What is Natural Health?
Definition of Natural health
Natural health is an eclectic self-care system of natural therapies that builds and restores health and wellness by working with the natural recuperative powers of the human body.
Contents of What is Natural Health?
- Natural Health as Complementary Medicine
- History of Natural Health
- Basic Core Tenets - Summary
- Basic Core Tenets - Continued
Natural health is a totally reasonable and respectable approach to health care. It refers to the beliefs, concepts, and attitudes held by those who practice natural health care. There are similarities that run throughout all natural health practices.
Natural health is a natural healing practice, or a subset of alternative medicine, that only looks towards nature for answers and explanations. Natural health is about a few Western forms of alternative medicine that NCCAM has classified as Biologically Based Therapies and their Mind-Body Interventions for stress management. Natural health has nothing to do with magic or new age mysticism. Traditionally, Natural health is about the natural healing therapies of prevention and healthy lifestyles, eating natural whole foods, nutritional supplements, physical exercise, and stress management.
While the renewed interest in natural health can be called a resurgence of the Popular Health Movement, within certain parameters prevention and healthy lifestyles have been proven to work over and over again by science. There is nothing anti-intellectual or anti-scientific about natural health. It has a strong objective basis, just like any other natural philosophy has by definition.
Natural health has nothing to say about the creation of life, beliefs in religion, and other worlds or dimensions other than that all health, wellness, illness, and healing can be positively affected by simple and inexpensive natural therapies.
Natural health, thus, excludes all belief systems that say disease is a result of anything other than natural causes. If health, wellness, illness, and healing is held to be caused by something that cannot be physically measured or detected then it is not about natural health. This would accordingly exclude faith and psychic healing, supernatural forms of alternative medicine, and some Eastern philosophies.
|"An evolution is occurring in
health care as more natural medicines gain acceptance. Interestingly,
this acceptance is largely a result of increased scientific
investigation and the public's awareness of this research. It appears
that medical researchers now have in their possession the technology
and understanding necessary to more fully appreciate the value of
'natural' therapies. In essence, many natural therapies are being
improved or refined through scientific investigations. Science is
paving the way for the medicine of the future--a medicine that
recognizes the healing power of nature."
-- Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements by Michael T. Murray, N.D.
Logically, if a faith or psychic healer can perform miracles then there is no point in working on your diet or exercising. Hence, faith and psychic healing are not a part of natural health. Likewise, Eastern philosophies with beliefs in other worlds or dimensions that are invisible to our normal senses are excluded from natural health (such as beliefs in spiritual, karmic, or ancestral forces and personal auras or energy flows around the human body).
Nothing about natural health prevents its alternative healing methods from being used alongside conventional medical treatment. Thus, natural health can be viewed as a complementary or adjunctive form of therapy.
Natural health did not become part of common usage until near the end of the 20th century with the advent of vitamin dealerships, the Internet, and perhaps with some health food stores. Historically, natural health developed from the Popular Health Movement (1830s-1840s) in the United States.
|"If you are seeking boundless
energy, eternal happiness, an ageless body, or immortality, please look
elsewhere. I will be writing only of real possibilities, consistent
with the findings of medical science."
-- Health and Healing by Andrew Weil, MD
While both the nature cure and natural hygiene movements historically developed out of the necessity for treating serious infectious diseases, natural health developed out of the exclusive need for preventing lifestyle diseases. Natural health never attempts to treat serious infectious diseases or any acute medical emergences. The nature cure movement, historically called for a return to nature, but the natural health movement advocates only the use of natural therapies.
Just as the hygienic movement added the word natural to separate itself from biomedicine that had by the 20th century incorporated hygiene into its practices, natural health added the word health to separate itself from natural hygiene. Natural health, as an eclectic practice, is most usually associated with the advocacy of the use of vitamin supplements; a practice which natural hygiene considers a prohibited use of drugs.
Further, both the hygienic and the nature cure movements did not originally address the stress of modern civilized life; whereas natural health is partially defined or historically developed out of the notion that the stresses of modern life has an impact upon physical health. More precisely, the core tenet of holism evolved to include the concept of the mind-body connection, or the notion that stress, or our mental states, has an impact upon our physical health. The mind-body connection has a very Western origin.
- Natural Philosophy
- Free Will
- Prevention is better than cure
Natural heath as a system of philosophy is logically the most inclusive of all the natural healing practices. The ideologies of natural health holds that all health, wellness, illness, and healing can be positively affected by simple and inexpensive natural therapies.
|"One of the great myths about
natural medicines is that they are not scientific. The fact of the
matter is that for most common illnesses there is greater support in
the medical literature for a natural approach than there is for drugs
-- Michael T. Murray, N.D.
A graduate, faculty member, and serves on the Board of Trustees of Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington; Dr. Murray is the co-author of A Textbook of Natural Medicine, the definitive textbook on naturopathic medicine for physicians.
Just like any other natural philosophy, the word natural in natural health is referring to the physical realm of existence; rather than doing what seems natural. All natural philosophies look for naturalistic explanations and answers, rather than towards the supernatural.« Back | More »
The most fundamental tenet of the natural health philosophy is that the human body has the capability of healing itself. In natural health, all healing is essentially self-healing, a basic property of all living beings.« Back | More »
"Treatment originates outside you;
healing comes from within."
-- Health and Healing by Andrew Weil, MD
By far the most significant tenet of the natural health philosophy
refers to the capacity of humans to make choices. This fundamental
belief in free will clearly makes the human psyche a central part of
the philosophy of natural health. The ideology of free will brings up
bigger issues then merely being pro or anti-science.
« Back | More »
In natural health healing is a concerted effort of the entire organism
and cannot be achieved by any part in isolation from the whole. Under
holism, sickness is viewed as a result of a weakened body that has
fallen into an unbalanced condition.
« Back | More »
Under individualism individuals are capable of accepting responsibility
for their personal health and taking care of themselves. True
individuals are both self-reliant and independent. Individuals are
assumed to have the power to make changes in their own lifestyles.
« Back | More »
|"Unless you learn to notice and
be bothered by the early, subtle stages of illness, you will lose your
chances of managing your body through its changing cycles by simple
means and will find yourself more and more dependent on outside
practitioners and the costly interventions of modern hospital medicine."
-- Spontaneous Healing by Andrew Weil, MD
In natural health based practices patients are treated as individuals and are provided patient centered treatment that addresses a patient's individual needs.« Back | More »
"It is much more important to know what sort of patient has a disease than what sort of disease a patient has."
-- Sir William Osler, MD (1849-1919),
the father of psychosomatic medicine.
With victim-blaming the individual who has the free will to choose their own lifestyle is supposed to take responsibility for their health choices. To improve their prospects in life, the victim must change rather than the environment around them. Under the ideology of victim-blaming health problems are viewed as something that should be self-corrected. At-risk behavior is seen as the problem and changing lifestyle is viewed as the solution.« Back | More »
In prevention the emphasis is on building up health rather than on fighting disease. Since most of the factors that affect our health are lifestyle choices, prevention is everyone's responsibility. By correcting unhealthy lifestyles, lifestyle diseases can be prevented. Life and health are one.« Back | More »
Just like any other natural philosophy, the word natural in natural health is referring to the physical realm of existence; rather than to doing what seems natural. All natural philosophies look for naturalistic explanations and answers, rather than towards the supernatural.
Natural heath is the most inclusive of all natural
healing practices that are based upon the physical realm of existence.
Under the umbrella of natural health, come many other more restrictive
natural philosophies of health such as herbalism, natural hygiene,
nature cure, naturopathy, nutripathy, and of course the Natural Health
The most fundamental tenet of the natural health philosophy is that the human body has the capability of healing itself. The ideology of vitalism is in opposition to mechanism and interventionism.
In natural health, all healing is essentially self-healing, a basic property of all living beings. Vitalism is an ancient concept that can be traced back to the body's own innate vitality, vital energy, vital force, or the vis medicatrix naturae (i.e., the inherent wisdom of the body) of Hippocrates (c.460-377BC), the father of medicine, who wrote that "the natural healing force within us is the greatest force in getting well." Self-healing is paramount in natural health. The in-built natural healing process is respected and recruited during treatment, although it is not necessarily understood.
A physician can kill an infection with antibiotics,
perform surgery, put a broken limb in a cast, or suture a wound, but
the patient performs all healing. If the patient does not
respond to the treatment, all the efforts of the physician have been
useless. Mononucleosis (mono or the kissing disease), for example, cannot be
cured by conventional medicine and needs to run its course naturally
over about 2 to 4 weeks. There are thousands of health conditions
that can be cured by Mother Nature alone. That is called vitalism.
By far the most significant tenet of the natural health philosophy refers to the capacity of humans to make choices. The ideology of free will is in opposition to the hard determinists of the scientific worldview. This fundamental belief in free will clearly makes the human psyche a central part of the philosophy of natural health.
It should be strongly emphasized that the ideology of free will is NOT in opposition to science, but rather is opposed to the viewpoint expressed by a minority of scientists, who like to call themselves anti-quacks.
There exists a fundamental incompatibility between the free will concept of the human psyche assumed by classical Western morality and the expressed viewpoints of many medical scientism determinists. The basic issue remains inescapable. If our actions are not up to us, then we have no moral responsibility for them. The fundamental flaw of the hard determinist's worldview is, thus, their failure to explain how free will must be subject to causality and, yet, remain free. The classical Western worldview of morality, values, and virtues says that humans are different from other animals precisely because man can rise above his base and carnal desires with his free will.
Hard determinists believe that all phenomena are the result of antecedent conditions and, thus, that there is no free will. Natural health advocates view hard determinism and free will as being mutually exclusive.
"In the Christian tradition ... the belief hinges on a metaphysical belief in non-physical reality. The will is seen as a faculty of the soul or mind, which is understood as standing outside of the physical world and its governing laws. Hence, for many, a belief in materialism is taken to imply a denial of free will." (source, the Skeptic's Dictionary)
Originally, the human psyche was a direct reference to the existence of the soul. Today, it primarily means the mind, or mental faculty, of a person due to the direct influence of many hard determinists upon our society. These misguided scientists go way beyond attacking alternative medicine. They ultimately make a direct attack upon the Christian faith and its belief in the physical existence of the soul. These determinists have suggested that our health is merely a choice between scientific biomedicine and anti-science alternative medicine.
The ideology of free will brings up bigger issues then merely being pro or anti-science. Politically, in the United States, the pro-science people are the ultra-liberal academics. Whereas the conservative and religious groups and the Republican political party are viewed as being anti-science by the pro-science people. Or, in other words, the majority of the population and institutions, like the judicial system, in the United States can be accused of being anti-science.
The ultra-liberal academics as a group are often accused of promoting revisionist history and a secular agenda. They always present a revisionist history of medicine, for example. Every good development is presented as a direct result of medicine, regardless if medicine actually played a key role or not. While all bad things are presented as quackery and the work of alternative medicine. MDs who take an interest in alternative medicine are automatically called quacks, regardless of the evidence. While an MD discovering the cause of malaria automatically results in medicine getting all the credit for eradicating malaria in the US, regardless if land development, that got rid of swamps, had more to do with it or not. Thus, the pro-science position can be likewise be viewed as being a pro-history revisionist and a pro-secularist.
So, the ideology of free will says that the real choice is between the worldview of the hard deterministic scientists and the classical Western worldview. Hard deterministic scientists believe that individuals should blame everything on their biology, molecules, genetics, and their use of prescription medication. The patriarchal medical system presents physicians as father figures who always look after the best interests of their child like patients. Which is in direct opposition to patient empowerment which views patients as being autonomous adults making consumer decisions about economic goods and services. These natural health advocates claim that there is more to being a person than mere chemistry.
While these pro-science hard determinists have suggested that your health is merely a choice between scientific biomedicine and anti-science alternative medicine; there are actually bigger issues involved. The pro-science ultra-liberal academics want weak, passive child like patients who are merely the passive recipients of whatever health care the patriarchal doctors think is best. While those in favor of free will want strong, dominant, responsible patients who act like adults by being actively involved in their own health and who are in control of their own health care decisions. The pro-science ultra-liberal academics want doctors to be in a position to take advantage of their patients. While those in favor of free will want the patient to be always in control. The free will classical Western worldview demands that individuals take personal responsibly for the health choices that they make. It always demands choices and patient empowerment.
These quackbusters while simultaneously attacking
alternative medicine's ability to treat various medical problems are "abandoning
the public to their own suffering." "Looking at the bigger picture,"
these quackbusters are saying that the "patients' symptoms are
mental (psychosomatic) in origin." "The patients end up with nothing,"
if they go to conventional medicine for help. "Conventional
medicine has no cure or treatment for these illnesses. In fact, ... for
the most part, conventional medicine does not even validate the
existence of these illness categories and regards a diagnosis of such
illnesses as bogus medicine." "In the paradox of 'quackbusting,' the
quackbusters say they're protecting public health, but in fact, they're
abandoning the public to their own suffering to protect the financial
interests of conventional medicine, which has no interest in or ability
to produce benefits for these conditions."
You cannot have holism without vitalism and free will. Healing is a power provided by vitalism. The human psyche, or our mental states, is a part of the whole person. The ideology of holism is in opposition to reductionism and medical specialization.
In natural health, healing is viewed as a concerted effort of the entire organism and cannot be achieved by any part in isolation from the whole. Holism is an old concept that can be traced back to Paracelsus (1439-1541), the father of modern medicine, who insisted on treating the whole being rather than merely the part displaying disease. Holism over the ages evolved to include, or has been taken over by, the mind-body connection (i.e., the complex biopsychosocial model that offers a systems theory approach to health, wellness, illness and healing).
Respecting and understanding the defensive abilities of the body and differentiating between disease symptoms and defensive or recovery symptoms has always been an absolutely fundamental part of the various forms of holistic or natural health based practices.
Under holism, sickness is viewed as a result of a
weakened body that has fallen into an unbalanced condition. As such, it
is remedied by overall strengthening of the body's natural resistance
to disease. This is in opposition to allopathic medicine's view of
disease as a localized malfunction due to specific pathogens or
degenerative processes that attack particular organ systems.
You cannot have individualism without holism and free will. The entire organism after all is the individual. The ideology of individualism is in opposition to the needs and concerns of the community. According to this individualistic ideology, individuals are capable of accepting responsibility for their personal health and taking care of themselves.
The individualistic ideology of Western society is about (1) the primary importance of the individual over the needs and concerns of the community, and (2) the virtues of self-reliance and personal independence. True individuals are both self-reliant and independent. Individuals are assumed to have the power to make changes in their own lifestyles. Thus, under an individualistic ideology individuals are capable of accepting responsibility for their personal health.
According to the ideology of individualism some people
are brave while others are cowards. The philosophy of natural health
would say that the difference between a brave person and a coward is
free while, while the scientific worldview claims that the difference
is entirely a matter of biology, molecules, genetics, and their use of
You cannot have individualization without individualism. Individualization is important because of the primary importance of the individual. The ideology of individualization is in opposition to treating the diagnosis rather than the patient.
Human beings are exceedingly complex and highly variable. Natural health based practices are about patient centered treatment which addresses a patient's individual needs as opposed to the managed care protocol of modern medicine which treats each patient as just a statistic.
Everybody is different due to genetic diversity. But, more importantly everybody behaves differently and lives in a different environment. Therefore, treatment should not be exactly the same for each person.
In natural health based practices patients are treated as individuals. Everybody is different - our physical make up, our daily lives, our emotional states - no one human being is exactly the same as another. Natural health based practitioners take this into account when they treat patients - they find out about each individual person, rather than just the illness.
In doctor patient relationships, individualization is implemented with in person contact. In self-care, it is up to YOU (i.e., the individual) to implement individualization.
When you treat the disease, either a high-tech diagnosis is made with the expensive tools of modern medical science or a diagnosis has been made based upon a physical examination of the patient. But, when you treat the person a case study is taken that ascertains what the patient has been doing wrong because all illness is assumed to be the fault of the patient. Further, the natural doctor will try to regulate the life of their patients, their diet, etc., first before using any drugs. Once the wrong behavior has been stopped; drugs in the form of vitamins, minerals, and herbs are given that will assist the patient in recovering naturally from their situation.
In short, treating the disease emphasizes pathology and centers on the simplistic biomedical model of health, whereas treating the patient emphasizes the behavior of the patient and centers on the complex biopsychosocial model of health otherwise known as the mind-body connection.
The ideology of individualization in the Natural Health Perspective is implemented in a number of ways. As a self-care paradigm, it is primarily up to YOU, the individual, to implement individualization. Static Web pages simply cannot offer true individualization. The healing therapy of resilience is all about developing specific health strategies that work specifically for you. The healing therapy of diet at the basic level offers a choice of five different healthy diets. The advanced level diet offers two different diets that are targeted at two different groups of people. And, finally the Info Web page clearly documents that:
"YOU should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider.
- Before starting any new treatment;
- On any questions regarding a medical condition; and
- For specific advice tailored to your situation."
You cannot have victim-blaming without individualism and free will. The victim-blaming approach to personal health follows the individualistic ideology of Western society that is strongly rooted in the development of Protestantism, the work ethic, and American history. The ideology of victim-blaming is in opposition to society reducing the socioeconomic inequalities in health.
With victim-blaming the individual who has the free will to choose their own lifestyle is supposed to take responsibility for their health choices. To improve their prospects in life, the victim must change rather than the environment around them. Under the ideology of victim-blaming health problems are viewed as something that should be self-corrected. At-risk behavior is seen as the problem and changing lifestyle is viewed as the solution. This ideology has been documented to have existed as early as 1977.
When a person gets sick the assumption is that the victim must have done something wrong. When the victim comes down with a lifestyle disease the assumption is that the victim must have been doing something wrong for a very long time.
The notion of a healthy lifestyle requires the
ideologies of free will, individualism, and victim-blaming without
consideration of the socioeconomic factors involved in individual
You cannot have prevention without victim-blaming. If you are not responsible for your health then there is nothing to prevent. The ideology of prevention is better than a cure is in opposition to crisis-oriented biomedicine.
In prevention the emphasis is on building up health rather than on fighting disease.
Primary prevention is focused on intervention to prevent the occurrence of a disease, condition, or injury. Secondary prevention activities are concerned with early detection and intervention in the potential development or the existence of a disease. Tertiary prevention is focused on treatment of a disease state to lessen its effects and to prevent further deterioration.
Since most of the factors that affect our health are
lifestyle choices, prevention is everyone's responsibility. By
correcting unhealthy lifestyles, lifestyle diseases can be prevented.
Life and health are one.
Please read our Medical Advice Disclaimer.
- Maizes V, Caspi O. The principles and challenges of integrative medicine. West J Med. 1999 Sep;171(3):148-9. PMID: 10560281
- Crawford R. You are dangerous to your health: the ideology and politics of victim blaming. Int J Health Serv. 1977;7(4):663-80. PMID: 410739 [Abstract]
- Burton Goldberg, "What's eating Stephen Barrett,"
(Alternative Medicine Digest,
July 1998) [Online]
- Complementary and alternative medicine is
mainstream. Scientists who like to refer to themselves as
quackbusters hold a minority viewpoint. This conclusion is easily
supported by 3 separate research studies which surveyed the 125 medical
schools offering a MD degree, the 19 medical schools offering a DO
degree, and 585 schools of nursing in the United States.
- MD's - 60 percent of U.S. medical schools
offering a MD degree teach CAM.
"Medical education is under constant pressure to evolve.4 Changes in the medical interview over the past few years mirror this evolution. ... The rapid increase of public interest in and use of complementary and alternative therapies is likewise exerting a powerful influence on medical education.
In a study exploring the attitudes of 180 family physicians, Berman et al10 found that physicians had a high degree of interest in complementary and alternative medicine. Blumberg et al11 found similar results in 572 responses to a survey of primary care internists. More than half indicated that they would encourage patients who raise the possibility of complementary and alternative medicine, and 57% were willing to refer their patients for treatment for 6 or more complementary and alternative therapies. ...
As a profession, physicians will increasingly be expected to responsibly advise patients who use, seek, or demand complementary and alternative therapies."
Wetzel MS, Eisenberg DM, Kaptchuk TJ. Courses involving complementary and alternative medicine at US medical schools. JAMA. 1998;280(9):784 -787. PMID: 9729989
- DO's - 95% of Osteopathic medical school teach
"Reflecting society's interest in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), most allopathic medical schools in the United States offer instruction in CAM. ... The authors conclude that the form and content of CAM instruction at osteopathic medical schools is similar to that offered at allopathic medical schools."
Saxon DW, Tunnicliff G, Brokaw JJ, Raess BU. Status of complementary and alternative medicine in the osteopathic medical school curriculum. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2004 Mar;104(3):121-6. PMID: 15083987
- Nursing - 84.8% of U.S. schools of nursing
"Schools of nursing in the United States have responded to the increasing consumer use of complementary and alternative modalities and consumer demand for health professionals knowledgeable in complementary and alternative modalities by incorporating holistic nursing practices and complementary and alternative modalities into their curricula. ... Surveys were sent to 585 US schools of nursing. ... RESULTS: Almost 60% (n = 74) of the responding schools used the definition of holistic nursing practice in their curricula and were familiar with the Holistic Nursing Core Curriculum. The majority (84.8%, n = 106) included complementary and alternative modalities in their curricula."
Fenton MV, Morris DL. The integration of holistic nursing practices and complementary and alternative modalities into curricula of schools of nursing. Altern Ther Health Med. 2003 Jul-Aug;9(4):62-7. PMID: 12868254
- MD's - 60 percent of U.S. medical schools offering a MD degree teach CAM.
- Astin JA. Why patients use alternative medicine:
results of a national study. JAMA. 1998;279:1548-1552.
Web Site News: This Web site participated in a GNU Free Documentation project by contributing some selective material in order to create an information source on natural health, natural therapy, and lifestyle diseases in an encyclopedia format that is freely available. In addition, we participated in creating an orange colored infobox that both organized and classified a large number of encyclopedic articles on alternative medicine. Our project was successful as it got this selective material out on the Internet both at the original site as well as on a number of mirror sites. As time passes, our project will become even more successful as more mirror sites are created.
There is a big difference between the above original tutorial article and these encyclopedic articles. The above original article makes a health claim, whereas these encyclopedic articles do not.