By Dr. Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc.
The winter holidays are quite magical. We bring light into darkness and warmth and cheer to the cold. We offer thanks and give gifts and rejoice with our loved ones.
Within these time-honored traditions and rituals, music has played an important role. Going further back, music and sound are some of the world’s first medicines, used by traditional healers to cure illness and regain one’s spirit. That’s because rhythm and harmony are more than musical elements – they are the energetic foundation of life, nature, our universe. Their vibrations can expand the heart, transform the mind and heal us on every level. Today, song-healings are practiced throughout the world as more health seekers learn that singing, playing an instrument or listening to certain music can bring deep healing, peace of mind, spiritual growth and numerous other benefits.
As an integrative physician and traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, the healing power of music has always been an important part of my practice and family life. Harmony and tempo help synchronize the rhythms of the natural world with the “music of the heart” – each person’s individual energetic pattern, expressed in their pulse. The heart pattern is best understood through the lens of traditional Chinese medicine, which teaches the qualities of different pulse patterns for analyzing a person’s health.
And music may have the power to influence these biological rhythms more than any other factor.
Music in Medicine
What’s truly exciting is that science has begun to explore these ancient rhythmic connections that have stood at the heart of culture, spirituality, and healing for millennia. Today, the study of music in medicine is a rapidly expanding field – and the findings are as remarkable as they are intuitive. A growing number of published studies show that music can play an active role in health and disease. An even larger number of books have been written highlighting the numerous and remarkable benefits of music and sound. From increased healing, spirituality and personal growth – to better cognitive ability and greater emotional stability, music and sound therapy can make a powerful difference in people’s lives.
An interesting review of clinical studies on music and physiology was published in the journal, Nutrition. The article, “The Impact of Music on Metabolism,” explores the ways that music can affect various physiological and metabolic pathways to improve cardiovascular health, pain management, post-operative recovery, gastrointestinal health, metabolic health, vital energy, exercise recovery time and more.
Listening to music was shown to increase growth hormone levels, decrease cortisol and inflammation markers, and regulate adrenal pathways to improve responses to stress. In one study reviewed, music therapy reduced the occurrence of acute and congestive heart failure events in cardiovascular disease patients. In another study, pre-term infants exposed to music therapy showed numerous benefits including improved respiration and oxygenation, increased weight gain, reduced pain, greater nutrition intake and reduced hospital stay. Other studies of music’s effects on gastrointestinal health and metabolism showed that music therapy improved digestive function and efficiency, increased metabolism, and may support healthy weight. Studies on music and athletic performance showed that listening to music while exercising may help to improve cholesterol and total lipid profiles as well as total body fat ratio.
It seems that modern science has just begun to scratch the surface of music and sound in terms of healing potential.
However, traditional healing systems from around the world have long revered the beneficial vibrations of music, harmony and rhythm for health and vitality. While the effects are instant and tangible, they are also powerful and long lasting.
The Power of Music
Last but not least, I want to share just how inspired I am by my daughter, Amity, who has been creating original music since she was young. Recently, she released a powerful, uplifting song and video called “Me and My Guitar.” In it, Amity tells a story of the healing power of music to help express your inner nature and find your spirit’s truth beneath the layers of obstructions. Amity is dedicated to sharing her music for the benefit of others. She regularly performs for chronically ill patients, many of whom express how they’re deeply touched by her songs of healing and transformation. Needless to say, as her father and as a healer, I am beyond proud of her. You can watch Amity’s music video “Me and My Guitar” on YouTube here.
So make a cup of tea, sit back and relax, and play some music you love. It may be one of the best things you can do for your health.
Best of Health and Happy Holidays,
Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc