In America, at least, as one of the leading industrialized nations, we suffer from a very odd dichotomy: we have the most expensive health care system in the world, and also the one with the poorest results. Our infant mortality rates are deplorable, our insurance companies really don’t care about the people they serve, and while we seem to be living longer, our quality of life, especially in later years, is drastically decreasing. Just ask anyone in the geriatrics industry: it’s big business now.
What can you do? When you get sick and you aren’t getting better, you go to the doctor and get an antibiotic. When you find out you’re pregnant, you call the obstetrician and plan on having the baby at the hospital. When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you take your chemo and radiation like a good little patient. It seems that there is a conspiracy of silence to keep you from knowing that you have an option.
Hello, Natural Medicine, Where Have You Been?
Natural medicine has always been around, and it has a lot more empircial knowledge and experience to back it up than all of allopathic (or mainstream) medicine put together. Most of the pharmaceuticals that are on the market, in fact, are derivatives of natural remedies. Aspirin is really white willow bark, for instance. Around the beginning of the 20th century, there was an over-proliferation of “snake oil salesmen” playing not on the gullibility of “common folk” but on the ignorance. In today’s age of information, that is no longer the case.
There are a number of types of alternative and natural physicians. The most common is probably the chiropractor, who often might use muscle testing or acupressure to effect relief of more than just back pain. There are also naturopathic doctors who are trained in non-invasive techniques to diagnose problems and suggest treatments. Naturopathic doctors are usually also Certified Nutritional Therapists and sometimes Master Herbalists. Throughout the years, there have also always been midwives – both lay (trained through apprenticeship) and certified nurse (having gone through allopathic medical training).
What About All of These Self-Help Books?
I’m a big proponent of educating yourself about remedies, herbs, nutrition and more, but naturopathic physicians especially have been trained to suggest what your body needs – not what everybody needs. This is a distinction that allopathic medicine is only just now starting to catch onto (but not very fast). What’s good for one person may be disastrous for another, regardless of whether or not the Little Book of Healing Herbs says that “rosemary and skullcap cures migraines”. (They don’t, per se, but with feverfew, they can help manage migraines for certain people. The two together can manage other types of headaches, too.) Plus, what you think is wrong might not be the actual problem.
Probably the biggest difference between allopathic and naturopathic physicians is the philosophy of illness. Allopaths approach health as a series of symptoms that must be dealt with, and then maybe you can get down to the cause. Naturopaths know that the symptoms will go away once the cause is taken care of, so they look for that first. Allopaths isolate the various systems of the body to try to identify pathogens and weaknesses. Naturopaths approach health as a holistic thing, recognizing that there is no single system of the body that is not directly affected by all other systems. Allopaths rely on pills and scalpels most of the time and often feel responsible for their patients’ health. Naturopaths rely on nutrition, good habits, some occasional herbal remedies or supplements as needed, and are aware that their patients’ health is their patients’ responsibility – all the good medicine in the world doesn’t heal a person who wants to stay sick.
Not Just the Little Stuff
A friend of mine once said that if she was running a cold, she’d drink some herbal tea, but if anything else was wrong, she’d go to her doctor. The idea that natural medicine can’t help with the big health problems like appendicitis or even cancer is grossly false, but it’s understandable with the overabundance of partial information: data such as we have in our books and on our websites about specific herbs does nothing to put that information into perspective and help us understand all of the conditions under which a remedy might be effective.
Sometimes allopathic medicine is just not going to cut it. If your doctor can’t “figure out what’s wrong” after the first two rounds of blood tests and scans, consider going a different way. Patients who have suffered for years with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, recurring cancer, and even diabetes have found a new level of relief from pain and symptoms, plus renewed vigor and life, with the right natural program. There are probably N.D.s in your area, and you didn’t even know it.
Check out the national directories to find out more.