In this episode, we learn about anthroposophic medicine from James Maskell’s guest, Adam Blanning, MD. Anthroposophic medicine takes a holistic approach to humans, nature, illness, and healing by addressing the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health. The principles and practices of this medicinal form incorporate elements of herbal medicine, homeopathy, movement therapies and more. Anthroposophic medicine was established in the early 1920s by Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman.

Anthroposophic medicine can be especially beneficial for children working through chronic illnesses, such as asthma, allergies or behavioral issues. Dr. Blanning also highlights the importance of understanding developmental rhythms and providing support for children during key stages of growth.

Dr. Blanning, in addition to founding the Denver Center for Anthroposophic Therapies, is also involved in consulting for Waldorf schools, which are rooted in Rudolf Steiner’s work.

Check out this full conversation to learn more about:

  • James Maskell’s personal experiences with anthroposophic medicine.
  • Application of anthroposophic medicine in various settings, including hospitals and private practices.
  • The importance of creating healing environments that consider the patient’s comfort and well-being, such as reducing noise and promoting rest in hospital settings.
  • An upcoming training week through the Physicians’ Association for Anthroposophic Medicine on April 27 – May 4, 2024 in Loveland, Colorado.

Anthroposophic Medicine | Episode 333

Dr. Adam Blanning: The thing I appreciate about Steiner is this bridging. Let’s take a quick example of warmth, that you can look at how warmth is measured physically, what’s your body temperature, and also find, well, that’s strongly influencing and influenced by how we socially perceive other people. Do we trust them? That’s also a warmth perception. Actually, he told medical students that you need to be able to look at warmth and think of a whole warmth organization that goes from the physical, measurable warmth around you all the way into soul warmth, into spiritual, into social warmth, and that you’re really always looking at the same thing, just manifest slightly differently. So, I wonder… He gave many, many lectures and sometimes you can spend a year just trying to think about a few of the things that he said, but they bring great meaning, and I really find they continually renew my interest in medicine.

James Maskell: Welcome to the Evolution of Medicine podcast, the place health professionals come to hear from innovators and agitators leading the charge. We cover the latest clinical breakthroughs and health technology, as well as practical tools to help you transform your practice and the health of your community.

This podcast is brought to you by the Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center, who provide a range of options to help you deliver successful, effective functional and integrative medicine. To find out more and to get started, go to That’s

Hello and welcome to the podcast. This week we have Dr. Dr. Adam Blanning. He is one of the leading educators in anthroposophic medicine. In this episode, you will learn what anthroposophic medicine is, where it comes from. We’re going to talk about some of the key ways in which it’s deployed. We’re going to talk a little bit about how it’s deployed in a hospital setting and some of my experiences in witnessing that. We’re going to talk about his life in private practice and how education in anthroposophic medicine can support a practitioner doing integrative functional medicine and ways that it can develop you as a healer. They have an upcoming training in April and May coming up in Colorado, and there’s details about that as well. But I think this is a really powerful session and something that I’m really proud to put out into the world. And if you agree, I’d love to hear from you. Thanks so much for tuning in. Enjoy.

So, a warm welcome to the podcast, Dr. Dr. Adam Blanning. Welcome, Doc.

Dr. Adam Blanning: Thank you James, so much. Glad to be here.

James Maskell: I am very excited to chat with you today because this is a topic that has crossed from my professional life into my personal life. In 2016, I had the opportunity to go to the field of clinic in Stuttgart to see an anthroposophic hospital, a hospital created for integrated medicine from day one. And that was a real eye-opener. I learned a lot, really exciting to see integrated medicine delivered in a hospital setting, which is very unusual for Americans. Anyway, and then more recently I’ve been involved for the last four years, very centrally in a Waldorf school project or a Waldorf school adjacent project. And I’ve had a great opportunity throughout to read more about Steiner and his philosophy. And so I’m keen to do a deep dive and just understand it from a physician’s perspective. So, why don’t we just, I guess, start out at the beginning for people who are not familiar with Rudolf Steiner or anthroposophic medicine. Do you want to give us the best overview you can of what that looks like from your perspective?

Dr. Adam Blanning: Yeah, happy to do that. And I can say actually that that hospital you went and visited in Stuttgart, I went there as a fourth-year medical student and got to spend about six weeks, which was a great eyeopener. I had already known about anthroposophic medicine and Steiner’s work. Well, I went to a Waldorf school, so I sort of knew sort of the flavor of it, although I didn’t know any of the specifics. And I would say if we tried to capture it in a couple main parts, one would really be that it’s working to be an expansion, really an extension of what you could find in a traditional hospital in terms of you’ve still got IVs, you’ve still got operating rooms, you’ve still got the medicines that you need, but there’s a much bigger toolbox that’s involved. And the toolbox is not just the medicines that you use, but really the ways that you’re trying to look at a particular situation.

And I think people are kind of itchy for this right now, because we’re living in a world where there’s a lot of, you’ve got this symptom, this medicine will either get rid of the symptom or control the symptom, and it can be very specific scope, but you can end up getting a long list of things that you’re treating without really a picture of what’s happening on a larger scale. And so anthroposophic medicine is really trying to look to see what’s the physical aspect of an illness, what’s kind of the time course and the functional and the dynamics of it. And then I think really importantly also, how does our emotional life, our sensory life fit into the ways that our nervous system responds? And then as an individual person, how do we really experience that process as well on a more deeper, spiritual, and moral level as well?

Kind of like if you go to a Waldorf school, the kids are learning material, but there’s a lot of focus on how are you learning it, in what capacities are you developing, not just can you spell? So, I think looking at capacities and how do you strengthen a process from multiple sides is a really big part of anthroposophic practice.

James Maskell: Beautiful. Yeah, I appreciate you saying that. Two of the things that really struck with me when I went there, one was that as you said, this is a proper hospital. If there’s a plane crash at the airport, they’re coming to that hospital. So, this is not just some outpatient center with a music room, even though there’s a music room. So, that was a big deal that this is designed for that.

The second thing I saw was that in Germany, they are very aggressively tested on things like microbial rates and MRSA and all those levels. And without chemical cleaning, they were able to have the best outcomes in Germany, which again speaks to the value of a holistic way of thinking. Let’s not just focus on just killing everything. Let’s focus on thinking about how to create a healthy microbial environment.

And then the thing that I share with people that just so obvious that when I tell people this is how they do it, I say the maternity wing goes out to the garden, so the mothers can be basically in nature and preterm birth goes from 33% national average to 8% or something like that, or C-section rates, sorry, go down by that much rate. And when I say that to people, especially women, they’re just like, how obvious is that? But how many hospitals in America even think like that in any way? It’s basically zero. And those were very powerful moments for me because I just recognized that there’s a level of thinking going on there that is really pretty obvious and definitely backwards in this country.

Dr. Adam Blanning: Yeah, those hospitals, it’s also nice because people consistently rate those hospitals much higher on their satisfaction. They like being cared for. And then I do think there’s a broader kind of approach. As an example, I was at a comparable hospital in Berlin a few years ago and was on a tour and we went into the intensive care unit and there was something on the wall. It was an outline of an ear which had little lines that would light up based on how loudly you were speaking. And what it was there for was to indicate when your voice got too loud or loud enough that it would be disrupting somebody who’s trying to rest. And if you’ve ever spent time in an intensive care unit or just most hospitals, there’s continuous beeps, noises, squeaks, announcements, and the hospital is a terrible place to rest.

So, we’re doing a lot of interventions to help somebody heal, but we’re also continuously stimulating, annoying them, waking them up. And I thought this is a brilliant part of the healing process is to say, “How can we heal by making small additions with small changes in what we’re doing that’s really looking from the patient side, not just from the provider or the doctor side?”

James Maskell: Yeah, beautifully said. I love that. And I think about healing is getting people into a sympathetic state and there’s nothing more sympathetic than having the beeping or having someone shouting for sure. All right. Well look, I think we’re both in agreement there’s a lot that hospitals could learn. I guess what I would love to just understand more is as you, as an anthroposophical trained doctor in private practice, most of the people who listen to this podcast are practitioners doing integrative functional medicine of some variety. So, where would you say that you have some crossover with that, and where would you say that your practice departs from what you perceive as norms in those areas?

Dr. Adam Blanning: Sure. Well, I think a lot of people who are doing integrative or functional medicine start going down that path, looking for a broader understanding of health. We could say whether that’s on an organ level or a whole systems level. And I think when you’re doing that kind of practice, you end up seeing people who have a lot of chronic illness, hopefully, and I think this is true from my own experience. You often see people who are also motivated to be participating in their healing process in a direct way.

What I find to be very interesting, and I love exploring this myself and also in teaching programs and trainings, is that there’s a way to trying to be looking at the whole human being. And you can take different departure points. You can do it from a biochemical testing side. You can also do it from what I would say is more of a dynamic observation or phenomenology side. You can do it from an intuitive side. And if we really start looking at this, they weave together in pretty consistent and predictable ways.

One of the medicines that was developed in anthroposophic medicine is mistletoe for cancer treatment. And now you can look and see the biochemistry of the viscotoxins and the lectin contents and how those create inflammation. You can get pretty fancy with the biochemistry, but a hundred years ago when this development started of really using this plant as a cancer treatment, it was looking to say, “Huh, this is a very unusual plant. It’s a parasite. It grows on trees, and it blossoms in the winter and in the summer. It has its own kind of rhythm. And if you see it growing in the tree, it taps into the bark at one point and then it grows out in a circle in all directions. And when you clip it off, it’s hard to tell what’s the top or the bottom of the plant.”

And you say, “Well, this is a really unusual botanical that it fruits whenever it wants to winter and summer. It’s separated from its environment. It grows out in all directions. It doesn’t have a top or bottom or a sun orientation or an earth orientation. It’s a poisonous plant and it’s a parasitic plant.”

And I think people looked at that and said, “There are actually a lot of overlaps there between the way a cancer starts to grow in the body where it develops its own growth rhythms. It stops having the architecture of usual cell growth. It will develop its own blood supply and it’s living in the body, but it’s not an integrated part of the body.” And so that came not through chemical testing, but through really trying to understand process and think in an imaginative way. And so a lot of traditional healing medicines, healing plants, I think can also be approached through this dynamic method and pretty well-matched in terms of what’s the biochemistry and the testing side that we can demonstrate, and what’s more of this observation, intuitive imaginative side.

James Maskell: Yeah, I love that. I would say if you are operating at that level and taking that sort of care to understand what you’re seeing, you’d be aware then of the law of similars, which is basically down the root of homeopathy, and be interested in those sorts of concepts. And that’s one end. And then obviously herbology generally and those. And are those the two modalities that you would use a lot in your practice? Is there a broader range? What does the day-to-day of an anthroposophic doctor look like in terms of their most consistent toolkit?

Dr. Adam Blanning: Yeah, I would say it’s exactly those realms, herbal natural medicines and also some mineral preparations. There are some homeopathics which also come from the animal realm. So, a lot of these things could fit into a homeopathic perspective, although the way of preparing them is different, and I would say they’re diluted. They’re prepared in very gentle ways, so they’re kind of on a bridge between straight herbal and more classical homeopathic preparations.

And then there are also a lot of therapies that have been developed in anthroposophic medicine, movement therapies, art therapies, body therapies where again, you’re trying to look for patterns and archetypes. So, it might be that you use an herbal preparation and there can be a complimentary artistic exercise that somebody would do alongside that.

James Maskell: Yeah, it’s funny with all these tools that you’re mentioning now, and if we had had this conversation two months ago, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned this, but as you mentioned, the kind of tools that are used there in those modalities, the movement and the artistic stuff, my feeling is that the mechanism of action is likely to be the vagus nerve because ultimately you are about getting into parasympathetic state. And when I now look at the burgeoning research and all the different ways to improve parasympathetic tone and vagus nerve tone, all of those things that just seemed a bit weird and we don’t know why we’re doing it and we don’t really understand the mechanism, it seems like that’s a likely source of an inflammatory… A way of reducing inflammation and creating health.

Dr. Adam Blanning: Yeah, I think binding and using these gateways to the parasympathetic system is just so important. And their experiences, like if somebody’s in a palliative care, a hospice situation, and a little bit of music therapy can work much better than narcotics or anxiety or agitation, which doesn’t mean you can’t use those medicines, it just means you’ve got more things in your hand. And I think they feel good.

James Maskell: I mean, if you look up different yoga and tai chi would probably get pushed to the top as movement therapies for parasympathetic tone or vagus nerve tone, but that’s mainly because most people don’t know what eurythmy is.

Dr. Adam Blanning: Right. And just to say eurythmy is a movement therapy, a movement activity that’s done in Anthroposophic clinics and Waldorf schools. There are actually some interesting studies looking at Tai chi and eurythmy both as therapy interventions for things like poor balance or other kinds of chronic problems.

James Maskell: Yeah, interesting. Well, let’s take it into the specific here because you mentioned palliative care and I know there’s a lot of interesting end of life stuff there, but I guess something that I’m more interested in that I know that you are more interested in too, is healthy children. And that’s why my kids are at Waldorf school because I think that’s the healthiest choice for them emotionally, developmentally, educationally. That’s just my position on it having learned what I’ve learned. But I also know that my children have been free from chronic illness, touch wood, but many kids are not free of chronic illness. In fact, one in two kids have a chronic illness.

We actually just had Dr. Lisa Song on the podcast talking about the explosion of chronic illness, and she’s speaking up at this conference coming up one and two. She said basically kids have a chronic illness and I know that this is a particular area of strength in your practice. So, do you want to just share a little bit about what anthroposophic medicine looks like with the children that you work with, and what are some of the common tools that you use, and maybe some examples of chronic illnesses that are unwound through an anthroposophic framework?

Dr. Adam Blanning: Absolutely. I think one observation is that as the way we’ve treated more common acute illnesses, inflammations, has changed over the last few decades. That we have not so many hot inflammations with strong fever. And there’s a move more towards cool chronic inflammations where I would put in that category things like eczema, asthma, chronic allergies, digestive allergies, hay fever, things like that.

And so one part is trying to look and say, “How does the immune system develop? How does a child find their way to interact with the world?” And so a pretty simple thing is trying to say that actually allowing the body to really work through what it needs to do without suppressing too many symptoms, like allowing fever to happen when it’s a safe situation, actually changes these rates. And there’s some really fun studies done in Scandinavia showing things like if children ate sauerkraut or other kinds of prepared vegetables, naturally fermented vegetables, and they were allowed to have fevers, and they had less antibiotics that by age seven their rates of chronic allergic illness were cut significantly, and I mean more than half. So, the kinds of things that if we could package them in a pill, I think would be very, very popular bestsellers. So, one part is just trying to look and see how do we help the immune system really develop good capacities?

Another, I think is there’s so much anxiety happening in the world right now and trying to look and see, well, how do children learn to soothe themselves? How do they learn to sleep? We’re sort of getting again into this parasympathetic space. How do we self orient in a world that’s very, very stimulating? I think that’s a special part of pediatrics. And then there are really interesting biographical rhythms that happen in terms of development where you can recognize pretty consistently that different parts of us develop at different stages.

So, I’ll give a quick example. At puberty, there are all kinds of bodily changes that happen, sexual maturity, the way that we relate to the environment around us is very different, feeling connected or disconnected, enthusiastic or bored. And so our sensory and our emotional life really wakes up at the same time that there are big physiologic changes that happen.

There’s a similar process that happens when a child is two or three years old when they have the terrible twos and they’re not connecting to the environment so much, but they’re suddenly realizing, I can influence what happens around me, and I can refuse food, or I can ask for things. I can sort of feel what’s me and what’s not me. It’s a time that a lot of children also start to potty-train, which you have to be able to feel what’s inside of you and what’s outside of you to potty-train.

So, we could say there’s almost like this little adolescence that happens at age two to three, and I think there’s a temptation right now to say, “My child is falling apart. What am I doing wrong? Because they’re saying no when I offer them something.” And if we can just recognize well, actually they’re exercising their capacity to feel what’s them and what’s not them, then we can start viewing some of these changes in a very different way and let them practice that without taking it personally.

James Maskell: Beautiful. I love that so much, because I feel like actually so much of the problem is parents reacting to things that are normal in abnormal ways and actually exacerbating the problem. One of the joys in my life is having another mother in our class who is a pediatrician, a holistic pediatrician, and when my first daughter was going through the nine-year change of that moment, so many things that we were, I guess other parents were judging as problems, were just a part of what it means to come into the social body, to start to interact with others, to form alliances and friendships and those kinds of things.

I have one daughter who’s 10, and I have another one that’s just three. So, both of the examples that we’re talking about are very live for me right now. But yeah, I think it’s beautiful. And then obviously in that same school environment, having the instructors and the teachers aware that this is what’s happening at this age, and this is normal, and there’s a lot of things that are abnormal, but that’s probably what you’re doing at home. And obviously a big part of Waldorf is trying to maintain as much of childhood as possible and not getting too into adulthood before you have to. And that’s been an amazing gift. So, yeah, I really appreciate that. And I would say, can you give some examples of the kinds of conditions that you’ve had success with in your practice that maybe conventional pediatrics doesn’t really have a handle on?

Dr. Adam Blanning: Sure. Well, I think looking at childhood development and behavior overall is really a huge area where you can see predictable rhythms. We just mentioned the nine-year olds, and it’s really, really typical that nine year olds suddenly become fearful about illness and death and sometimes about robbers or tidal waves, and they’re becoming individual people. They’re really waking up to being their own unique person, and that brings a feeling of vulnerability.

So, I would say looking at developmental rhythms, at anxiety, at OCD, at ADHD, sleep disturbances, lots of those kinds of things. I think other chronic inflammatory illnesses like asthma, digestive problems, and caprices, eczema, those are big ones for children. If you take this into the adult realm, we can also get into answer a differentiated way of looking at hypertension, sleep challenges, digestive challenges, allergic challenges. I think it’s a lot of overlap with what many people who are doing functional medicine and integrative medicine are meeting, because these are areas where people are not well met in traditional therapies.

James Maskell: Beautiful. Well, I just want to point out that the things that you’re talking about adolescents, we have a crisis in adolescent health right now. We have a crisis in pediatric health. And to me, now that I know what I know, the solutions that you are talking about for pediatric and adolescent health are as obvious as the nature by the maternity ward. It’s just a little bit more spread out, and we don’t have a way of tracking those mechanisms. In that hospital you could track those outcomes and say, “This is four times better than doing it anywhere else.” And we can prove it because all the outcomes are happening in our building and the outcomes are really obvious, preterm birth or C-section.

What you are talking about because of some of the limitations, first of all, those outcomes are not being tracked because these are just individual private practices outside of the system. But from my experience, it’s as obvious that we should be talking to children in terms of an understanding their health in the context of their maturation and development as that. It’s just we drug them and send them off because easier and it’s well set up. But this is so elegant, and I just want to reflect that to you. I guess the question that I have because I’m sure other practitioners are wondering this is. If I have some basis in integrated medicine or functional medicine, if I’ve done training and that’s what my practice looks like today, how does it benefit me to then I would say go through an anthroposophic training like the ones that you guys offer?

Dr. Adam Blanning: Yeah, I think a big part of it is a little bit more practice of differentiated ways of thinking. Like is the training we do dedicated plant observation of healing plants? And this may sound like a small thing, but I was with a group last spring and we looked at a plant that nobody knew what it was, and we looked at it for six days. And there are certain ways of looking at patterns of the root versus the stem versus the leaf and the flour and the timing that you start to live into the process that’s standing behind the plant growth. And at the end, we could say, “I think this is a plant that could be good for some kind of rhythmic process, either a heart problem or maybe a menstrual problem.” And then at the end, we looked online, we found out what the plant was, and it’s been used as a traditional medicine. It’s here in Colorado, and we weren’t a hundred percent, but we were about two thirds right. And that’s pretty exciting.

I also think there’s just a lot of work that we do trying to think about what is it like to be a healer. Besides what’s the business aspect, what’s the CME aspect? But really what does that mean on a soul level? And how do you keep taking care of people? And how do you keep developing your own balance and resilience and faith and optimism and things? So, that it’s a path of development also as a healer, as a practitioner of trying to say, “This is not just a job. This is actually a special activity in the world.”

James Maskell:

Beautiful. Well, I know you have an upcoming training. Do you want to share a little bit about those details for practitioners who might be interested?

Dr. Adam Blanning: Yeah, so we have an annual training week that happens. This year it begins the end of April. I think it’s April 27 to May 4. It’s at a beautiful retreat center, Sunrise Ranch, about an hour north of Denver. And so that’s our main meeting for the year. But there are also parallel trainings that happen throughout the year. We just had a foundation course in mistletoe training that was online, and there are smaller offerings that happen throughout the year.

This training week that’s going to happen is really looking at a sevenfold approach through we could say endocrine organs, through chakras, through metal preparations, through different types of organ physiology. It’s a pretty amazing paradigm of just trying to look at what are the parts of our physiology that are most structured and formed and finished, and what are the parts that are most flexible and renewing, and how do things fit into this kind of sevenfold, I don’t know, a range of colors or the days of the week. There’s a certain wisdom in a lot of healing traditions about seven. So, we’ve got a pharmacist coming from Thailand and a gastroenterologist coming from Germany, and we’re going to sculpt with clay, and it should be a great community.

James Maskell: Wonderful. Well, I’ll out myself that part of the reason why I knew we had to do this podcast was that I was actually born at Sunrise Ranch. So, 43 years ago, that was where I entered the world. So, I’m excited that people get to go and be part of that energy. It’s an amazing place. It’s an amazing valley, has been historically a regeneratively run farm as well. And so there’s good vibes there and good food, and I’m glad that you’re going to do that, and I would encourage practitioners to go and check it out. I think you said something there a minute ago that I want to just feed back to you that this is soul medicine, right? This is medicine for the soul and stepping into healing in the most soulful possible way, and I definitely resonate with that very clearly.

I guess the last question I want to ask you is just your broader take on Steiner philosophy. Ultimately you are practicing it in medicine. There’s obviously the school component, there’s regenerative agriculture, and I just wanted to understand from your point of view, as you’ve taken in the totality of the philosophy, what are the things that strike most deeply with you with regard to how to be in the world and how we can be together? And I say this in the context of it’s our year of unity here at the Evolution of Medicine. So, we’ve been talking about concepts in that theme, and I’d just love to get your insight on your thoughts on Steiner and how his education sits with you.

Dr. Adam Blanning: Yeah. Well, Rudolf Steiner was an incredible perceiver of things, really with very, very deep spiritual perception. He started out working intensively with philosophy, studied philosophy at the university, did a very deep study in editing of Gerta’s works. And then as he lived and collaborated with people, he started to bring these perceptions of interrelations, of spiritual development, of soul aspects, but connecting them to specifically practical initiatives, like he helped found the Waldorf schools because there was someone who said, “I have a group of children who are the children of the people who work in my cigarette factory, and I’d like to give them a good education. How could we do that?”

And agriculture and medicine, so it came out of collaborations. And the thing I appreciate about Steiner is this bridging. Let’s take a quick example of warmth, that you can look at how warmth is measured physically, what’s your body temperature, and also find, well, that’s strongly influencing and influenced by how we socially perceive other people. Do we trust them? That’s also a warmth perception. Actually, he told medical students that you need to be able to look at warmth and think of a whole warmth organization that goes from the physical, measurable warmth around you all the way into soul warmth, into spiritual, into social warmth, and that you’re really always looking at the same thing, just manifest slightly differently. So, I wonder… He gave many, many lectures and sometimes you can spend a year just trying to think about a few of the things that he said, but they bring great meaning, and I really find they continually renew my interest in medicine.

James Maskell: Beautiful. Well, wonderful to connect, and I’m really glad that we’ve been able to have this conversation on the Evolution of Medicine podcast. I think it’s a great fit for the year of unity, and I hope that practitioners, I’ve had a few practitioners over the years tell me, “Hey, I saw the episode and I went to the field of clinic and this is what I learned.” And so I’ve had some moments like that where people have been inspired by some of the content that we’ve done in that direction.

It was such a small piece of the overall message of what we’ve been up to, but it’s just a lot more resonant for me to now because of my current life experience. And yeah, I’m excited to spend more together in the future and to connect and really grateful for the opportunity.

So, we’ll have all the details in the show notes about the annual Anthroposophic Training Week happening at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado in the show notes there. But Dr. Dr. Adam Blanning Blanning, thanks so much for being part of the Evolution of Medicine podcast. I’m your host, James Maskell, and we’ll see you next time.

Thanks for listening to the Evolution of Medicine podcast. Please share this with colleagues who need to hear it. Thanks so much to our sponsors, the Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center. This podcast is really possible because of them. Please visit to find out more about their clinical tools, like the Group Visit Toolkit. That’s Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll see you next time.


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