A conceit that informs traditional medicines has come under attack by purveyors of Western medicine dogma. Specifically, the equation of ‘natural’ with ‘good’ is being targeted for expulsion from consensus medicine. See here for the group-think talking points.
What do we mean by ‘natural’? Why is it good? These are, not surprisingly, easy to answer. ‘Of, or from nature’ is what we mean when we call something ‘natural’—and natural is better precisely because of this, because it comes from the milieu in which we have co-evolved.
Kelly Brogan, MD does a good job of covering this in her book, Own Your Self, which should be required reading if you have a body.
Think of the difference between pharmaceutical drugs and food-as-medicine (under which I would categorize many Western and Chinese herbal medicines). When you take elderberry syrup for flu, your body digests the medicine, which supports the production of cytokines, which augments your body’s fight against the flu in its normal fashion. This is good because we actually don’t know very much about the immune system, despite what text books and TV reporters tell you. By supporting the body to do what it does, we are more assured of ‘doing no harm.’ The fact that elderberry syrup has no side effects lets us know that we are, in fact, doing no harm. Best of all, it works at getting you over the flu.
By contrast, when you take tamiflu, the drug circumvents your immune system and directly disrupts the flu virus. Could this work? If you see the body as a car, then it could theoretically. But your body isn’t a car. It’s far more magnificent than that. It is a fractal of life, with nested systems of coherence and intelligences all its own that our brains are barely starting to comprehend. See Dean Radin’s book, Real Magic, for more on how much magnificence there still is to discover about ourselves.
Pharmaceutical drugs are often like a eager audience members who jump onto the podium and grab the baton from the conductor—not realizing they’re tone deaf. I wouldn’t call this hubris, because I know everybody means well, but if health is balance and imbalance can be easily assessed—that’s what side effects are, for goodness sake—then why would any good doctor tell you to take Tamiflu over elderberry syrup? They wouldn’t.
Nor would any good doctor try to suppress your connection with the natural world. That’s just bad medicine.
Stella Osorojos Eisenstein, L.Ac.
Stella Osorojos Eisenstein, L.Ac., is a writer and acupuncturist who collects healing stories.