24A. Hormesis and Integrative Medicine


Focus Area: Integrative Approaches to Care

The session will begin by outlining several examples of what appears to be unexplained or paradoxical effects of plant extracts or drugs given at low doses. We will then explore the definition, basic principles, and ramifications of a concept named “Hormesis.” This fascinating field of research examines the bio-stimulatory effects of numerous substances given at doses below the commonly believed threshold for an effective dose. Many substances that are inhibitory at high doses can stimulate at lower doses. We will look at the work of Edward Calabrese and the hormesis group at Massachusetts State University and others. After reviewing the meaning and biological basis of hormesis, we will look at examples of U-shaped dose-response curves for a variety of drugs and botanical substances. We will examine the applications of hormesis to therapy including (1) the ability of hormetic effects to switch on homeostatic mechanisms, (2) the implication of hormesis for adaptogenic effects, and (3) the often poorly understood incidences of hormesis in drug therapy—especially where there is overlap with conventional dosing. We will discuss highly critical topics such as, “What would be the results of a hormetic response to chemotherapy that resulted in the chemotherapy drug have a growth stimulatory effect on tumor cells?” and explore data that support this possibility. Finally, we’ll look at connections between hormesis theory and research and the use of some common natural therapies, including some probable U-shaped dose-response curves for some important botanical medicines.

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