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Andrew Weil was born on June 8, 1942 in Philadelphia, PA to parents of German and Ukrainian descent. His parents owned a millinery store. While disconnected from the natural world as a child, he excelled academically. He attended both college and medical school at Harvard University. As an undergraduate, Weil took the class Plants & Human Affairs, an ethnobotany class taught by Richard Evans Schultes. He went on to major in botany and wrote his thesis on the narcotic properties of nutmeg, and also served as an editor of the Harvard Crimson. After medical school, Weil unconventionally did not seek residency. He completed a medical internship at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco then worked for a year with the National Institute of Mental Health. From 1971-1974 he traveled throughout South America as a fellow for the Institute of Current World Affairs. He published his first book, The Natural Mind, in 1972. The book's basic theme is that highs come from within the body, and that drugs access these states rather than produce them. Weil has written or co-written nine books since, and was a regular contributor to High Times magazine from 1975 to 1983. His early works explored altered states of consciousness, but has since expanded his scope to encompass healthy lifestyles and health care in general. As Weil entered his 60s, he began shifting his focus to the health concerns of older Americans. His most recent book, Healthy Aging, looks at growing older from a physical, social and cross-cultural perspective, and emphasizes that aging cannot be reversed, but can be accompanied by good health, "serenity, wisdom, and its own kind of power and grace."
Weil's general view is that patients do best utilizing both mainstream and alternative medicine. In general, he believes that mainstream medicine is well-suited to crisis intervention, and alternative medicine is best utilized for prevention and health maintenance. He believes integrative medicine is an intelligent combination of both, and that the focus on healing should be on the body's own internal healing mechanisms and system. Nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction are emphasized in almost all of Weil's health works.
Weil is open about his past use of illegal substances, claiming, "I think I've tried about every drug," in his book From Chocolate to Morphine. He is equally open with his views on ending the War on Drugs, citing the benefits of many banned plants. In fact, the opening paragraph of From Chocolate to Morphine reads: "Drugs are here to stay. History teaches that it is vain to hope that drugs will ever disappear and that any effort to eliminate them from society is doomed to failure." Weil claims that humans have an innate need to alter their consciousness, and that there is no such thing as good or bad drugs, merely that some individuals have good or bad relationships with certain substances.
As with his writings on drug usage, Weil's views on general health are informed by his botanical training. He contends that because human beings co-evolved with plants, whole-plant compounds generally assimilate less problematically than new chemical creations. Generally, he claims that the profit represented by patentable pharmaceutical compounds has diverted attention away from low-cost, safe, simple lifestyle interventions that usually lead to better outcomes.
Weil has written about the healing properties of certain mushrooms in several of his books, and is an admitted mycophile. Weil, pointing out that, "mushrooms have little to do with the sun," has speculated that wild mushrooms contain "lunar energy," the consumption of which may "stimulate imagination and intuition."
Weil also contends that physicians have a responsibility to be models of healthy living. His Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona incorporates structured time for meditation, exercise and socializing among its fellows.
Program in Integrative Medicine
In 1994, Weil founded the Program in Integrative Medicine (PIM) at University Medical Center and the University of Arizona in Tucson. It offers residential and research fellowship programs and operates an outpatient clinic according to Weil's principles; emphasizing prevention over treatment and focusing on nutrition, botanical medicines and mind-body interventions to complement conventional synthetic drug and surgery protocols. It also operates an annual Nutrition and Health Conference and a Botanical Medicine conference. As of 2005, more than 250 physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners had completed the program. Weil says the expense associated with running PIM, reportedly $3 million annually, led him to agree to lend his name to commercial products to provide steady revenue for this and other research efforts in line with his philosophy.
Since the founding of the University of Arizona program, academic instruction in integrative medicine has grown rapidly. There are now 31 academic medical centers that offer integrative medicine programs, including the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School and Georgetown, Duke and Columbia Universities.
Books and publications
Weil's writings span over thirty years and include the following ten books:
He has written forewords for books by Paul Stamets, Lewis Mehl-Madrona, Tolly Burkan, and Wade Davis, among others.
In addition to answering a few questions a week on his website, Dr. Weil also writes and answers health related questions in "Time Magazine". 
Weil's personal diet is lacto-pesco vegetarian. He eats low-mercury, eco-friendly fish in moderate portions (2-3 times a week). He also consumes dairy products in moderation, mostly in the form of cheeses that he dubs "high quality" and "natural" (terms with no scientific meaning). He chooses cheese as his high-in-saturated-fat food of choice, noting that others may choose to eat foods such as full-fat yogurt, ice cream, or beef in moderate amounts.
Weil originally adopted a lacto-vegetarian diet for personal reasons in 1975. In 1985, Weil made a conscious choice to eat less dairy and add fish to his diet. He found that this new diet gave him greater flexibility when traveling and dining out as well as the nutritional benefits of fish consumption. He remains concerned about the negative environmental consequences of raising animals for meat as well as the environmental impact of overfishing.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Andrew_Weil". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|