Written while a student at naturopathic school...circa 2010
My Philosophy of Nature Cure
"If it had been a snake it would have bitten you!" How often have I heard this saying, especially from the lips of elderly friends and family members near my southern Indiana home, when something I was looking for had been right in front of me the whole time. So it often is with the simplicity of Nature Cure. Common elements are available to anyone who bothers to notice and put them to practical use. Kirchfeld and Boyd (1994) tell of the European healers who used water, loam, nourishing simple food, fasting, sun and air baths, rest in peaceful natural settings, herbs and physical gymnastics to facilitate healing. In America, manual manipulation of the body and homeopathy were united with these and naturopathy was born. The underlying theme in it all was simplification; turning away from suppressive drugs and ridding the body of excesses, both from external sources and internal ones. Henry Lindlahr, in his book, Philosophy of Natural Therapeutics, wrote:
Thus, the simple pioneers of Nature Cure laid the foundation...They...applied common sense reasoning to the solution of the problems of health, disease, and cure. They went for inspiration to field and forest...They studied the whole and not only the parts; causes as well as effects and symptoms...
Common sense reasoning is something I plan to use in my naturopathic practice. I haven't seen it used often in the medical world; for the sake of brevity, I will give but one example. An acquaintance related that a portion of one of her clavicles had been removed because the doctors had deemed it too long and therefore the cause of her musculoskeletal complaint, which incidentally was not subsequently relieved. How sad that a condition I regularly treated in my massage practice by simple stretching of the pectoral muscles had been so misconstrued by a team of medical professionals. Simple observation of the body in the whole would have provided guidance as to the nature of the problem.
Yet simple observation takes time and an eye practiced at looking at the whole. My aim is to be a country doctor; one who is not hurried. My desire is to use my background of mothering, massage therapy and farming as a springboard for attaining that practiced eye and applying common sense to my interactions with my patients. I learned from my experience as a farmer the value of using subtlety in working with animals. One cannot force or hurry them along. They must go at their own pace else they become nervous, tense, and unpredictable in behavior. But if one understands the creature's motivation and uses subtlety to manipulate surrounding conditions, one can get the animal to cooperate. There is a parallel, I believe, with the healing process of the human body.
Addressing attendees of the 2006 AANP Conference, Leon Chaitow, N.D., D.O. stressed the importance of not going too fast for the body when applying bodywork modalities. In my own work as a massage therapist, I have learned that a soft and gentle hand is allowed deeper access to the body's tissues than is a firm strong hand. If "hurried along" the body will inevitably stiffen its musculature into a protective armor, disallowing any meaningful therapy. As Dr. Chaitow noted, the practitioner should be observant and sensitive to the possibility that the body is neither ready nor capable of handling the release of certain tissues. In that case, a gently mobilization of the entire body, such as a nurturing general massage, is in order rather than a manipulation.
He also noted that Positional Release, where the therapist aids the patient in putting the constricted body part into a position of ease, will facilitate the release of the constriction and is something the patient can do at home. This teaching, this enabling of the patient to increase body awareness and facilitate their own restoration, is also a means to healing that I hope to utilize; for, as Henry Lindlahr noted in his book Nature Cure (1913), moving from illness to health requires effort on the part of the patient.
Yet the underlying premise of my practice will be, I hope, to help my patient reduce his overall efforts and simplify. At the AANP 11th Annual Convention, Walter Crinnion, N.D. (1996), on a humorous yet emphatic note, related that Dr. Harold Dick used to quip, "Supplements just plug 'em up!" I agree. Why add one more thing for the body to deal with when it is already heavily burdened with the toxic load of modern life or is suffering from a profound debilitated state? I certainly found this to be true in my personal healing journey. Simpler was better. The Nature Cure strategy will be the underpinning of my clinical approach. It is my observation that many people are ready for the process, or should I say de-processing! During my years in organic farming I saw a renewed interest in all things natural among the public, and in the latter years of my massage practice I saw a growing desire in patients to leave behind their drugs and cultivate their body-awareness. This is an encouraging trend for a future nature doctor.
I conclude my essay with the story of a desperate modern woman who turned to Nature Cure. Her first lupus attack ran uncontrolled for 18 months. Methotrexate to control the worst symptoms, as well as morphine for the debilitating pain, had been the 45 year old woman's medical treatment for years - until she hit the brick wall of cervical cancer. After a confirming second opinion on her cervical biopsy, the woman's oncologist told her she would die if she didn't have surgery; her other doctors told her that her body's immune response was so suppressed, she would die if she did. In relating the story, Paul Bergner, N.D. (1996) stated, "Meet the new American patient. Damned if you do and damned if you don't!"
What did the poor woman do? She prayed, received guidance to visit her local library (Houston, Texas) and subsequently read every book on herbs in that establishment. When those books were exhausted, she pursued the avenue of inter-library loans. Thus she continued for about 6 months until she had figured out a plan of action. She took herself off of her drugs - all of her drugs - and started taking high doses of carefully chosen non-suppressive herbs. She eliminated sensitive foods from her diet and had managed to cure herself of the cervical cancer by the time she consulted with Dr. Bergner. Long-distance, he helped her fine-tune her strategy. The woman soon entered a healing crisis of about 2 weeks duration, at the end of which she was able to reduce by 75% the herbs she was taking to manage her lupus symptoms. This is Nature Cure in the modern world; enable the patient (in this case the patient was self-enabled by desperation and guidance from her answered prayer), remove suppressive drugs, improve the diet, utilize herbs - simplify and heal.
Bergner, P. (1996). AANP 11th Annual Convention [recorded by Tree Farm Cassettes] Nature cure in the 1990's: Paul Bergner, ND, Moderator [Audiocassette]. (Sept. 4-8, 1996).
Chaitow, L. (2006). OAND 2006 Annual Convention held in Collingwood, ON, Canada What's wrong with naturopathic physical medicine? [CD] Toronto, ON, Canada (Oct. 21-22, 2006).
Crinnion, W. (1996) AANP 11th Annual Convention [recorded by Tree Farm Cassettes] Nature cure in the 1990's: Paul Bergner, ND, Moderator [Audiocassette]. (Sept. 4-8, 1996).
Kirchfeld, F., & Boyle, W. (2005). Nature Doctors: Pioneers in Naturopathic Medicine (2nd ed.). Portland, OR: NCNM Press.
Lindlahr, H. (1913) Nature Cure: Philosophy and Practice Based on the Unity of Disease and Cure. Chicago: Nature Cure Publishing Co. Retrieved Oct. 10, 2009 from http://www.soilandhealth.org/02/0201hyglibcat/0202hyglibcat.html
--> as of July 24, 2019 it is no longer available in html format. It can be accessed in pdf format here:
Lindlahr, H., & Proby, J.C.P. (Ed.)(1975). Philosophy of Natural Therapeutics (repr. 1993). Saffron Walden, Essex, England: The C.W. Daniel Co. Ltd.