Meditation may even affect immune function, though the studies have been inconclusive. More studies are needed to establish how meditation may be useful as an adjunctive therapy in HIV/AIDS patients.
Grade: C

Immune function: Research suggests that there may be increased antibody response after meditation. Further study is needed to confirm these findings.
Grade: C

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Some forms of meditation may help to ease the symptoms of IBS. However, more research is needed before recommendations can be made.
Grade: C

Low back pain (chronic): Patients suffering from chronic low back pain may improve with breath therapy. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
Grade: C

Metabolic syndrome (coronary heart disease): Use of transcendental meditation® (TM) in coronary heart disease patients may improve some aspects of metabolic syndrome. More studies are needed before a recommendation can be made.
Grade: C

Mood enhancement: For healthy subjects, there is not enough scientific evidence that meditation can improve mood. More studies are needed to determine whether meditation has any specific effects on mood.
Grade: C

Organ transplantation: It is suggested that meditation may help to improve quality of life in organ transplant patients. However, more research is needed before recommendations can be made.
Grade: C

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): There is some evidence that certain meditative techniques may improve symptoms in people with PTSD. However, more studies are needed to examine the specific benefits of meditation before it is recommended for use in patients with PTSD.
Grade: C

Pregnancy: Some evidence suggests that meditation may help to reduce complications in pregnancy or childbirth. However, more studies are needed to recommend meditation for specific benefits during pregnancy.
Grade: C

Psoriasis: Meditation has been suggested to improve healing of psoriasis, when used in combination with standard treatments. More studies are needed to investigate the specific effects of meditation on psoriasis.
Grade: C

Psychological conditions: When used in combination with standard psychiatric treatment, meditation may improve treatment outcomes in patients with various psychological conditions. However, more research is needed before meditation is recommended to use along with psychotherapy.
Grade: C

Sleep disorders: The ability of meditation to improve sleep has been suggested in patients being treated for drug abuse, as well as patients with breast cancer. However, there is currently not enough clinical evidence that meditation improves sleep in patients with breast cancer, drug abuse problems, or in healthy subjects.
Grade: C

Smoking cessation: Available evidence does not indicate whether meditation can help people to quit smoking. More studies are needed in this area.
Grade: C

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