Dr. Oz on Complementary Medicine: 'Challenge the Status Quo'

Renowned surgeon on the healing power of song, aromatherapy, meditation & more.

ByLANA ZAK via logo
August 30, 2009, 11:03 PM

Aug. 31, 2009 — -- Dr. Mehmet Oz, a world-famous heart surgeon, is advocating another type of medicine that does not require a scalpel: complementary medicine.

Oz believes that we are only beginning to understand what contributes to healing and wants all of us to expand our definition of health care.

At New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia Medical Center, every patient recovering from heart surgery is offered massage therapy and cranial touch therapy thanks to Oz's advocacy.

The goal is to stimulate the flow of energy in hopes that something from Eastern medicine can make a difference in the West.

"I think that we're beginning to globalize medicine now," Oz said. "You have to take Eastern approaches and bring them to the West, and share West with the East."

Music has an essential effect on how we feel. During surgery Oz listens to high-energy songs by Bruce Springsteen, but music isn't only for the doctors. During recovery patients are invited to join in music therapy.

While singing "Dream a Little Dream" with recovering patients, Oz explains that singing prompts deeper breathing and healing.

"We used to spend hours asking folks to take deep breaths, and this accomplishes that goal," Oz said.

According to Oz "energy medicine" is at the forefront of healing, but he acknowledges that he is sometimes a lone pioneer in this field.

"I'm sure people think that I'm out in left field you know, playing by myself," Oz said.

But for this doctor it comes naturally. He is a son of the East and the West, having spent most of his childhood in Turkey.

"It's a unique country, because it truly bridges the East and the West," Oz said. "People who believe in integrated medicine and people who believe in high-tech conventional medicine."

Dr. Oz on Effective Complementary Treatments

Oz said his childhood not only influenced him to embrace complementary medicine. The impatience of youth extended even into adulthood, pushing him forward.

"I think in many ways, that's probably one of the reasons that I've been successful as a surgeon," he said. "I was so impatient, I didn't want to wait for someone else to figure out how to fix the problems I was trying to address, so I would just create the inventions myself."

"In academic medicine, the reason we stay here is to be able to push the barriers of modern thought," Oz said.

Oz points out that many procedures were once experimental, including his own work with LVAD machines – a type of mechanical heart pump.

"When we first started doing these procedures, which have become fairly mainstream now, they were called a Dracula of modern medical technology," Oz said. "These have become the norm."

Oz applies that thinking to complementary medicine, too.

"I really think it would be cowardly to pull back and not challenge the status quo, when the status quo may not be the right way for the field to go," Oz said.

On "GMA" Oz shared some tips for combining conventional care with some more unconventional methods to achieve complete mind-body health.

Aromatherapy:Oz explained that aromatherapy treatment is the use of essential oils that can help produce a calming effect.

He said aromatherapy with oils such as lavender can be used to treat insomnia, a condition that is "a litmus test for how well you're coping with life."

"Lavender gets absorbed through your skin," he said. "It actually bypasses the surface of your brain…it actually makes you feel viscerally very different."

"It's not about getting rid of all of the medications," he said, but rather about reducing them.


Meditating can be effective as a complementary treatment for those suffering from things like depression or hypertension.

"Medications almost always do it better if they're used in conjunction with other supports," he said.

Complementary medicine will be one of the focuses of "The Dr. Oz Show," which premieres on Sept. 14, 2009.

ABCNews.com's Katie Escherich and Kate McCarthy contributed to this report.

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