Vis Medicatrix Naturae translates as the healing power of nature. Nature can mean different things to different people based on their experiences and perspectives. Nature is neither something to be conquered, nor is it elevated. “Natural laws” prevail: If you do certain things, expected reactions or outcomes will happen. The example from my previous post about cold water on the hand can be seen as a natural reaction or natural law.
For me as a physician, this starts with the assumption that design and function exists in the body. Without that design and function, we could never be sure what would happen if a stimulus is applied to the body, let alone the body’s reaction to it. From the healing power of nature perspective, Dr. Henry Lindlahr can say that what the doctor does is remove obstacles to cure and reestablishes normal condition in the body, so that the body can heal itself.
With this perspective, we can actually see what the body is trying to do. By watching and understanding a person’s symptoms, we can see how the body is trying to rid itself of disease. Rather than looking for a pharmaceutical or herb to suppress (or hide) a symptom, we look to support the body in the discharge and in a return to healing.
What is a discharge, you might ask? A discharge is whatever the body needs to rid itself of, in order to come back to health or homeostasis. For example, if you eat rotten food, the body may purge itself (vomiting and diarrhea) in order to discharge the toxins from the body. Some people who never cry, might find themselves crying, as the body opens itself up and begins to feel again and have emotions. The discharge will look different for each person, but it is the body’s way of healing.
Simply removing a symptom--high blood pressure for instance--does not mean that the person is well. It just means that the high blood pressure has been forced down. What if the elevated blood pressure was acting as a protection? It still needs to be lowered, but if it is forced down, the body is not returned to health. The symptom is gone, but the reason it was high in the first place was never addressed. Without addressing the reason and stimulating the body back into a healthy and homeostatic state, your body’s ability for lasting health does not maintain itself.
The idea of the healing power of nature is more than a blog post, even if I gave it ten pages. The body regulates itself; and if it speeds up or slows down, it’s doing this in order to meet the stimulus or to preserve itself, which sometimes is one and the same. For example, if you are outside in winter without a coat, the heartbeat slows, blood is shunting into your core, you might start to shiver, etc… All of this is done in order to preserve your life and keep the vital organs safe. Without the reaction, you would die.
This leaves us with two basic choices: You can either work with or against nature. You can artificially bring the blood pressure down or you can look for the root cause and then work to bring the body back into proper function so that it can do what it was designed to do without drug, herb or supplement.
This series has just been a “scratching of the surface” in the Philosophy of Naturopathic Medicine. But I hope it shows that there is more than meets the eye in the body:
- the body is a complex, amazingly integrated organism
- the body has design and function
- We can both prevent illness and bring the body back into health
This philosophy underpins my practice of medicine. Therefore, you and your body do the work: I just help to guide and direct it.