Introduction to Natural Health Philosophy
Lesson 4, Page 2 of 4

The most fundamental tenet of natural health philosophy is the body has the capability of healing itself.

As evident as this truth might appear, many have forgotten it. During the first half of the 20th century, the public was infatuated with science and technology. The discovery of "miracle drugs" such as penicillin led many to believe that medical science was on the verge of eliminating all disease from the face of the earth. It was a time when confidence in our technological ability led us to believe that science would eventually overcome the forces of nature.

During the latter half of the 20th century this folly was increasingly becoming apparent, as new incurable diseases like AIDS appeared on the scene, and as "super germs"—produced by the overuse of antibiotics—began to plague even the most "medically advanced" societies. People began to see the other side of the technological monster they had created; and some began to count the costs, not only in terms of money, but in terms of death and human suffering resulting from dangerous medical procedures and side-effects.

He's a fool that makes his doctor his heir.
Benjamin Franklin

The more we departed from nature, the more costly health care became. Medical care in the U.S. became so expensive that a "health care crisis" was announced and the government, responding to public pressure, decided it was time to do something about it. However, the government's attempt to curb the crisis by pouring more money into it was like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. The result was the bureaucratic nightmare that we are still dealing with today, in which not only are health care costs spiraling out of control, but so too is the bureaucracy designed to contain it!

Meanwhile, these events led thinking people to question our over-reliance on technological medicine, resulting in a desire to "return to nature" for more of our health care and maintenance. This brought about a new philosophy—a "natural health philosophy"—in which "natural is better." Many people are returning to more traditional methods of health care such as herbalism, nutrition, massage, meditation, spinal manipulation, exercise, etc.

Herbs Are Not Drug Substitutes!

As more people are becoming aware of the dangerous side-effects of drugs, and with increasing awareness of natural and herbal alternatives, I am often asked to recommend an herb as a substitute for a drug. I immediately recognize that what this person needs more than an herb is a change in attitude.

Drugs, for the most part, cover up or suppress symptoms without addressing the underlying cause. A drug for high blood pressure, for example, does not address the underlying heart disease that causes the symptom of high blood pressure. It simply lowers the blood pressure, leaving the disease untouched. With the symptom suppressed, the patient lulled into a state of complacency, the disease is allowed to progress until it raises its ugly head again in the form of additional—and usually more serious—symptoms. At that point more drastic measures (such as bypass surgery) are employed.

Natural health when used correctly addresses the cause of disease. Most herbs are not that great at suppressing symptoms, and for that reason are poor substitutes for drugs. Most people who use herbs today, even those in the business of recommending and selling them, are still holding onto their old medically-induced attitudes toward health. Consequently they are rarely satisfied with their outcomes. For best results herbs should be used as a part of a complete nutritional program, including lifestyle changes, designed to improve overall health. The whole individual is treated, not just the symptom or disease. Traditional Chinese doctors have known this for centuries. For us reductionistic Westerners, it is a concept that is a little more difficult to accept.

A New Paradigm

In his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), T.S. Kuhn propounded a new theory on the advancement of scientific knowledge. According to Kuhn, knowledge does not progress in a steady, linear fashion, but advances instead by great leaps which he calls "paradigm shifts."

A "paradigm" is a model or pattern of beliefs which we use to make sense of the world around us. A paradigm is very resistant to change, since the human tendency is to hold to a belief for as long as possible, even when new discoveries challenge it. As more discoveries come forward and the evidence continues to mount, however, we are eventually forced to make a "paradigm shift," in which we find it necessary to replace our old paradigm with a new one. The 16th century astronomers Copernicus and Galileo, for example, were severely ridiculed for challenging the prevailing paradigm of their day—an earth-centered universe—by their revolutionary new paradigm asserting that the earth revolved around the sun, instead of the other way around.

Today, we are on the verge a "paradigm shift" in our beliefs and attitudes toward health and health care. Our disease-oriented paradigm is gradually giving way to a new health-oriented one. Like all paradigms the old one is resistant to change, but even more so in this case because of special interests that reap trillion-dollar profits from it. These special interests are spending millions of dollars every day on propaganda to keep the old paradigm in place. (How many drug commercials or ads have you seen or heard today?)

It is important to realize that this new paradigm did not originate within the medical system. It was forced upon a less-than-willing medical establishment by the people—people who have grown tired watching their life's savings dwindle while drug companies reap billion dollar profits; and people who are fed up with their tax dollars being spent on research designed to improve profits, not health.

In order to get maximum results from herbs and natural health, and to regain and maintain control over our health, I believe it is absolutely essential that we embrace the new health paradigm—the paradigm in which prevention is considered better than a cure; in which the innate healing power of the human body is recognized and supported; in which doctors are expected to act as teachers, not demigods; and in which we, the people, are to play a greater role in the decisions that will affect our health.

If I am ever in a serious automobile accident and have broken bones or profuse bleeding, please do not take me to my herbalist or nutritionist! Take me to the emergency room of the local hospital instead, so I can receive the most appropriate treatment from the crisis-oriented specialists. But when it comes to heart disease, cancer prevention, and chronic degenerative diseases such as arthritis, it is no one's responsibility but my own. If I do nothing to protect my health, simply waiting for a crisis to occur (such as a heart attack) before acting, then it is I and not medicine who has failed—failed in a basic human responsibility, to educate myself and to take at least as much responsibility for maintaining my body as I do in maintaining my automobile. And that is what the new natural health care paradigm is all about—responsibility.


Part of this new paradigm is the concept of holism, (or wholism) which holds that nothing in the body occurs in a vacuum, everything is related to everything else. As basic as this idea seems, it is almost totally ignored by technological medicine. Medicine has become fragmented into specialties—with doctors who specialize in every imaginable field, and who attempt to treat diseases rather than people. Holistic methods of health care attempt to treat the whole person, not just the disease or the diseased organ. Holistic practitioners work with the innate healing ability of the human body, recognizing that all healing is ultimately performed by the body, not the physician.

Which of the following is not true of holistic health philosophy?

The whole person is considered, not just the disease or diseased organ.
The innate healing ability of the body is recognized.
The physician's job is to heal the patient.
Nothing in the body occurs in a vacuum—everything is related to everything else.