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Laughter as Medicine

Updated on August 16, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Degrees in medicine and psychology. Recognized contributions in allopathic & alternative medicine, brain research, and space medicine.


"A clown is like an aspirin, except that it works twice as fast."

-- Groucho Marx.

A clown is like an aspirin, except that it works twice as fast.

— Groucho Marx

Laughter and Relaxation

Laughter creates immediate relaxation, because much like a sneeze, it causes all the muscles of the body to release their energy.

Patch Adams, MD believes not only in humor for health but in nurturing and cultivating joy in life. He is billed as "Renowned Medical Clown and Social Activist." Further, he was worked to put joy into patients' lives for over 30 years.

Robin Williams portrayed Patch Adams in the movie Patch Adams. Williams has become adept at portraying doctors, not only as Patch Adams by as Dr. Oliver Sacks in Awakenings. Both movies really show what joy can be found in life, even if that joy is fleeting. I watch these movies over and over.

Patch Adams (center)
Patch Adams (center)

Gesundheit Institute

Dr. Adams is the leader and founder of his Gesundheit Institute in West Virginia. It is a holistic medical campus and family that provides free medical care to thousands of people, founded in 1971. Dr. Adams more recently wrote Gesundheit to talk about his ideas on the American health care system. He has often stated that he looks for ways of making people happy and that laughter, joy and creativity are vital to healing.

This is borne out by a study in the 1980s of cancer patients with terminal conditions. They were all going to die, but they were offered the chance to do anything that they had not been able to do in their lives. One had wanted to play the piano and others had similar wishes. The long and the short of it is that each patient, provided the time and finds to pursue his or her dreams by the funding f the study did just that. They became pianists and artists and such. And all of their cancers went into remission. The joy of being able to use their creativity in a supportive environment helped to heal them.

Dr. Adams operates three programs to groups, the names of which are:

  • The Joy Workshop
  • Prescribe Laughter Medicine for Fun, Not Funds
  • Humor and Health

Right now, Dr. Adams is taking volunteers so that he can take a planeload of clowns to Moscow and St. Petersburg Russia in November 2007. This is actually his 24th annual trip to Russia. It is a tour f two weeks of clowning by individuals ages 10 - 90.

Dr. Adams also sponsors the Dr. Clown project for therapeutic clowning in hospitals. Therapeutic clowning began as a real, professional medical field in the 1980s in Winnipeg, Canada and New York City and it works for all ages.

Laughter That Cured Paralysis

In the 1960s, Norman Cousins, a magazine editor, began to suffer from symptoms that resembled rheumatoid arthritis and from a diagnosed collagen disorder.

Cousins underwent many medical treatments and became tired of feeling sicker and sicker.

He moved out of the hospital and across the street to a hotel where his doctor world be nearby. Then he went off all of his medications. He asked his wife to look into organic foods and nutrition, while he researched healthcare and new treatments. Cousins took great interest in natural cures and laughter as medicine.

Normans Cousins' condition became worse before it became better, until one day he was completely unable to move.He was paralyzed from feet to his jaw.

However, the patient began to watch comedy movies - the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, and many others that he had previously enjoyed. Each time he laughed, he was able to loosen up a little and move some extremity like a toe or finger or even his jaw. Laughter was working for him.

Cousins watched humorous shows and laughed every day. When he loosened up enough in the major joints, he added exercise to his laughing regimen, along with natural and organic foods and vitamins, especially large doses of vitamin C.

Eventually he fully recovered, without medications of any kind. He lived to age 75 in 1990 and was on the faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, where he taught holistic healing methods and philosophies, including laughter.

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

— Proverbs 17:22; King Solomon

Additional Examples of Humor and Laughs

From another discipline, in the art of Kung Fu, it is taught that a master must be 1/8 fool (comedian) or is not a real master. One must be able to laugh and make others laugh in order to remain balanced and in good health overall.

From the poet Sper:

Laughter is a remedy

For sorrow and for care;

It brings joy to troubled souls,

To damaged hearts, repair


Modern American proverb:

He who laughs, lasts.

The magazine and economics firm researchers state that scientists have supposedly found 15 ways to live to be 129 years old. At least four of these methods can be directly related to laughter and joy:

  1. Don't oversleep
  2. Be optimistic
  3. Have more sex
  4. Get a Pet
  5. Get a cholesterol test
  6. Be rich
  7. Stop smoking
  8. Relax
  9. Ingest antioxidants
  10. Marry well
  11. Exercise
  12. Laugh
  13. Lose weight
  14. Manage Stress
  15. Meditate

Elephant intern goes to the store to buy peanuts

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Enjoying purchases.
Enjoying purchases.
Enjoying purchases. | Source

© 2007 Patty Inglish MS


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    • lifeboost profile image


      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great hub! Laughter is highly under-rated! Watching or reading something that makes you laugh out loud each day can change your life! :)

    • profile image

      Dwayne Sears 

      8 years ago

      Really Interesting hub. It helped me out a lot!

    • readthispants profile image


      9 years ago from My Happy Place

      Apologies. No spam intended, and certainly no offense intended.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Spam link deleted - a video contianing a gymnast dismounting a balance beam and landing on her head and neck is not funny.

    • Beth100 profile image


      10 years ago from Canada


      Thanks for this great hub -- it ties in with mine at

      Hope you don't mind, but I linked yours into mine!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      It's good to hear that being expressed in public. Thanks for telling us about Dr. Sacks. I really liked the film of Awakenings.

    • profile image

      Organic Chemistry 

      11 years ago

      I heard Dr. Sacks speak once (unfortutanely, he is not very good in public) and he discussed the chemicals released in the brain when one does laugh. It was pretty amazing to hear it straight from the expert.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Amazing! I totally believe in power of a hug, smile and laughter! This is completely reinforcing my ideals in life for everyone: To be Happy as you Want to Be. Thank you very much for the information and added confidance in my life!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I missed the wine-drinking immortal rabbits somehow. LOL. But they could make a movie like Attack of the Killer Tomotaoes. Hahaha :)

    • SunSeven profile image


      12 years ago from Singapore / India

      Thank you for this Hub Patty. Robin Williams is one of my favorite actors. But I liked him more in the movie 'What Dreams may come'. But then Forbes company may be wrong too!! Remember, if rabbits drank wine they will live forever!! LOL. Have fun. Laugh. make Merry.


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