Natural Healing—A Definition & Its Importance
During the course of the past decade it has been reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services that the deaths annually attributed to iatrogenic causes (120,000) exceeds the number by natural causes such as heart attacks (50,000+). Underlying this reporting is some notion of natural medicine and natural death. In case of the former it might be claimed that medical intervention that causes death is fundamentally non-natural, unnatural, or not natural and results in unnatural, untimely death.
There are several key word-meanings we should examine—natural, law, health.
a) The meaning of “natural” is given thusly in Webster’s New World Dictionary: 1) of or arising from nature; in accordance with what is found or expected in nature 2) produced or existing in nature; not artificial or manufactured ..
b) This concept is closely allied to another—“natural law” which is defined to mean: a sequence of events in nature or in human activities that has been observed to occur with unvarying uniformity under the same conditions: often law of nature.
c) Health is defined in this way: healthy physical and mental well-being; freedom from disease, pain or defect; normality of physical and mental functions, soundness.
From these meanings we should infer that health is the natural state of being and that nature provides for health without man’s involvement. This is natural law. This does not imply that one will never be sick, rather, if sick natural processes provide for the healing. Further, we might infer that “intervention” in disease might be problematic. The statistics of iatrogenecity, mentioned above, are an example of this problematic nature of interventionistic medicine.
“The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”--Thomas A. Edison
Ayurvedic medicine, practiced properly, is natural medicine. The accuracy of this statement rests is numerous classical dicta. When proposing therapeutic measures to a client the vaidya (name for an Ayurvedic physician; literally means “one who knows”) should educate about the causes so the client might avoid them. Removing the cause is necessary and sufficient to bring about health, according to Ayurveda. Next the vaidya should invoke, as appropriate, natural cleansing measures (panchakarma) to physically remove the diathesis (systemic cause) to enable the physiology to return to its normal, unimpaired, balanced state. In this state (absence of offending substances) the body can repair itself and will do so naturally. Next the vaidya suggests measures to help maintain balance in light of constitution, strength, digestion, age, mental state, season, habits, country of residence, and so on. And finally, rejuvenatives are suggested to aid restoration of the physiology, organs, and tissues.
The materia medica of classical Ayurveda was composed mainly of organic substances. The value of minerals and elements was asserted but it was not until the medieval period that alchemy had its influence on the Ayurvedic pharmacopeia. With this influx of high-powered substances (especially mercury/sulfur compounds) the theme of “intervention” became more dominant in Ayurvedic medicine. Intervention means the role of the practitioner in diagnosis and treatment was altered and the thinking of mainstream people altered to a belief that one needed a doctor to get well. Despite this widespread belief there is a great resistance, among the present-day vaidyas in Kerala (state in the south of India) to the use of these alchemic products. (See the quote below from Dr Skelton, in 1855, regarding this point.)
“A Great First Principle of Medical Science—that substances contained in the mineral kingdom were also contained in the vegetable and animal kingdoms, and that in order to build up and sustain the animal body, nature had established it as an infallible law that all its nutritive force should be derived from organized life, and that all violations of this law tend to disorganize and destroy the living structure.” Dr. John Skelton ,2 June, 1855, Quoted in Green Pharmacy, Barbara Griggs, pp. 222-223
In order to make our point about causation relevant we need to discuss the concept of time. Time was accorded in the ancient texts the status of a causative (material) substance in the scheme of life. These classical texts implicated nature’s cycles of change in the pathogenesis of disease. Reflecting upon the daytime/night-time and seasonal variations of weather it was clear that Nature plays a role in health and dis-ease. It was noted that while it could be unbearably hot / cold or dry / wet, yet over time life persisted. Remarkably, there is no spot on earth completely devoid of life, although not all forms flourish in all areas. This notion of continuity suggested that Nature compensated or balanced one pattern with another—It provided for a recurring cleansing, so to speak. Thus it is central to Ayurvedic thinking that one need not DO something to cure a disease, rather one need only NOT do (remove the cause). Health would automatically return.
From the Ayurvedic perspective there are 4 important clinical features which contribute to a pathology—state of digestion, physiological (doshic) balance, condition of toxicity (ama), and the state of the principle of immunity—ojas. One need not simply attack a pathogen with a biocide in order to maintain or restore health. Similarly for chronic, degenerative, inflammatory, congestive, or autoimmune conditions one need only perfect each of the 4 above features. For the diseased patient healing would occur according to natural processes. The vaidya could only support and facilitate Nature in the healing process. Note that we are not talking about trauma conditions that require medical intervention with powerful drugs or/and surgery. We are talking about life processes that are pathological or healthy, depending upon one’s innate ability to maintain balance in the face of on-going life experiences—lifestyle, diet, mental and emotional factors, etc. These are the factors that promote or degrade life. Life itself is not fundamentally defective.
The concept of immunity, itself, implies fundamentally that one can maintain a continuing homeostasis. In modern science we know that there are numerous mechanisms—cellular and humoral mediated, cellular repair, tissue regeneration, etc.—that participate in the homeostasis of life. Ayurveda uses rejuvenatives (rasayanas) to facilitate these processes, usually after the mind/body cleansing has been done. It is true, however, that some require these BEFORE cleansing may be done, because of being too weak to undergo cleansing protocols. From the perspective of both the patient and the doctor, it is important to remember that Nature is doing the work and that the most radical strategy of intervention is the education of causal relationships. Once the person has this information about how things work then one need rarely consult a physician about health.
In summary we have briefly tried to make a case for life as a collection of natural processes that are fundamentally nourishing and supporting. We have argued that according to the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda health involves continuing prevention-oriented (immunity) and repair themes in the physiology that one either supports or inhibits in every moment of living. Doctors who know this about life, their medicines, and their protocols merely entertain the patient while Nature does the work. Doctors and patients believing and acting in a contrary manner may find relief from disease but as the statistics show many will die from the side-effects of this effort.
(For some details about intervention protocols)
(C) Copyright 2001 Michael Dick All Rights Reserved www.ayurveda-florida.com