Robert Stevens NTS, ND, CCSP
The use of nature for healing began in the dawn of human history. Primitive peoples thought that illness was a form of punishment sent by the gods. They performed ceremonies to placate the gods so that their suffering would be removed. Eventually, gifted individuals turned to nature for answers. They observed the effect of elemental, environmental, seasonal, emotional, cyclical, and climatic changes on the members of their community.
They also watched how wild animals instinctively heal themselves. These early observations and practices formed the basis of a simple yet powerful system of healing that became known as nature cure. For thousands of years, healing with nature was the only curative means available to humanity.
Indigenous peoples accumulated a treasure of healing knowledge, wisdom, and experience. This treasure was passed down through the generations to worthy pupils who spent long years in apprenticeship to healers. With the advent of modern life and its disruptive effect on native cultures, we can only imagine how much of this priceless knowledge was lost.
Health can be defined as our ability to love unconditionally. Well-being is not static. Nature is always offering the possibility of greater balance. If human beings were removed, would nature have trouble finding balance? No. Therefore, human beings hold the balance of nature in their hands.
The rightness of our actions depends on our ability to discriminate. This conscious act is apparently unique to human beings. Health is a reflection of how well we discriminate. Our actions have great impact on our own natural balance and on the world of nature. Health is our ability to love all of life and to act accordingly. When we look at what is happening in the world, we realize how far most of the human race has devolved from unconditional love. People have never been in greater want of the benefits derived from natural healing practices.
Naturopathic systems — such as hydrotherapy, massage therapy, hygiene, corrective exercise, herbalism, dietetics, sun and air baths, and the like — were valued by the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Chinese, as well as cultures closer to home, the ancient civilizations of the Americas.
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, a naturopath, and the most celebrated physician of antiquity, said, “Nature is the healer of all disease” and “Let foods be your medicine and your medicine your foods.” Hippocrates achieved much success working in cooperation with nature’s healing processes. However, he did not hesitate to call attention to those situations in which he succeeded only partly or failed entirely, concluding that “the physician is only the servant of Nature.”
The history of nature cure in the Americas began with the native peoples, who were practicing it long before the advent of naturopathy in Europe. Ancient Mayans and Incas had raised natural healing to a science and an art when Europe was still inhabited by cave dwellers. The European settlers might not have endured, were it not for the knowledge of nature cure shared by the Native Americans. This rich healing culture was lost during the European invasions of the Americas, and not until the beginning of the twentieth century was the European form of nature cure introduced in the United States.
Today, the practice of pure nature cure is nearly extinct in the United States. No schools of pure nature cure training exist, nor are there nature cure hospitals for the care and instruction of those who suffer from illness.
Robert Wood, D.C., N.D., one of the last pure nature cure doctors who practiced in this country, defined nature cure thus:
Nature cure teaches that the primary cause of weakness and disease is the disobedience of the Laws of Nature. Proper nutrition will answer a good many health questions, along with a natural regulation of breathing fresh air, cleanliness, dressing in comfortable clothes, resting, and mental composure. Medicines should be in conformity with the constructive principles in nature and not injurious or destructive to the human organism. The methods of treatment are supplying the blood with its natural constituents in the right proportions and promoting the elimination of waste materials and poisons without in any way injuring the human body.
Nature cure uses the forces of nature to heal. The medicines of the nature cure physician or naturopath are the four elements of nature: air, fire, water, and earth.
Henry Lindlhar, M.D., is considered the father of natural therapeutics. He was one of a small group of gifted physicians who introduced the European system of nature cure to the United States (he was also Dr. Wood’s teacher). Dr. Lindlhar developed and directed a school of natural therapeutics and a sanitarium in Chicago, Illinois. He expanded the scope of nature cure theory and practice, evolving nature cure into natural therapeutics. His work is the foundation for the present-day practice of naturopathy.
What is the difference between nature cure and natural therapeutics? To pure nature cure, Dr. Lindlhar added noninjurious herbal preparations and certain homeopathic remedies based on the principles of Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy. He also integrated the advances being made in massage, chiropractic, osteopathy, dietetics, and exercise. He included iridology and other forms of natural diagnosis. Most importantly, Dr. Lindlhar developed a philosophical system, mapping the laws and methodology of how nature heals.
According to Dr. Lindlhar’s philosophy, nature heals through what is known as the healing crisis. If you imagine a ladder with four steps and designate the top step as the acute or inflammatory stage of symptomatic illness, the second lower step would represent a progression to the sub-acute stage and the third lower step, a further development to the chronic stage. The bottom and last step would be the degenerative stage of illness, usually incurable.
When healing takes place on the first step, during the acute healing opportunity, it occurs with intensity and for a brief time. The energy (or vitality, or life force) of the individual increases until it can bring about restorative natural cleansing and rejuvenation. The mental, emotional, and physical bodies are also able to heal during this acute stage. When treatment inhibits this process, it is called suppression because it is contrary to the movement of the life force toward healthy, balanced functioning of the individual’s inner ecology.
Examples of acute symptoms are inflammation, pain, fever, skin discharges, mucous discharges, cough, anger, sorrow, grief. These symptoms are an expression of nature’s desire to bring the whole organism closer to balance. Symptoms are the language of nature, guiding us to take appropriate cleansing and rejuvenating actions. Suppressing this movement toward balance goes against nature’s wisdom. If we suppress the acute healing crisis, we step down one rung of the ladder to the sub-acute stage.
To bring about a return to balance, the life force must access more energy at the sub-acute stage than at the acute stage. This means that the language of nature (the symptoms) becomes more severe. Symptoms at this stage are pneumonia, bronchitis, increased pain, discharge via the skin, deeper mental and emotional patterns. If we effectively suppress the sub-acute healing crisis, we eventually descend to the third rung of the ladder, chronic illness.
Chronic means long and drawn out. Those suffering from chronic illness live with their symptoms day in and day out. The return from chronic illness to health requires even more time, energy, and effort. Many chronically ill patients become so identified with their illness that they cannot imagine a life free of this condition. The medical profession typically labels chronic conditions with names such as asthma, psoriasis, chronic fatigue, cancer, diabetes and as clinical mental and emotional conditions (such as anxiety or depression). Periodically, chronic symptoms become acute. This is the voice of nature trying to heal and the moment of opportunity that the nature cure physician wants to support.
If we suppress the chronic, we eventually drop down to the last rung of the ladder, the degenerative stage. At this level, the physical body is breaking down. The life force is leaving the organism, and the body is becoming unfit for habitation. The problem faced in the degenerative state is whether there is enough vitality to sustain a healing crisis. In this stage, the healing crisis can also be the means for the life force to exit the physical body, during the process known as death. This release from suffering is the final healing from the degenerative stage.
It is possible for sub-acute, chronic, and degenerative conditions to be healed, but such healing takes place only through the acute healing crisis. The necessity of the acute healing crisis appears to be a law of nature. As with any law, when we break it, we pay the consequences.
Nature is our friend. She is not trying to punish us when we experience acute symptoms. She is attempting to direct our mental, emotional, and physical life toward a state of balance. The acute healing crisis is always constructive, never destructive. It is each human being’s right and privilege to learn how nature accomplishes healing.
According to Hippocrates, “Nature is the healer of all disease.” The German physician and naturalist Paracelsus stated that “Nature is the teacher of Science.” When did this phenomenon change? What discovery or theory precipitated the radical move away from nature as a benevolent teacher?
Antoine Bechamp (1816 to 1908) was a contemporary of Louis Pasteur. Bechamp observed that cells and germs are not the smallest individual living organisms (as taught by Pasteur and his followers). Instead, these are, in turn, made up of infinitely more minute living beings, which he named microzyma, or “minute ferment bodies.”
The physical characteristics and vital activities of cells and germs depend on the soil in which their microzyma feed, grow, and multiply. Thus, microzyma growing in the soil of procreative germ plasma develop into the normal, permanent, specialized cells of the living vegetable, animal, and human organism. The same microzyma, however, feeding on morbid materials and systemic poisons in these living bodies, develop into bacteria and parasites.
The first and most basic principle of nature cure is that all forms of disease stem from the same cause, namely, the accumulation of waste materials and bodily refuse in the system. Nature cure physicians call this morbidity.
Waste materials in a healthy individual are removed from the system through the organs of elimination. However, in the diseased person, they steadily accumulate in the body during years of faulty living: incorrect diet, improper care of the body, and habits contributing to enervation and nervous exhaustion (such as worry, overwork, and excesses). The only true way to cure disease is to enable the system to throw off toxic accumulation so that it can return to its natural functioning. All natural treatments are directed toward this end.
How does nature handle morbidity, or the accumulative results of living outside the laws of nature? When morbidity reaches an intolerable level, nature seeks to restore balance by creating the healing crisis in the diseased person.
Nature cure masters recognize that food quality depends on the soil in which it is grown. This is also true within the human body, where the “soil” is the blood and lymph. If the blood and lymph are clean, the vitality, or life force, circulates freely. It is important to remember that, via the nervous system, the morbidity of thoughts and feelings also translate into morbidity of blood and lymph.
When our blood and lymph become thick with viscous, sticky material, we are prevented from experiencing vitality and, instead, experience disease. As the morbid blood and lymph circulate through the spleen and the lymph nodules, they are condensed into leucocytes. These condensed particles of morbidity accumulate in weaker areas of the body, obstructing normal function and offering a better soil for the digestive activities of the microzyma.
Inflammation begins with obstruction in the capillary circulation, created by the leucocytes and other morbid matter. Stagnation causes them to break down and putrefy. The morbid soil develops the microzyma of the normal cells into various kinds of disease germs, or bacteria. The leucocytes disintegrate into pus. All life forms experience this as a healing opportunity during the acute phase.
Why must elimination take the form of inflammation? The organs of elimination can handle waste materials of only comparatively simple chemical composition. The skin eliminates gases, water, and salts. The kidneys eliminate urea, indican, and a few other end products. The intestines eliminate little else but undigested food wastes.
Because morbidity is composed of chemically highly complex substances, it cannot be released through the normal organs of elimination. Morbid substances must first be broken down into simple compounds chemically adapted for elimination through these organs. This decomposition is accomplished by inflammation and germ activity. Therefore, the acute healing crisis is the result of nature’s effort to purify and heal. This is the profound truth underlying nature cure.
Now we return to the fork in the road of medical history. Antoine Bechamp’s profound revelations were superseded by the theories of Louis Pasteur and Metchnikoff, which fully justify the suppressive and often poisonous treatment prescribed by the allopathic school of medicine.
Pasteur compared the human body to a barrel of beer, pronouncing it to be, like that beverage, at the mercy of extraneous organisms. Just as these produce good or bad beer (a healthy brew or diseased liquid), “bad” microorganisms create disease upon entering the physical body.
Professor Metchnikoff’s theory of phagocytosis and Sir Almroth Wright and Dr. Bulloch’s discovery of obsonins (natural antitoxins) in the blood, furnished the medical profession with a simple theory as to the origin of disease.
Modern medical science and treatment is built on the germ theory as the cause of disease. Because the microscope has revealed the presence of certain microorganisms in connection with certain diseases, medical science has assumed that bacteria are the direct and primary cause of these diseases.
Medicine bases its prophylaxis and treatment on the theory that human beings are at the mercy of invaders. Health and disease, life and death, all are perceived as accidents over which we have little control. Kill the bacteria, and the disease is cured. The language of allopathic medicine is the language of war.
Because the primary cause of germ activity is the morbid soil in which bacteria breed and multiply, killing germs with poisonous drugs, vaccines, serums, and antitoxins is unnecessary and even harmful. Through natural ways of living and natural methods of treatment, we can eliminate the morbidity that enables the development and multiplication of disease germs. Unfortunately, society has distanced itself from these natural truths.
Pasteur’s erroneous theory of disease has permeated the consciousness of the modern world. Medical science no longer questions the foundation on which it rests. As a result, the true activities of nature in relation to our health go unrecognized by most. The occurrence of chronic degenerative diseases is widespread and increasing. The cost of health care is prohibitive, and millions cannot afford health insurance. Modern medicine is failing to keep us healthy and to help us heal.
Consider the words of Gandhi:
The Nature Cure doctor does not “sell a cure” to the patient. The patient is taught the right way of living in his or her own home, which not only cures of some particular ailment but also teaches the method of prevention of illness in the future. The ordinary doctor is interested mostly in the study of disease. The Nature Cure physician is interested in the study of health not disease. His or her real interest begins where that of the ordinary doctor ends; the eradication of the patient’s ailment under Nature Cure marks only the beginning of a way of life in which there is no room for illness or disease. Nature Cure is thus a way of life, not a course of “treatment”. We do not claim that Nature Cure can cure all disease. No system of medicine can do that or else we should all be immortals. Nature Cure means a change for the better in one’s outlook on life itself. It means regulation of one’s life in accordance with the laws of health.
Collective suffering is forcing us to seek help from the ancient source of healing, nature. When both physicians and clients understand that the power to cure disease lies within the patient’s own body, they choose to work with this power and support, not suppress, the return to normal healthy function according to nature’s own plan. Nature, not the physician, is the healer.
Consider these comments by the great medical visionary Dr. Hahnemann:
There are no diseases, only sick people. Nature will provide an infinite number of remedies to meet all occasions that might arise.
In conclusion, the central idea behind nature cure, natural therapeutics, and naturopathy is expressed in this simple statement: Only God and Nature heal.