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May 20, 2014 at 1:54 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Sun, Moon and Stars: Do They Really Affect Our Health?

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

Photo Credit: Matt Caville@flickr

I just spent a week in Sedona, Arizona. It’s a beautiful place with red rock formations jutting up from the desert.This time of the year, the prickly pear cacti sprout flowers of red and yellow and migratory birds sing songs. Sedona also boasts an affinity for, and embraces, the natural and alternative healing practices such as ancient Native American rituals, astrology and other celestial rites. It’s felt that this area, among a few others in the world, contains vortexes which allow users and practitioners to magnify their pursuits. Truth be told, I really don’t embrace these practices, but it did get me thinking about what science has revealed regarding the effects of the celestial bodies on the health of our human bodies here on earth.

The Moon

It’s a well-known fact that the moon, through its gravitational pull on earth, causes the tides to come and go. As we human beings are at least 80% water, it’s a reasonable jump to think that we also might be “pulled” by the moon. I’ve spent enough time around hospital ER’s and obstetrical labor floors to hear more than enough laments about the full moon bringing out busy or unusual shifts.

Is there any stock to this?

Historically, this belief comes from the notion that “things happen” in conjunction with the lunar cycle. Centuries ago, women’s hormonal cycles were felt to be synched with the moon.Today, Luna brand bars “draw in” women with natural nutritional supplements containing plant-based estrogens found in soy. Mental illness was also felt to be heightened by the progression of the cycle, thus the term “lunatic.” The werewolf legend also played on this belief.

Considered a trivial association with little clinical significance, little research has been done on the subject. One study however, performed in 1978 and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, looked at patterns in human aggression and concluded that a pattern “resonates” with the lunar cycle. A French study from 1974 looked at records of nearly 6 million births over 7 years.The study showed that more babies are born between the last quarter and the new moon (the full moon phase). Then again, the study also showed with statistical significance that more babies are born on Tuesdays and in the month of May. (These later couple factors would have nothing to do with the lunar cycle.)

The Sun

The sun can have definite effects on our health in some obvious and some not-so-obvious ways. Heat from the sun can lead to dehydration and “sun stroke.” Ultraviolet radiation can burn our skin and long term effects can cause mutations in the melanocytes (skin cells) leading to skin cancer. An interesting study was published this month, however, looking at sun-induced geomagnetic storms and stroke risk.

Geomagnetic storms happen when the magnetic field of the earth is disrupted by solar winds. These winds, also known as coronal mass ejections, throw out powerful magnetic fields from the sun. The study, out of New Zealand, found that among the 11,000 stoke victims studied, the event was 20% more likely when a geomagnetic storm was present. Speculation was given as to whether this was due to increases in blood pressure and/or blood clotability, both known causes of stroke. No solid evidence presently supports this link, however.

Planets and Stars

Many people look to horoscopes for fun or for insight. Some feel more or less compatible in relationships based on the astrological signs under which we are born. While these astrological guides are popular, I could find no scientific data to support the use of guidance of astrological positions or timing on health, illness or wellness

Man has been looking to the heavens in wonder since before recorded history and celestial speculation turned to legend has given us a multitude of applications for our health and well-being. This “final frontier” of science, the great unknown, is relatively unknown in its intersection with concrete medical knowledge. For the most part, it exists as speculation and fascination—perhaps that’s part of the allure.

Live long and prosper.


Journal of Clinical Psychiatry; May, 197839(5): 385-392., onlineApril 22, 2014

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