Andrew Weil

This article is about the integrative medicine proponent. For the two similarly named mathematicians, see Andrew Wiles or André Weil.

Andrew Weil, M.D. ,or simply Dr. Weil, (/wl/, born June 8, 1942) is an American celebrity doctor who is a physician, author, spokesperson, and broadly described "guru" of the alternative medical brands: holistic health and integrative medicine, whose names also constitute an emerging brand of healthcare services and products in these fields.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8]

Weil studied at Harvard in the early 1960s, bringing him into contact with social scientists David McClelland, Richard Alpert, and Timothy Leary. He graduated cum laude in 1964 from a biology major and a concentration in the ethnobotany of medicinal plants, following this with an Harvard M.D. in 1968, and fellowship years in San Francisco and at the National Institute of Mental Health. Throughout these periods, Weil displayed a strong curiosity regarding the emerging field of psychopharmacology, accessing it through study and personal experimentation. Weil then spent a decade with the Harvard Botanical Museum (1971-1984), and in personal travel, exploration, and writing focused on this field. His writings on the relationships between human consciousness, culture, healing, and drug experience appeared in regular contributions to High Times magazine (1975-1983), and in book-length works (The Natural Mind, 1972; The Marriage of Sun and Moon, 1980; From Chocolate to Morphine, 1983).

Weil became interested in the ideas and practices of complementary and alternative medicine, and went on to play a seminal role in codifying and establishing the emerging field of integrative medicine, which aims to combine alternative medicine, conventional evidence-based medicine, and other practices into a higher-order "system of systems" to address human healing via action in multiple "dimensions" (biological, psychological, sociological, and spiritual). As of 2015, Weil serves as an academician at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, where he is Lovell-Jones Professor of Integrative Rheumatology, Clinical Professor of Medicine, and Professor of Public Health. In 1994, Weil founded and has since directed the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. He served as founding editor of a seminal OUP series offering medical best-practice methods alongside yet-to-be-proven ones, the Weil Integrative Medicine Library (2009-2015), which includes specialty volumes in oncology, cardiology, rheumatology, pediatrics, psychology, and other specialties.

Weil has given extensive efforts to popular communication encouraging patients to incorporate alternative therapies—use of nutritional supplements, meditation and "spiritual" strategies, etc.—into conventional treatment plans. His many broad, health-related books include Spontaneous Healing (1995), Eight Weeks to Optimum Health (1997), Eating Well for Optimum Health (2000), The Healthy Kitchen (2002, with chef Rosie Daley), and Healthy Aging (2005), several of which have appeared on recognized best seller lists. This popular exposure has included frequent guest appearances (e.g., Larry King Live, Oprah, and the Today show). Weil blogs for The Huffington Post, and occasionally writes for Time magazine (and was recognized in a global 100 list of influential people by them in 2005).

In addition to his publisher-offered print, electronic, and audio products, Weil has founded several commercial enterprises (e.g., and to offer information, consulting services, and various products; in this regard, the "Dr. Andrew Weil" name represents both the individual, and a clear commercial brand. Services though Weil's businesses include vitamin advice and subscription websites paralleling his popular books. Products offered include vitamins, personal hygiene and skin care items, orthotics and foot-ware, medical devices, food preparation equipment, and a food product line. Registered trademarks of the brand include the Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins skin care/cosmetic and Dr. Andrew Weil Integrative Footwear lines.

The development of Weil's ideas and of his brand have not been without criticism. His experimentation with drugs during college and after and his relationships with Harvard faculty during the tumultuous early 1960s has received attention (e.g., from Don Lattin in The Harvard Psychedelic Club, 2010). Moreover, there have been recurring reports in which mainstream medical professionals have criticized Weil for specific cases where he has appeared to reject aspects of evidence-based medicine, or promote unverified beliefs; and critiques by scientific watchdog organizations for his failing to disclaim in cases of his writings that have had connections to his own commercial interests. He refused to be interviewed by FrontLine for their January 19, 2016 episode about health supplements. Finally, academics have taken him to task, in print, for his and his peers downplaying social, structural, and environmental factors that contribute to the etiology of disease in the West, and for the clear component of entrepreneurialism associated with his establishing his brand of health care services and products.

Subject and brand descriptions

Andrew Weil, as individual and brand,[9] is described by Encyclopedia Britannica as an "American physician and popularizer of alternative and integrative medicine,"[10] and by his 2015 publishers, Little, Brown/Hachette, as "the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine" and "author of several bestselling books."[11] He is described by Hans Baer as a "Holistic Health/New Age Guru" (alongside Deepak Chopra), and as a biomedically trained physician that has "emerged as [a] visible and financially successful spokesperso[n]" of the holistic health/New Age movement.[12][13] Weil provides extensive biographical information about himself at his informational and commercial website;[14] in his page, which links from his commercial site, he describes himself as "Physician, Best-Selling Author, Speaker & Integrative Medicine Thought-Leader" and "a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, a healing oriented approach to health care which encompasses body, mind, and spirit."[15]

Early life and education

Early years

Andrew Thomas Weil was born in Philadelphia on June 8, 1942,[10] the only child of parents who operated a millinery store,[10] in a family that was secularly Jewish. He graduated from high school in 1959 and was awarded a scholarship from the American Association for the United Nations,[10] giving him the opportunity go abroad for a year, living with families in India, Thailand, and Greece. From this experience he became convinced that in many ways American culture and science was insular and unaware of non-American practices. He began hearing that mescaline enhanced creativity and produced visionary experiences, and finding little information on the subject, he discovered The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley.[16]:24f

Undergraduate period

Weil entered Harvard University in 1960, majoring in biology with a concentration in ethnobotany.[10] He had an early curiosity regarding psychoactive drugs, and in that period, met Harvard psychologists Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, and separately engaged in organized experimentation with mescaline (along with fellow undergraduate Ronnie Winston).[17] Weil would write for and eventually serve as an editor of the Harvard Crimson.[16]:86[18] One published account of the period describes a falling out of Weil from the group that included the faculty—among whom the experimentation with drugs was contentious, and with regard to undergraduates, proscribed;[19][20] the falling out involved an exposé on drug-use and supply that Weil wrote for the Crimson.[17] Weil wrote of faculty experimentation with drugs in a series of Crimson pieces:[21]

and that this reporting included the claim that "undergraduates had indeed been able to obtain access to psilocybin from members" of the Harvard faculty research team that was involved in such research.[21] As late as 1973, Weil's name appears in conjunction with an editorial regarding the 1963 firing of Alpert, which stated the view that it would be "unfortunate if the firing of Richard Alpert led to the suppression of legitimate research into the effects of hallucinogenic compounds," distancing himself and the Crimson from the "shoddiness of their work as scientists… less [the result] of incompetence than of a conscious rejection of scientific ways of looking at things."[25]

Weil's undergraduate thesis was titled "The Use of Nutmeg as a Psychotropic Agent,"[17] specifically, on the narcotic properties of nutmeg,[26] inspired by a class with David McClelland, chair of the Department of Social Relations, and a former director of Harvard's Center for Research in Personality;[20] he graduated with a B.A. in ethnobotany, cum laude, in 1964.[10]

Medical training

Weil entered Harvard Medical School, "not with the intention of becoming a physician but rather simply to obtain a medical education."[10] He received a medical degree in 1968,[12][13][27] although "the Harvard faculty… threatened to withhold it because of a controversial marijuana study Weil had helped conduct" in his final year.[10] Weil moved to San Francisco and completed a medical residency at Mount Zion Hospital.[12][13] While there, volunteered at the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic.


Following his residency, Weil took a position with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that lasted approximately one year, to pursue his interests in research on marijuana and other drugs;[12][13] during this time he may have received formal institutional permission to acquire marijuana for the research.[16]:145f

Weil is reported to have experienced opposition to this line of inquiry at the NIMH, to have departed to his rural northern Virginia home (1971-1972), and to have begun his practices of vegetarianism, yoga, and meditation, and work on writing The Natural Mind (1972).[12][13] At the same time, Weil began an affiliation with the Harvard Botanical Museum that would span from 1971-1984, where his work included duties as a research associate investigating "the properties of medicinal and psychoactive plants."[12][13] His interests led him to explore the healing systems of indigenous people, and with this aim, Weil traveled throughout South America and other parts of the world, "collecting information about medicinal plants and healing," from 1971 to 1975, as a fellow for the Institute of Current World Affairs.[12][13][28]

In 1994, Weil founded the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, Arizona, where he serves as its director.[29]

View of conventional medicine

Evidence-based medicine is a stated central component of the higher-order "system of systems" Weil envisions integrative medicine to be.[30] It is clear that in both scholarly/academic and popular settings, Weil's statements suggest practices from alternative therapies as being something to add to conventional medical treatment plans.[30][31] However, Weil is also on record speaking disparagingly of conventional, evidence-based medicine, both in academic and popular contexts. For instance, he is quoted as having said to a group commencing after a month-long training program in integrative medicine at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine that "that evidence-based medicine, at its worst, 'is exactly analogous to religious fundamentalism'" (though the source leaves unclear whether any specific aspect of evidence-based medicine was given).[9]

Influences and philosophy

Weil acknowledges many experiences and individuals that have influenced his philosophical and spiritual ideas, and the techniques he considers valid in his approach to medicine. Weil has been open about his own history of experimental and recreational drug use, including experiences with narcotics and mind-altering substances.[32] Among the individuals who strongly influenced his personal and professional life is the late osteopath Robert C. Fulford, who specialized in cranial manipulation.[33][34] Weil has further stated that he respects the work of psychologist Martin Seligman, who pioneered the field of positive psychology and now directs the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Weil has also professed admiration for the work of Stephen Ilardi, professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, and author of The Depression Cure.[35]

Weil is widely recognized as having a seminal role in establishing the field of integrative medicine, where this field is defined as:

"a higher-order system of systems of care that emphasizes wellness and healing of the entire person (bio-psycho-socio-spiritual dimensions) as primary goals, drawing on both conventional and CAM [complementary and alternative medicine] approaches in the context of a supportive and effective physician-patient relationship.[30]

He says that patients are urged to take the Western medicine prescribed by their physicians. and—in what Publishers Weekly describes as a message "becoming a signature formula"—then "bend the 'biomedical model' [conventional, evidence-based medicine] to incorporate alternative therapies, including supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and herbal remedies; [and] meditation and other 'spiritual' strategies."[31] Proper nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction are also emphasized by Weil.[31] In particular, he is a proponent of diets that are rich in organic fruits, organic vegetables, and fish, and is a vocal critic of foods and diets rich in partially hydrogenated oils. In an interview on Larry King Live, Weil focused on a view that sugar, starch, refined carbohydrates, and trans-fats are more dangerous to the human body than saturated fats.

Regarding treatment strategies, their side effects, and their efficacy, Weil advocates for the use of whole plants as a less problematic approach in comparison to synthetic pharmaceuticals. In addition, Weil is an advocate of incorporating specific medicinal mushrooms into one's daily diet.

Weil has expressed opposition to the war on drugs, citing benefits of many banned plants.

Books and publications


While Weil's early books and publications primarily explored altered states of consciousness, he has since expanded the scope of his work to encompass healthy lifestyles and health care in general. In the last ten years, Weil has focused much of his work on the health concerns of older people. In his book Healthy Aging, Weil looks at the process of growing older from a physical, social, and cross-cultural perspective, and in his book Why our Health Matters is focused on health care reform.

Of his books, several have appeared on various bestseller lists, both as hardbacks and as paperbacks (many appearing so in the 1990s[36]), some of them being Spontaneous Healing (1995; on the NYT list),[37] Eight Weeks to Optimum Health (1997; on the PW and NYT lists),[37][38] Eating Well for Optimum Health (2000; PW, NYT),[37][38] The Healthy Kitchen (2002, with chef Rosie Daley; NYT),[37] Healthy Aging (2005; NYT),[37] and Spontaneous Happiness (2011; NYT).[37]

List of popular works


  • The Natural Mind: An Investigation of Drugs and the Higher Consciousness (1972, rev. 2004);
  • Marriage of Sun and Moon: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Consciousness (1980, rev. 2004);
  • Health and Healing (1983, rev. 2004);
  • From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything you need to know about mind-altering drugs with Winifred Rosen (1983, rev. 2004);
  • Spontaneous Healing (1995);
  • Natural Health, Natural Medicine (1995, rev. 2004);
  • Eight Weeks to Optimum Health (1997, rev. 2006);
  • Eating Well for Optimum Health (2000);
  • The Healthy Kitchen with Rosie Daley (2002);
  • Healthy Aging (2005);
  • Why Our Health Matters (2009)
  • Spontaneous Happiness (2011)
  • True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure (2014)
  • Fast Food, Good Food: More Than 150 Quick and Easy Ways to Put Healthy, Delicious Food on the Table (2015)

Ask Dr. Weil collections

Published collections of answers to questions received on his website:

  • Women's Health;
  • Healthy Living;
  • Natural Remedies;
  • Common Illnesses;
  • Vitamins and Minerals; and
  • Your Top Health Concerns.

Audio-only publications

  • Breathing: The Master Key to Self Healing, audio CD, Sounds True (2000).

In addition to the foregoing individual paperback, hardback, audio, and electronic versions, various combined and compendia editions have appeared.

Academic works

As of 2015, Weil was serving as series editor of an academic imprint from Oxford University Press called the Weil Integrative Medicine Library, volumes for clinicians in more than 10 medical specialties, including oncology, cardiology, rheumatology, pediatrics, and psychology.[39] Weil co-edited the first volume, Integrative Oncology, with Donald Abrams, which appeared in 2009.[29] Academic and scholarly reviews of the series and individual volumes were lacking as of 2015—in almost all cases, the publisher's "Reviews and Awards" tabs lack society or other published reviews (apart from Doody's).[40] A cancer society review of the second edition of the series' Integrative Oncology volume, the first volume to have been published, describes the field as "an exciting new discipline" and the book as offering "best-practice methods to prevent cancer and support those affected by it on all levels: body, mind, and spirit" and as being comprehensive, and offering "meticulous, well-written chapters on proven and yet-to-be-proven methods for enhancing cancer care with integrative oncology."[41]

Other works

Weil was a regular contributor to High Times magazine from 1975 to 1983.[42]

More recently, Weil has written the forewords to a variety of books, for instance, by:

among others. In the new millennium, Weil has occasionally written articles for Time magazine.[45]

Affiliated commercial operations

In addition to the informational print and corresponding electronic and audio products that Andrew Weil offers through publishers, Weil is affiliated with and and offers these and variety of other products through these and a wide variety of other associated e-business and commercial ventures; in this regard, the "Dr. Andrew Weil" name can be understood to represent both an individual and a brand.[9][46][47] Services though these businesses include vitamin advice,[47] and subscription websites associated with his Optimum Health, Healthy Aging, and Spontaneous Happiness publications (i.e., some popular titles with regard to sales).[47] [37][38] Products include:[47]

  • vitamins,
  • items for personal hygiene and skin care (e.g., the Dr. Andrew Weil for OriginsTM line),
  • orthotics and foot ware (Vionic with Orthaheel and Dr. Andrew Weil Integrative Footwear lines),
  • medical devices (RESPeRATE for hypertension),
  • food preparation equipment (blenders, extractors, mixers, and rice and slow cookers), as well as a
  • food product line (salmon sausage products).

According to, "Dr. Weil donates all of his after-tax profits from the sale of Weil Lifestyle natural health products to the Weil Foundation. The Weil Foundation, an independent 501(c)(3), is dedicated to sustaining the vision of integrative medicine by improving the training of health care professionals; educating the public about health, healing, and nutrition; reforming public policies governing health care; and researching the application of integrative medicine."

Critiques and controversies


Medical professionals in particular have criticized Weil for promoting treatment claims and alternative medicine practices described as unverified or inefficacious, or for otherwise rejecting aspects of evidence-based medicine. Weil's rejection of some aspects of evidence-based medicine and his promotion of alternative medicine practices that are not verifiably efficacious were criticized in a 1998 New Republic piece by Arnold S. Relman, emeritus editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine and emeritus professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.[48] The late Barry Beyerstein of Simon Fraser University, writing in the journal Academic Medicine in 2001, criticized Weil and various aspects of complementary and alternative medicine, asserting that it held a "magical world-view"; he continued, saying,

On advocating emotional criteria for truth over criteria based on empirical data and logic, New Age medical gurus such as Andrew Weil… have convinced many that 'anything goes'… By denigrating science, these detractors have enlarged the potential following for magical and pseudoscientific health products.[49]

In 2003, Steven Knope, author of The Body/Mind Connection (2000), a physician trained at Weill Cornell Medical College, and former Chair of the Department of Medicine in the Tucson, Arizona, Carondelet system, criticized Weil in a televised discussion for what he considered irresponsible advocacy of untested treatments.[50] Simon Singh, a recognized British science writer, and Edzard Ernst, a former Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter, echoed Beyerstein's criticism in their 2008 book Trick or Treatment, saying that while Weil correctly promotes exercise and smoke-free lifestyles, "much of his advice is nonsense."[51]

Social scientific

Hans Baer of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Arkansas, writing in 2003, has argued that Weil's approach represents a general limitation of the holistic health/New Age movement, in its "tendenc[y] to downplay the role of social, structural, and environmental factors in the etiology of disease" in the United States, and in doing so, represents a failure to "suggest substantive remedies for improving access to health care," generally, for the "millions of people who lack any type go health insurance…"; at the same time, Baer notes (with negative connotations) that Weil instead contributes "to a long tradition of entrepreneurialism in the U.S. medical system."[12][13]:20,29,119,130ff


Beginning in 2006, as the result of his commercial ventures, Weil—as David Gumpert has described—has placed himself in the "awkward position of... having to defend himself against charges of inappropriately exploiting his medical-celebrity status."[3] Commenting on a cover article in a recent 2006 edition of the Center for Science in the Public Interest's "highly respected" Nutrition Action Healthletter,[2] Gumpert called attention to:

The Forbes article noted, in particular,'s 2005 lawsuit against for Weil's having "failed to perform any of his marketing obligations," noting that in a 2004 Larry King Live interview, Weil failed to promote this business partner, despite the program offering "reasonable opportunity for Weil to use efforts to promote"[3] Moreover, the CSPI's newsletter noted that their investigations into the vitamin and supplement recommendation service led them to conclude that the algorithms behind the recommendations were, by default, set to recommend purchases: regardless of how the online inquiries of the personalized service were answered, "we couldn't get the Advisor to stop recommending that we buy supplements."[2][3] The CSPI article concludes, "Beware of doctors who sell what they recommend."[2][3]

In 2006, the Center for Science in the Public Interest also commented on a Time magazine piece by Weil rebutting a recent JAMA report on the failure of fish oil supplements to significantly reduce risk of serious heart arrhythmias,[52] where he emphasized the benefits of fish oil supplements without a disclaimer that he had a direct commercial interest in the sale of these supplements.[53]

Another specific criticism has been leveled with regard to the message of his Healthy Aging (2005), which argues that aging should be accepted as a natural stage in life, while these skin care products were being sold at Macy's with the advertising claim of the products' "optimiz[ing] skin's defense against aging"—alongside a large picture of Weil.[54]

Weil has also been accused by others in the alternative health movement, in particular, from individuals with less credentialed backgrounds, of being involved in the "dishonest practice of spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt about competitors' products, while pretending to be [an] objective 3rd [party]." [55]


Weil's 1983 Chocolate to Morphine roused the ire of Florida senator Paula Hawkins, "who demanded that the book, a veritable encyclopaedia of various drugs and their effects on humans, be removed from schools and libraries."[10][56]

Formal corrective actions

In 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to Weil's Weil Lifestyle LLC, regarding "Unapproved / Uncleared / Unauthorized Products Related to the H1N1 Flu Virus" in particular, a "Notice of Potential Illegal Marketing of Products to Prevent, Treat or Cure the H1N1 Virus H1N1 [influenza] Virus."[57] The FDA was primarily concerned with several implicit claims in Weil Lifestyle LLC's marketing literature, that certain products could help ward off such viruses.

Awards and recognition

Weil appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1997 and again in 2005, and Time named him one of the 25 most influential Americans in 1997 and one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2005.[58] He was inducted into the Academy of Achievement in 1998.[26] His "Ask Dr. Weil" website was chosen by Forbes' Best of the Web Directory in 2009 for having offered "straightforward tips and advice on achieving wellness through natural means and educating the public on alternative therapies."[59]

In popular culture

Weil blogs for the Huffington Post.[60] and has been a frequent guest on "Larry King Live" on CNN,[61] Oprah,[62] and the "Today" Show.[63]

Weil appeared in the critically well reviewed documentary on the need for a "rescue" of American healthcare, Escape Fire (2012).[64][65]


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