Cure is a term that is used in both Natural Medicine and Western Medicine, but with completely different concepts ascertaining to both. The definition of cure in words is very similar, but the principles and the frame work in which it is measured are different in both. The best way to compare the two concepts is to first look at the framework in which both are based.
Western Medicine View of Cure
According to Mosbys Medical, Nursing and Allied Health Dictionary cure can be defined as:
- Restoration of health of a person with an inflicted disease and or disorder
- A favourable outcome of a disease and or disorder
- A course of treatment or medication used for a disorder
According to Western Medicine, the removal of symptoms, or the slowing of a prognosis of a disease normally measures the effectiveness of the cure. Take for example a person with a tumour or growth. Conventional treatment for such a tumour may include surgery to remove the growth and medication to stop further replication of the tumour. According to the philosophy of allopathic medicine, cure has been established due to the removal of the symptoms. Even though treatment may in turn cause side effects and further disease processes, the patient is termed as cured as the original symptom has been removed.
The western medical system views the body in a mechanical or reductionalist fashion; that is it treats the body as a machine. It looks at the operation of all the parts, and reduces it to the smallest functioning level to diagnose what is wrong. The Western Medical view is about trying to find the faulty part of the body and fix, replace or erase it. They then in turn believe this to be a cure as the person is rid of the symptom and their life has been prolonged. In terms of a natural medicine perspective, this is not giving the person the opportunity to overcome the disease themselves, as their symptoms are suppressed due to external stimuli, and the body has not done the work and the cause has not been removed.
The Theory of Suppression
According to natural medicine philosophy, whenever a symptom of a disease is blocked or removed, the disease expression has been suppressed. This is because the cause of the disease has not been treated. Take for example the presence of pain in the body. The symptom of pain can be removed by taking a painkiller, but in truth that is not treating the cause of the pain. The pain killer acts in such a way that it interrupts the pain signals to the brain, the pain still exists in the body, but we just cant feel it anymore. This means that we have not removed the pain from the body, we have only numbed it. This really cannot be termed as a cure, as the cause of the pain still exists, even though it cant be felt.
Examples of Suppression
Suppressive measures are quite often used in medical treatment of most diseases. Suppression is apparent in society when the true cause of an illness is not addressed. The use of surgery is a suppressive measure, as the symptom of a disease process is removed from the body without the cause ever truly being addressed. For example, removing a growth from the body is removing the end product of the disease process, therefore suppressing the bodys ability to express symptoms. To initiate cure is to remove from the body the source of the problem, which the patient can do by addressing any imbalances in their diet and lifestyle and giving the body optimal chance to heal.
Common drug therapy can also be seen as a suppression of symptoms. The most commonly prescribed medication that is used to suppress symptoms is anti-depressant medications. When someone is feeling depressed, there are many reasons why they may be feeling down. Treatments with drugs that increase the amount of feel good hormones in the brain are only a band-aid solution to the problem. The administration of these drugs suppresses the persons ability to express emotions. Cure is only possible in cases of depression when the person is able to deal with the cause of their unhappiness. This may be suppressed emotions, biochemical imbalances due to poor nutrition, lack of exercise or one of the many other reasons that people can suffer from depression.
Suppression quite often takes place is in the medical treatment of skin rashes. Skin rashes are normally due to an inflammatory process in the body, which in turn manifests on the skin. The inflammation is generally immune mediated, that is the immune system creates the inflammation to protect the body from a perceived risk. Medically, skin rashes are often treated with steroid creams. These creams are anti-inflammatory, so they stop the inflammation at the site of the rash. The trouble with this is that even though the symptom of the rash may be lessened, the reason for the presence of the rash is not removed. The body never actually deals with the cause of the rash, but instead the symptom has been suppressed. Naturopathically, treatment of a rash involves finding what the cause of it is. Treatment would involve removing the cause of the rash from the persons diet or lifestyle, and treating the immune reaction so that function becomes more balanced.
Suppression can also be seen without using medical treatment. The use of cold baths and towels when someone has fever is also a suppressive tool. Fever is the bodys way of ridding itself of infection. Using cold application brings down a fever, which in turn is suppressing the bodys ability to fight off the infection. Fever is best supported when the body is able to go through the healing process itself, without interference of cold applications.
Naturopathic philosophy and the Vital Force
Western medicine and naturopathic medicine vary simply because of the philosophies that both take in to account when they treat. One of the major differences in the two is the recognition in naturopathic practice of the presence of a vital force. The vital force is a concept that has been used through all of the age-old observational medicine treatments. In India it is known Prana, in China Chi and in Japan Ki.
In essence, the Vital force is the energy that defines something as alive or dead. It is the very energy of which we are linked to, that enables us to be alive and to be conscious as a human being. A corpse is made of exactly the same mechanics as an alive person, but the life has left it, and as of yet there is no way that we can bring back the vital force, or the essence of that person once it has left the body. This view is not religious or denominational; it is a pure observational theory, which the traditional Chinese practitioners have worked with the concept of for thousand of years.
The Healing Power of Nature
Another principle that natural medicine takes in to account when treating a person is that the vital force intrinsically has the power to heal the body if given the right conditions. For example, if given the optimum conditions, the body will mend a broken bone, heal a cut and even grow back parts of organs. Symptoms of disease in the body are viewed as the ultimate act of intelligence on the level of the vital force. The vital force creates symptoms in the body as an expression of trying to keep itself alive. From minor symptoms like a runny nose, to more complex symptoms like cancer, the vital force in essence is trying to keep damage to a minimum. This may sound strange, as a thought may be how is the vital force keeping damage to a minimum when a person has pathology such as cancer? The answer to this question is that the vital force is doing the best it can to try and keep the person alive. Even though sometimes the suffering of a person may be terrible, it is still the vital forces way of protecting the individual from death.
Herings Law of Cure
So how does a complimentary therapist measure and establish cure? A model known as Herings Law of Cure is used to measure the movement of health from pathology to an optimum view of health. Herings law states that cure occurs from;
- The Head Down
- The inside out
- From the most important organs to the least important
- In the reverse order of symptoms that they first appeared
Taking these statements one by one we can evaluate if a person is expressing cure in terms of naturopathic understanding.
Cure happens from the head down
The first measurement of cure that a natural medicine practitioner tries to establish is first and foremost any improvement of the mind and mental symptoms in the client. For example, if someone has come in with depression, asthma, a liver problem and a sore knee, the first sign of cure that the practitioner will be looking for is an improvement in the mind symptoms of depression. Why? Because the mind symptoms affect the whole persons ability to be able to heal themselves. The mind symptoms are so invariably linked to the central nervous system which governs the whole body.
A healthy mindset is one that is free from suffering, from unwanted thoughts, from persistent emotion that is affecting function. A healthy mindset is one where the mind is free from constraints of excessive thought. So in evaluating if a patient is moving towards cure, the practitioner will judge if the mind symptoms have moved from an extreme towards this state of health and balance. The person may still be displaying physical symptoms at this stage. Naturopathic therapies look to bring about an improvement of mental symptoms in some form, whether that is improved sleep, a more positive outlook or empowering their patient to take responsibility for their health.
The premise also says that things will move from the head down in terms of symptoms. So once the mind set has started to improve, symptoms will start leaving the body from the head down, for example a skin rash may move towards the hands, or a sore throat may heal before a sore knee further down the body.
Cure happens from the inside out
This principle takes in to account that when the body is healing, the residual parts of disease will need to leave the body. So in watching for a cure, the practitioner is looking for signs that the disease is being eliminated from the body. So essentially, the body may show symptoms as the body eliminates wastes and toxins. Symptoms are pushed from the internal organs out towards the channels of elimination. There may be excessive sweat, fever, loose bowel movements, excessive mucous production or even more frequent urination as initially the body starts to metabolise and excrete the cause of disease. Quite often these symptoms may happen quite quickly when the body decides that is going to let go of a particular problem. This is sometimes termed a healing crisis. A healing crisis is a point in which the person may experience cathartic symptoms as the body rids itself of the dis-ease it is experiencing. These mini episodes of symptoms normally are quite short in duration in comparison to the disease process.
An example of this occurring may be evident in someone that has suffered from blocked sinuses and a deep phlegm cough. If a person with these symptoms was starting to elicit a cure, there would be a movement of symptoms outwards. So the person may in turn start coughing up mucous as it leaves the body. The blocked sinuses would show movement towards cure by starting to run, as mucous and disease leaves the body. This may seem unusual at first to the patient until they are reassured that the symptoms are moving in the right direction towards cure.
Cure occurs from the most important organ first to the lest important
When watching for cure, the body will let go of symptoms in organs that are most important to the functioning of the body, as this is the greatest threat to life force. So in turn, while cure is being established, disease may move from an organ of great importance to an organ of lesser importance. For example, a person that has been suffering from a liver condition may develop a new set of symptoms in another organ such as the skin as the liver condition starts to let go. This is another demonstration of movement towards cure, as the body can regain the functioning of higher functioning organs, enabling less threat to the vital force.
Cure takes place in a reversal of symptoms that originally presented
When watching for a cure, it is quite often seen that previous symptoms that a patient has suffered from may arise as a result of treatment. This may at first seem alarming to the uneducated patient, as they may assume that a disease process is coming back. In truth, as the vital force of a person gets stronger and is able to heal itself from pathology, diseases that the body has suppressed due to worse symptoms may arise as they come out of the body. When this happens, the pathologies are normally seen in the way of a healing crisis. That is they arise and dissipate quickly as the body lets go of the disease and heals itself. So if a patient had suffered from eczema, then hay fever when they were a bit older, then asthma at a later stage, we may see the reappearance of these symptoms as the in the reverse order as a person heals their own symptoms. So there may be an episode of hay fever, and maybe even a skin flare as the body lets go of old pathologies.
Another example of this may be seen in a client that has used suppressive tools to treat an illness. For example, a person may have suffered from thrush, and in turn treated it with an internal antifungal tablet. A few months later, the same person may still have thrush, but they have a skin rash that they treat with cream. This keeps it from getting bad, but it does not go away completely. On top of this they now have digestive complaints like bloating and flatulence. After being treated by a naturopathic practitioner who removes the suppressive treatments and changes the lifestyle, this person may first see that their bloating and digestive disturbances get better. Next they will notice that their skin rash goes away. The last thing that this person will heal from is the first disorder they experienced, which was the thrush. Cure then has taken place when the person has overcome the cause of all of the symptoms, which in the first place was the suppressive treatment of the thrush.
Claiming to Cure
So in general, naturopathic medicine and western medicine have different theories on how the body should be approached in terms of curing an illness. The only person that truly has the ability to cure is the person that takes responsibility for their own body. There are no quick fixes to cure, and there is no wonder drug that will take away the cause of a problem, it will only suppress the symptoms. With the help of a Naturopathic Practitioner to teach the patient how to create health in their own body, a movement towards well-being can be seen. The responsibility of cure lies only with the person that is suffering from disease and a well informed practitioner that can support the process. A Naturopath plays the role of an assistant to a persons healing by offering support, tools and information on how they can give themselves the optimum conditions to heal.