A New Path – How history shaped natural medicine

Throughout history there are some wonderful examples of natural medicine. This is a piece I wrote a number of years ago that I’m still proud of, herbs are not mentioned specifically but I still think it’s a great read.

These are my core beliefs, the main reasons I got into herbalism. 

Holley Signature 1

Where it all started….

Benedict Lust, born in 1872, was one of the founders of naturopathic medicine. He described naturopathy or nature cure as “The natural system for curing disease is based on a return to nature in regulating the diet, breathing, exercising, bathing and the employment of various forces to eliminate the poisonous products in the system, and so raise the vitality of the patient to a proper standard of health”

Traditional nature cure recognises the laws of nature as fresh air, sunshine, exercise, fresh food, hygiene and mental well being. Health today is no longer viewed as just the absence of disease, there is a focus on being able to live balanced, contented lives and I consider it possible to be in harmony with these influences in the twenty-first century. I believe it is more important now than ever that people are aware of these important influences and educated on the same.

In today’s society there appears to be a common theme of people constantly searching for the thing that makes them feel whole and complete. When we are out of balance and feel there is a void that needs filling we go to the closest quick fix be it television, high sugar or fat foods, sex or other adrenaline producing activities.
I believe that nature cure, along with Hippocrates’ Vis Medicatrix Naturae – the healing power of nature- is what needs to be promoted to people, to be able to empower individuals to be accountable for their own health and to provide them with the knowledge and tools to heal themselves and others.

Fresh air, natural light and plants

Two of the recognised laws of nature cure are fresh air and natural light, these are two of life’s essential needs. As we have become more industrial the earth’s air quality has suffered greatly especially in countries such as China and Japan where a large number of the population wear masks covering their mouth and noses when outside because of the smog that has developed. If you are in a position to change your living circumstances, choosing to live in and around forests and near the coast, not in the middle of cities, as well as planting trees on your property and in your community will also help to provide a better air quality.

If you live within a city it is possible to still have good air and light in an office. Plants are an excellent way to improve the air quality in your office and home environment by producing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide. They also help to create and bring about that calming ambiance of being in nature.
Breathing in the dry air in offices that have fixed windows and air conditioning systems can cause respiratory and other health problems. Plants such as the Areca palm and Bamboo palm can improve the air quality as they increase the humidity and absorb toxins emitted from computers, paint and synthetic fabrics such as carpet. Other ways to improve air quality are small water fountains, aromatherapy diffusers or burn essential oils.

Getting outside during the day is important so that body can produce vitamin D from the sun and promote calcium absorption. Moderation and being sensible is the key to how much sun light we get, 10-15 minutes per day and a minimum of three times per week is generally recommended.

Being active

In the twenty-first century people are very aware of the importance of physical activity to their health and well being but despite this it appears people are becoming less active. People living in higher income countries tend to be more sedentary at work, this is largely related to office based employment working long hours with less time for physically active leisure activities. People living in low income countries tend to be fitter due to the physical demands required in their daily lives.
Low income communities tend to live more primitively, like we did hundreds of years ago, with little or no access to television and video games, where children play outside or contribute to the household by working on the land for food.

Food as Medicine

Thomas Edison stated “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease” This is occurring more often in conventional medicine; general practitioners are sharing their practices with naturopaths, nutritionists, chiropractors and osteopaths.  There is a constant supply of scientific evidence that supports the consumption of fresh and whole foods and reducing or eliminating processed foods all together. Common conditions such as eczema, acne, arthritis, asthma, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, diabetes, gout and obesity can be treated effective by reviewing and changing a person’s diet.

Buying local produce or growing your own fruit and vegetables are some of the best ways to ensure you are getting a fresh product and to reduce the loss of essential vitamins and minerals that can result with the transport of food over large distances and long storage times. This way you will also be more likely to eat seasonally and get the right nutrients the body needs for the season, which the body has been designed to do over thousands of years.
Organic and GM free foods are the best options as being chemical free they are healthier and put less strain on the body and environment.
Raw plant foods and the hunter gatherer diet enable a greater life force and vitality into the body, the food is in its most natural state and therefore more easily digested and absorbed.

Nature and the consumer

It is possible to maintain healthy hygiene practices today by using natural body products and make-up developed from natural resources or make your own where ever possible. Essential oils, salt, baking soda, and vinegar are all excellent natural products that can be used for cleaning, first aid and cosmetic applications. Our skin is the largest organ of the body, what you put on the outside of it will end up on the inside. An example of this is a water therapy developed in France in the nineteenth century called Thalassotherapy which refers to the healing properties of the sea and is based on the theory that because the body is naturally made up of high levels of saline and water, marine based products such as seaweed and seawater from the ocean can help bring you back into balance.

Healthy mind

Mental health is more often than not perceived as mental illness or mental disorder where the focus is on the negative, the presence of illness, rather than mental health being seen as a positive attribute.
The National Health and Medical Research Council estimates that by 2020 depression will be the second largest contributor to the world’s disease burden. I believe by following the above mentioned principles of nature cure, we as a society are able to achieve and maintain mental wellbeing.

In the twenty first century we are still living in a world full of disorder, uncertainty and imbalance, in a world where it is more than ever before burdened with toxicity in our water, earth and air. We all have the ability to heal ourselves and the planet, to create balance and contentment for the mind, body and soul and we have always had what we need to support our selves to do this right now. It’s in our soil; vegetables, fruits and grains, in our water; cleansing, detoxifying, hydrating and in our air; sunshine, oxygen, warmth.

We are coming full circle, going back to the very basics, the essence of life. Discovering again what nourishes the life force and creates vitality in us as human beings and what creates vitality to all living organisms.
I feel the following quote by Joseph Campbell summarises how we can live in the twenty first century within the same principles of nature cure “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature”.
It’s a way of life as intended for us, all life integrates with all other life.