Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2014 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified health care professional before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
Uses based on scientific evidence
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 professional.
Adjunct to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Hypnotherapy techniques may be combined with cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, pain, bed-wetting, post-traumatic stress disorder, or obesity. Better-quality study is necessary before a strong recommendation can be made.
Several studies report hypnosis to reduce anxiety, particularly prior to dental or medical procedures, or in the management of phobias. Early evidence suggests that these effects may last for up to three years with benefits reported in children and adults. Additional evidence is necessary before a strong recommendation can be made.
Several promising studies in adults and children report that anxiety related to dentist visits can be reduced with the use of hypnotherapy. Benefits may be long-standing (measured at up to three years). However, some research reports that hypnosis may be less effective for this use than group therapy or systematic desensitization therapy.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Early research suggests hypnotherapy may lower the sensory and motor component of the gastrocolonic response in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Better studies are necessary to make a conclusion.
Pain (various causes)
Hypnotherapy has been studied in the management of pain, including low back pain, surgery-related pain, cancer-related pain, dental procedure-related pain, burn pain, repetitive strain injury, needle electromyography (a test for electric potential generated by muscle cells), temporomandibular joint disorders, pain during abortion, sickle cell disease-related pain, irritable bowel syndrome, oral mucositis, tension headache, and chronic pain from various causes. Various hypnotherapy approaches have been used, and it is not clear what technique or duration of treatment is optimal. Although most studies have been performed in adults, hypnosis also shows promise for pain reduction in children. Although the existing research is promising, better-designed trials are necessary before a strong recommendation can be made.
Hypnosis appears effective in the treatment of psychosomatic disorders. Additional research is needed to support this finding.
Several studies report improvements in the severity and frequency of tension headaches following several weekly hypnosis sessions. Early research suggests that hypnosis may be equivalent to other relaxation techniques, biofeedback, or autogenic training. Better quality studies are necessary before a strong recommendation can be made in this area.
There is conflicting evidence from preliminary research in this area. Additional study is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
There is inconclusive evidence from preliminary research in this area. Additional study is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Alopecia areata (hair loss)
Based on early study, hypnosis may help psychological well-being and physiological outcome in patients with hair loss. Larger, well-designed studies are needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Preliminary research for the use of hypnosis in management of asthma symptoms does not provide clear answers. Anxiety associated with asthma may be relieved with hypnosis. Additional study is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Bed-wetting (nocturnal enuresis)
Chemotherapy side effects
There are several studies of hypnosis for cancer-related conditions, including hot flashes, pain, anxiety, depression, improved sleep, and quality-of-life. Limited research reports mixed effects of hypnotherapy for chemotherapy-related nausea/vomiting or mouth sores. Hypnosis during tumor treatment and removal has been shown to reduce pain, anxiety, and medication use. Additional research is necessary before a conclusion can be drawn.
There is early research that group therapy with hypnosis may prevent depressive episodes, but the data are not conclusive. Further studies should be performed in this area.
Based on early evidence, hypnosis may improve the in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer cycle. Additional study is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Fibromyalgia (muscle and connective tissue pain)
Gastric disorders (gastric emptying)
Early research indicates that gut-oriented hypnosis may have a beneficial effect on shortening gastric emptying both in dyspeptic and in healthy subjects. Additional study is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
A small study showed potential benefit of a hypnotherapeutic treatment program for patients suffering from recurrent orofacial herpes infections. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
High blood pressure
Early study suggests that hypnosis may have short and long-term effects for patients with mild high blood pressure. Additional research is needed to confirm these findings.
Several early studies report that hypnosis may decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, increase the duration of sleep, and improve sleep quality. However, this research is not well designed or reported, and cannot be considered definitive.
Preliminary research suggests jaw clenching may be related to hypnotic susceptibility. Better-designed research is necessary to make a strong recommendation.
Several studies report the effects of pre-natal hypnotherapy on duration of labor and pain medication use. Additional evidence is necessary before a clear conclusion can be drawn.
Early evidence shows that hypnotherapy may be beneficial in the treatment of hot flashes and may improve quality of life in women who are experiencing menopausal symptoms. Further research is needed to make a recommendation.
Several studies report on the use of hypnotherapy in people with nausea/vomiting related to cancer chemotherapy, pregnancy (hyperemesis gravidarum), and surgical recovery. Results are mixed and there is no reliable comparison to anti-nausea medications or other relaxation techniques. Better research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Research suggests that hypnosis may be helpful for pain and anxiety in various situations, including after surgery. Early research reports that length of hospital stay and psychological well-being may be improved after surgery with the use of hypnotherapy. However, most studies in this area are not well designed, and updated high-quality investigations are needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Although multiple trials report diminished pain levels or requirements for pain-relieving medications after hypnotherapy, there is limited research for rheumatoid arthritis pain specifically. Other signs of rheumatoid arthritis, such as joint mobility or blood tests for rheumatoid factor, have not been adequately assessed.
There is currently not enough evidence to suggest for or against the use of hypnotherapy in this condition. High-quality studies are needed to determine the effect and safety of hypnosis in schizophrenia.
Skin conditions (eczema, psoriasis
Hypnosis is a popular therapy used by people trying to quit smoking, and it is often included as part of smoking cessation programs. The available evidence on hypnotherapy is conflicting in this area. Better-designed research is necessary before a strong conclusion can be drawn.
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
In one clinical trial, hypnosis reduced the inflammatory response in active ulcerative colitis toward levels found previously in the inactive disease. Further study is necessary in this area.
Preliminary study results suggest a protective role of hypnosis against vascular damage. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
There is promising early evidence to support the use of hypnosis in the treatment of warts. Larger well-designed trials are needed to further assess the use of hypnosis for warts, and to determine the most effective methodology.
Research suggests that hypnosis may be valuable as an adjunct to cognitive behavioral therapy for weight loss. However, it is not clear if hypnotherapy used alone is beneficial in this area.
Cancer (radiotherapy side effects)
Hypnosis did not reduce anxiety or improve quality of life in cancer patients undergoing curative radiotherapy in early high-quality studies.
*Key to grades:
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use;B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use;D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work);F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
For full grading rationale, click here.
Uses based on tradition or theory
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional
Acne, aging, agoraphobia, alertness, Alzheimer's disease, amenorrhea, amnesia, anticoagulation (blood thinning), arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bleeding, blindness, blisters, breast enhancement, bruises, cancer, cerebral palsy, chronic diarrhea, chronic dyspnea (shortness of breath), chronic fatigue syndrome, concentration enhancement, confidence boosting, congenital ichthyosiform erythroderma (skin disorder), constipation, cystic fibrosis, diabetes mellitus, diagnostic procedure (forensics), dissociative identity disorder (DID), driving performance, dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), dyspareunia (pain with intercourse), endurance, enhanced immune function, enhanced vision, fear of flying, gag reflex, gastritis, gastrointestinal disorders (functional abdominal pain syndrome), gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux), gout, Graves' disease, grief, heart disease, hemolytic anemia, HIV/AIDS, Huntington's chorea/disease, hyperreflexic bladder, increased strength, infections, ischemic heart disease, lactation stimulation, life transition support, memory enhancement, Ménière's disease, menstrual cramps, migraine, motivation, mood, movement disorders, multiple personality disorder, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasm, musculoskeletal disorders, myasthenia gravis, nail biting, narcolepsy, neurodermatitis, neurological problems (periodic leg syndrome), oral hygiene, panic disorder, paralysis, Parkinson's disease, paruresis (psychogenic urinary retention), pemphigus vulgaris (a skin disorder), personality development, phobias, postherpetic neuralgia, postpartum care, postpartum depression, premenstrual syndrome, pruritus (itchiness), psychiatric disorders (pediatric), quality of life, Raynaud's disease, repressed memory recall, restless leg syndrome, restlessness, saliva production control, scoliosis, seizures (non-epileptic), self-esteem enhancement, sensory stimulation (sensory acuity), sleep terror disorder, speech disorders, stroke, study skill enhancement, stuttering (stammering), sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), systemic lupus erythematosus, thumb sucking, tics, tongue biting, torticollis (neck spasms), trauma, trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling), tuberculosis, vaginismus (involuntary spasm of vaginal muscles).
Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
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