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The vitality ( Latin vitalis , viable ' ) of an organism is determined by how well it manages to adapt to its environment or to use its environment. Vitality is understood as the ability to thrive and survive under the environmental conditions found. In ecology , vitality also means the competitiveness of species .

In humans, vitality is understood to mean “the gender and age-typical functionality and sensitivity”. It is a biopsychosocial perspective that captures the physical, mental, emotional and social related.

Dimensions of vitality in humans

The basic dimensions of biological-social existence are age and the functional health or illness of humans.

The age dimension includes calendar , functional and role age . The calendar age is the chronological or identity card age. Functional age does not understand aging as a deficit process, but rather places emphasis on improving functional capacities well into the second half of life. These functional capacities include, for example, the awareness of quality and responsibility, the ability to make judgments and social skills, which increase with age. The role age results from a requirement-differentiated evaluation of classic age stereotypes. Although young are generally equated with inexperienced and old with underperforming , the addition of a social role gives these age groups a different meaning: While a 40-year-old center forward is considered old, a 40-year-old soccer coach is considered young.

The dimension of functional health or illness in humans means their resilience and performance . This dimension is of fundamental importance for resource medicine. Functional health or illness is revealed through the ability to adapt , which is only found in biological systems.

Concept history

The term life force (Latin vis vitalis ) was very popular when it was first created at the end of the 18th century and was often used in an unspecific manner as a widespread placeholder term for physical processes that were not understood . In terms of language and content, he found the Principium vitalis with forces radicales and forces agissantes or agens vitalis in vitalism , the Sentient principle ( Robert Whytt ), the vital power ( John Hunter ), the vital force in Friedrich Casimir Medicus , who introduced the term in 1774, or Caspar Friedrich Wolffs vis essentialis close. Later Georg Groddeck also used the expression life force in his conception of the vital Es .

In medieval and early modern medicine, a hidden power (healing power or life force) was called virtus occulta .

The idea of ​​a life force was described as a concept of health and illness by Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. Hufeland took elements from the “ animism ” or psychodynamism of Georg Ernst Stahl , from the vitalism of Théophile de Bordeu and Paul-Joseph Barthez and from Albrecht von Haller's theory of irritability . He expressly distinguished himself from Brownianism .

Hufeland saw a general life force with further partial forces as the basic cause of all life processes and as the self-preservation principle of the organism :

  • a sustaining force
  • a regenerating and regenerating force,
  • a special life force of the blood,
  • a nerve force
  • a force that causes the body to be generally irritable, as well as
  • a force that brings about a specific ability to stimulate the body.

Illness is an impairment of the life force or the life forces by pathogenic stimuli. Visible signs of illness are healing reactions of the life force to such illness stimuli. The healing power of nature ( vis medicatrix naturae ) and the life force are of the same nature, if not identical. Every therapeutic action by the doctor as well as every self-treatment by the patient should support the individual vitality. Overall, medical action should be based on the principle of contraria contrariis . In addition to the careful use of medication , Hufeland recommended observing dietary rules and physical therapies (for example as water applications ).

Impulses for the development of naturopathy in the 19th century go back to Hufeland's concept .

When around 1850 physiology and pathological anatomy became the leading sciences in medicine, which had developed into an applied natural science subject to the laws of physics, speculations about the existence of life force dried up (representatives of the "era of materialistic reductionism" that was beginning at that time were the Berlin physiologist Emil Du Bois-Reymond and the Berlin pathologist Rudolf Virchow ).

In later times life force or life energy was again spoken of with different understandings in many areas of alternative medicine, including homeopathy.

Life force in homeopathy

Even Samuel Hahnemann was referring to in his homeopathic late work on some of the fundamental tenets Hufeland, but came to different therapeutic consequences. The "detuning of the life force" described by him in the last editions of the Organon , which is caused by a " miasma " (like the immaterial life force also spiritual, immaterial) , can be seen as an attempt to apply the principle of similarity "scientifically" according to the status quo at the time to explain.
In classical homeopathy, however, life force also plays a central role today. In the teaching of classical homeopathy, healing cannot be achieved through a homeopathic medicine, but only through the correction of the life force. The similar medicine is supposed to let the life force, which is invisible and can only be recognized by its effects, flow again in an orderly way.

Vitality in agriculture and forestry

Old trees as a habitat for different species

The factors influencing the vitality of plant and animal offspring were fundamentally investigated by Caspar Friedrich Wolff . The testing of the germinability and care of seeds found its way into agricultural research as early as the 18th century , the rules for this are internationally established and further developed by the ISTA . Since the introduction of hybrid breeding in plant and animal breeding , testing the vitality of offspring has been mandatory for the selection of inbred lines and the breeding of successful hybrids .

See also


  • Wolfgang Eckart: History of Medicine. Springer Verlag Berlin, Heidelberg 1990, ISBN 3-540-51982-3 .
  • H. Haas: Origin, history and idea of ​​pharmaceutical science. Volume 1. BI Wissenschaftsverlag, Mannheim 1981.

Individual evidence

  1. Peter Klug: Vitality and development phases in trees. In: ProBaum. Issue 1, 2005, p. 1.
  2. dtv-Atlas zur Biologie, Volume 1, dtv 3011, Munich 1967, p. 207.
  3. Dagmar Meissner Pöthing et al .: Review Article anti-aging and vitality. In: J. Menopause. Volume 3, 2005, p. 5.
  4. European Association for Vitality and Active Aging eV (EVAA): Operational definition of vitality  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  5. Meißner-Pöthing et al., Op. Cit., P. 4
  6. EVAA: Age aspect of vitality  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  7. EVAA: health aspect of vitality  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  8. Matthias Wischner: Brief History of Homeopathy , Forum Homeopathy, KVC Verlag Essen 2004, p. 21
  9. Brigitte Lohff: life force. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 832.
  10. Graziella Federici Vescovini: La Conception della virtus occulta nella dottrina medica di Anraldo di Villanova e di Pietro d'Abano. In: Homage to Colette Sirat. 2006, pp. 107-135 ( doi).
  11. ^ Gundolf Keil: virtus occulta. The term “empiricum” in Nicholas of Poland. In: August Buck (Ed.): The occult sciences in the Renaissance. Wiesbaden 1992 (= Wolfenbütteler Abhandlungen zur Renaissanceoforschung. Volume 12), pp. 159–196.
  12. Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland: Ideas about pathogeny and influence of life force on the development and form of diseases - as an introduction to pathological lectures. Jena 1795.
  13. Axel W. Bauer : What is man? Attempts at answering medical anthropology. In: Fachprosaforschung - Grenzüberrückungen 8/9, 2012/2013, ISBN 978-3-86888-077-9 , pp. 437–453, here: p. 446 ( Medicine as applied physics after 1850: Man as machine ).
  14. ^ Sönke Drewsen: Hahnemann's dispute with the "previous old medicine school" as a dispute over scientific methods. Attempt to reconstruct and appreciate his approach to the foundation of medicine as a method-critical approach. In: Würzburger medical history reports 11, 1993, pp. 45–58; here: p. 50.
  15. Roger Rissel: How important is the “vital force” in Hahnemann's homeopathy?
  16. Norbert Enders, Maria Steinbeck, Eberhard Gottsmann, Homeopathy. An introduction to pictures , pages 56 to 60, Karl F. Haug Verlag, 1996, ISBN 3-7760-1559-4
  17. ^ Edeltraut and Peter Friedrich, Characters of Homeopathic Medicines Volume 3 , page 9, Traupe-Vertrieb, 1999, ISBN 3-9802834-3-7