Is Medicine Starting to Go Back to Nature?

The effectiveness of herbal teas is being increasingly recognized by modern medicine.

Until about fifty years ago, people accepted that Mother Nature was a wise healer.

Your Grandma’s remedies worked wonders, and they tended to be nature-based.

They were, most likely, part of a body of wisdom with many branches. The ancient traditions of Chinese medicine and Ayurveda are collections of homespun wisdom, gathered over the centuries, regarding how natural forces interact with our bodies.

Alas, around about the 19th century Western medicine deviated from this long-accepted pattern and began plowing new ground, as researchers used the scientific method to probe for new ways to heal.

Dr. Connie Hernandez, ND
Dr. Connie Hernandez, ND

There were lots of wonderful discoveries. The modern surgical arena is an standout example of the contributions that science has brought to the healing arts.

But by separating the body from its natural environment and studying it in isolation, much has been lost.

Like other longstanding healing traditions, naturopathic medicine relies on the vix medicatrix naturae – “nature’s healing power.” Naturopathy honors the body’s connection with nature, and nature’s power to heal.

Western medicine, in its fascination with science, has lost sight of the many ways or bodies interact with nature, and how we must respect these ties to enjoy optimal health.

Here in Silicon Valley, we rarely see children lying on their backs watching the clouds go by. Kids’ time in modern America is scheduled to the last minute, with the full assistance of technology.

We see toddlers staring at their iPads, or gazing hypnotized for hours at TV programs and video games.

Kids at play with their devices.

Television-watching is known to stimulate the dreamy, drowsy primitive back part of the brain, and to sap energy from the higher brain centers where initiative, happiness, concentration, and the ability to form and accomplish long-term goals are localized.

On a beautiful day at the beach, we now see hundreds of adults and kids gazing zombie-like into their tethered devices. We see hardly anyone building a sand castle, splashing in the waves, or enjoying the soothing ministrations of the sun.

Medical practice is now thoroughly “tethered” as well, with practitioners dependent on high-tech diagnostic gadgets and treatments.

Technology can help us map the genome, visualize the body’s innermost cellular structures, diagram biochemical pathways, and study the pharmacodynamics of new medicines.

Technology has given us targeted pharmaceuticals and precision robotic devices that can provide help the healthcare professional in valuable ways.

So these developments are not invariably bad – far from it! Very often, they are life-saving.

But something is missing. When I ask my patients about their diet, exercise program, or menstrual cycle, they’ll often need to consult a scheduling app before they can answer!

Modern docs spend hours sitting before the computer, researching, recording, and learning. Diseases are diagnosed based on whether “the numbers” fall within or outside conventional reference ranges. In stark contrast, the old-time family doctor tended to rely on a long, intimate, and intuitive knowledge of his patients.

Instead of deep, wise lifestyle advice, today’s doctors are apt to mumble a few words while hastily scratching out a prescription.

 Fortunately, nature-based therapies are beginning to creep back into the mainstream. Science is discovering how our bodies are linked to the natural environment. 

Cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra now vigorously recommends the healing benefits of “Earthing,” for its effects on heart rate variability, blood viscosity, and the autonomic nervous system.

Relaxing stroll in bamboo forest, Kyoto, Japan

The Japanese government has designated “forest bathing” areas, because research has verified its benefits for boosting the immune system, reducing stress hormones, and lowering blood pressure.

Scientific research is creating new diagnostics tools and treatments based on sound, light, and color.

These “back to nature” findings are validating many of the old folk remedies. It seems we’re coming full circle in our relationship with Mother Nature, as She once again demonstrates Her healing power.

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