I am a devotee of healing. I think about it, read about it, study it, sing about, dream about it, you get the idea. Something to do with healing is usually what’s on my mind. I am fascinated by Nature and all of its processes, but particularly those having to do with self-restoration.

In naturopathic medicine we call this the Vis Medicatrix Naturae, or the Healing Power of Nature. It is the core of our medicine, and what differentiates our practice from other healing practices in the US. We are by definition, Vitalists. We reject the Cartesian separation between the appreciation for the mystery of nature and our scientific inquiry. This reminds us that Science is what we know about Nature, so far. Science is the flawed human approximation of the mystery of Nature, and we have only scratched the surface.

In science, the things that are considered laws rather than just theories, are things that are defined by established constants (which are not really constants at all, but which seem to fluctuate around a constant-Nature is contextual, not linear-see Rupert Sheldrake for more). When I study healing I look for what have been constant observations through time and culture. This is why I so often have my nose in old books, and why I emphasize the importance of teaching history, and establishing scholarly departments of history and philosophy in our naturopathic schools. Our medicine should be directed by our understanding of these healing constants. This is not to reject our modern scientific knowledge. It is more information, which leads to a more refined understanding. This is always a good thing. But it is not the only thing. Only looking at the science of the day gives us a “wind whipped” practice. We are constantly being told “this is good.. now its bad”, “that’s ridiculous, oh wait now its gold!” Two recent examples are the concept of “junk” DNA, and fecal implants.

So, what is healing? Healing in humans comes down to proper nutrition and nurturing, and proper detoxification. It takes time and really has little to do with the sudden cessation of symptoms, particularly in regards to chronic disease. The sudden cessation of symptoms is either a miracle or suppression, and miracles are rare, that’s why they are called miracles. Suppressing symptoms only sequesters the cause of the symptoms for a time. It’s a bit like (or maybe exactly like), storing nuclear waste. At some time its going to leak out and cause more harm. Healing happens through timely discharge of irritants. These irritants might be biologic, chemical, metabolic, emotional, Karmic, etc.

Healing can only happen with proper nutrition, and nurturing which inspires the Vis in the direction of healing. It happens in the way that most things happen in nature. It follows the path of a spiral, returning to the same linear point , but at a higher level.

This sounds all very esoteric and theoretical, let’s get down to some practical examples. When people come to me as patients, I feel that my job is to “inspire their Vis”, i.e. increase their vitality. We do this first by changing things in their lifestyle so that they’re drinking more water, getting better quality and quantity of sleep, eating better quality of food, enjoying their relationships and time more. We might also give them some energetic medicines-homeopathy, low dose herbals, love, acceptance, acknowledgement, etc. We will probably also start with some hydrotherapy, which is a profound medicine to increase circulation and promote detoxification. Usually by the third visit with me (I see folks every three weeks at the beginning), they will have a cold, flu, bowel discharge or skin issue crop up. This is the path of healing. It is not pretty or discomfort-free. It involves snot, itching, diarrhea, spitting, hot flashes, fever, sweating, joint pains etc. After the discharge, people will have a period of convalescence, and then feel great. They have moved up the spiral of healing.

Usually people with chronic disease will say to me “that’s the first time in a long time that I’ve had a cold”. I let them know that they will continue to have acute releases of their chronic disease, and that more than likely it will end with some annoying skin issue. Our goal as we move along is to discharge as gently as possible, primarily using contrast hydrotherapy, short wraps (Kneipp) and sauna. For most chronic illness this process of healing usually takes 3-7 years. As we move through the process, the body will cycle through the symptoms its been habituated to, and then the ones that were suppressed. Each time, the old symptoms become less intense, and less frequent, and the suppressed symptoms become more and more peripheral.

The very cool and exciting thing is that the person becomes more creative and content, maybe even downright happy to be alive! They will say they feel like themselves again!! This is a sign of decreased suppression and increased Vitality!!

It’s important to note that without the lifestyle changes of drinking water (2-3 liters/day), sleeping 8-10 hours a night, minimizing poor quality food, and 30-60 minutes of gentle movement/day, it is very difficult to get your patient well. Also, the goal should be to eventually discontinue or minimize supressive medications and supplements, including hormones.

Back to history. When you read the old books, whether its European, American, Ayurvedic, Traditional Chinese, Unani, Tibetan, African, Pacific Islander, this is the process that gets described. It is the way that people heal. The magic bullet of sudden “healing” has been sought after and claimed at one point for all of these times and cultures, but is only folly, just as it is today. Surgery and medicaments will only take you so far. The proper functioning of a well nourished body and soul is what brings health!

In the next installment< I hope to talk about the extracellular matrix, and how all this healing happens on the physiologic level!