There are some misconceptions about what natural medicine really is.
To some it means treating the same condition with herbs and spices instead of pharmaceuticals. To others it means using supplements.
Now while it does mean getting away from synthetic pharmaceutical drugs it doesn’t mean using non pharmaceutical alternatives. The field of natural medicine is actually much more complex. More complex than conventional medicine, actually.
What is natural medicine?
Natural medicine is an umbrella term used to describe all of the medical specialties that came before the establishment of our modern, allopathic, medical system. These include specialties like naturopathic medicine, chiropractic medicine, acupuncture, Ayurveda, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, and the like. All the things that kept humans alive and healthy for hundreds of thousands of years. They are all rooted in the same principles: find the underlying causes of suffering, give the body what it needs to heal, treat the whole person, and do no harm.
These different specialties all evolved based on a complete understanding of the human body, its complexity, its uniqueness, and its interconnectedness within itself and to the world we live in.
In short, natural medicine is the original form of healthcare, before the establishment of conventional medicine and the pharmaceutical industry. It's only called natural, which has become a trendy buzz word, because we have deviated so far from nature and the form of medicine that humans require.
People become hesitant about natural medicine because of the lack of "science." When in reality, natural medicine is more studied that pharmaceutical drugs are. Their efficacy and saftey is more researched and scrutanized. There are heaps of observational and laboratory studies on natural therapies that outperform their conventional counterparts. Studies for new drugsa are often funded by the manufacturer and the mechanism of action is often unknown. Yikes. When your doctor says that theres no research on a natural rememdy, its because they've never looked.
The philosophy of conventional medicine
Conventional medicine was established with the goal of treating as many people as possible as quickly and simply as possible. You've experienced this. An 8-12 minute doctors visit where you tell them your symptoms and they write a prescription before scurrying off to the next patient. You get a blanket treatment to help stop your symptoms without learning anything more about you or why you're experiencing this issue. Works decently enough for acute conditions, so they keep this system going. The whole thing is rooted in pharmaceuticals. However, this system falls short in treating any sort of chronic condition.
You see, the human body is incredibly complex. We are more than bones and skin. We have organs, a nervous system, a muscular system, a circulatory system, a hormonal system, and cells that all require specific nutrients to function properly. Just like your car needs gas to run, your body requires its own type of fuel in the form of whole foods, water, movement, sunlight, sleep, community, etc. etc. If we put soda in our car's gas tank we don't scratch our heads as to why it won't run anymore. Yet, we are continually perplexed as to why there are so many chronic conditions and diseases when basic human needs aren't being met.
Every square millimeter of your body is doing something to keep you alive. Every part of your body is talking with the rest of your body, sharing information and resources. Your digestive system is not isolated from your nervous system, nor are your adrenal glands isolated from you urinary system. However, this is exactly how conventional medicine is structured. Every part of your body is divided up into different medical specialties. So when you have digestive issues you go to the gastroenterologist, but the gastroenterologist isn't talking to the neurologist about your dysregulated autonomic nervous system. Your gut and brain are more connected than your hand is to your arm and these two conditions are inherently connected and should be treated together if a cure is the ultimate goal.
Why natural medicine works
Modern medicine and the pharmaceutical industry have life saving tools in their tool belts. They will keep you alive but the reality is allopathic doctors and drugs will never make you healthy. They aren’t designed to do that. They are designed to treat symptoms and if they can manage your symptoms, that is a win for them.
So what do you do when your condition is not life threatening? Continue to suffer with symptom management interventions? This is where practitioners of natural medicine come in.
Natural medicine is so much more than just “natural alternatives.” Practitioners of complimentary and alternative medicine, such as myself being a Naturopathic Doctor and a Chiropractor, have a greater understanding of the human body and what it needs to not only survive but to thrive! We take the time to learn everything about you that we can, understanding and appreciating the body's interconnectedness. Just because you have pain in your elbow doesn't mean the problem is always in your elbow. It can easily be stemming from intestinal permeability.
So we look at the whole body, physical, biochemical, and emotional when making a diagnosis and rendering a treatment plan. We make sure that everything is functioning optimally and that you have all the resources you need to heal. There are no protocols or standard treatments. Everything is individualized to you. At the end of the day, no doctor or drug is healing anything. Your body is doing all that itself. It is incredible at healing itself. It just requires the right things. This is the only way to heal from a chronic condition and prevent the recurrence of acute ones. Sure it would be a lot easier to prescribe a pain pill. It will give you that fast acting relief that you're looking for. But deep down we know you're looking for that pain to go away permanently. You want the actual problem fixed so that you don't have to keep taking costly drugs that produce unwanted side effects.
Humans evolved with the world around us. Everything we've ever needed can be found in nature. If that wasn't true we would not have survived as a species. The further we get from nature the more incidences of chronic illness we'll see. Drugs and conventional medicine have their place, but that rarely exists outside of emergency situations.
Nobody has an opioid deficiency, an ibuprofen deficiency, a statin deficiency, or a diuretic deficiency. What people do have are deficiencies in nutrients, movement, sleep, relationships, and excesses of sugar consumption and processed foods, stress, and environmental toxins. Things that are not being addressed by doctors of conventional medicine. And if they are, it usually your doctor telling you to eat better or to exercise more. Another blanket statement without direction of specificity to you.
Natural medicine is medicine, everything else can hardly call itself that. It's what we need to live a long, healthy life and actually cure chronic conditions. In reality, it's what you hope you're going to get when you go to the doctor.