The term meditation refers to a variety of techniques or practices intended to focus or control attention. Most of them are rooted in Eastern religious or spiritual traditions. These techniques have been used by many different cultures throughout the world for thousands of years.
Today, many people use meditation outside of its traditional religious or cultural settings as a form of mind-body medicine. Many claims have been made about its value in promoting or improving health and wellness. Research on these claims, as well as on how meditation might work, is important for NCCAM and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
To help clarify the state of existing knowledge, NCCAM funded a systematic review of available scientific literature on meditation practices for health. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recently published this review, which was carried out by investigators at the University of Alberta's AHRQ Evidence-based Practice Center. The report highlights strengths and limitations in existing meditation research. While the study found some evidence suggesting that meditation is associated with potentially beneficial health effects, it also found that "firm conclusions on the effects of meditation practices in healthcare cannot be drawn based on the available evidence. Future research on meditation practices must be more rigorous in the design and execution of studies and in the analysis and reporting of results."
NCCAM and other components of NIH continue to sponsor studies to find out more about meditation's effects, how it works, and for what diseases and conditions it may be most helpful. NCCAM will use the AHRQ report and other sources of information in developing plans for a workshop that will further delve into the scientific issues and challenges unique to meditation research.