By Malcolm Simmonds
Herbs and naturopathy are two approaches that complement one another to form a whole system of healthcare - herbal naturopathy. To see how, it is useful to look at some of the significant features of the two individual disciplines.
For thousands of years herbs were the principal form of medical treatment. They have overshadowed only in the last hundred years or so by western science-based medicine, which views the body as a set of chemical reactions rather than an organic whole. Modern medicine tends to use drugs to suppress the symptoms of illness. Herbs, on the other hand, aim to assist the body's own healing processes which, by definition, work on the body as a complete whole.
Herbal means of promoting health are becoming more and more popular and people are becoming increasingly distrustful of the powerful and frequently toxic drugs prescribed by mainstream medical practitioners. Newspaper and magazine articles dealing with herbs appear with increasing frequency, and herbal treatments are becoming more accepted among some general practitioners and other members of the medical profession.
Sometimes a strong herbal remedy is required and in these cases it is necessary to consult a practitioner who has an extensive herbal training and knowledge of herbal products. These stronger remedies can provide a very effective treatment, but they can be costly and time-consuming.
Milder herbal products can be found at health food shops or mail-order suppliers of which Specialist Herbal Supplies is one. These products can be used safely without the need for supervision. Being milder in their effects, however, they are likely to be more effective when combined with naturopathy.
Although the term “naturopathy” is only beginning to become more widely recognized, many of its methods are familiar and include the following:
- Relaxation, including some psycho-therapeutic approaches such as meditation or counselling
- Moderate exposure to sunshine
- Hydrotherapeutic (water-based) treatments, such as hot baths, alternating immersion of parts of the body in hot and cold water, and hip baths for the pelvic areas
- Bowel cleansing through enemas or colonics, and liver cleansing
- Bony and soft tissue manipulation
Naturopathy uses various combinations of these methods to promote health. Here is more detail on some of these.
Health can be improved in a variety of ways with the help of dietary changes. One of the simplest improvements to make is to increase the quantities of fruit and vegetables in the diet. A mixed salad with each main meal is a simple and extremely beneficial way of increasing the quantity of minerals, vitamins and enzymes consumed each day. The health-giving properties of a salad can be enhanced by using a dressing that includes, among other ingredients, extra virgin olive oil, organic cyder vinegar, fresh lemon juice, cayenne pepper and mustard.
Although not usually considered to be part of a diet, fasting allows the energy usually expended on digesting food to be diverted to the body's natural self-healing processes.
There are a number of options when fasting. The most severe method is to abstain from eating food completely for a number of days. A naturopath should supervise this fast. A milder version of fasting is to eat only fruit, or drink nothing but fruit juice for two or three consecutive days. Several pounds of fruit or several liters of juice, plus additional water to drink, would be needed each day. If you are basically well, you can safely use these milder forms of fasting on your own, and repeat each two weeks for two or three days. Otherwise a naturopath's help is again recommended.
Three considerations when carrying out any type of fast are:
1. Plan to have extra rest.
2. Expect some headaches at first - especially if you suddenly cut out drinking tea and coffee. Headaches can occur as extra toxins pass from the tissues into the blood stream. This is much more likely if you suddenly withdraw from caffeine consumption. It is better to slowly reduce then eliminate tea and coffee over a week or so. The likelihood of headaches reduces each time you fast.
3. After the fast, take a day to gently re-introduce starchy foods and protein to allow your body to get used to them again.
It is surprising how many people take virtually no exercise other than walking around in the normal course of their lives. This contributes to widespread heart problems and obesity. For many people, introducing moderate exercise - such as taking up a sport, having a long walk twice a week or learning to dance - would greatly benefit health. Exercise increases the circulation of body fluids that carry nutrients to, and waste products from, every organ, muscle and tissue in the body.
With exercise, there is the same range of options of 'mild' to 'extreme' that are found in the in the other naturopathic activities listed above. Exercise needs to be carried out, but not to the point where it's distressing.
Exercise need not cost anything. Although it's possible to join a gym, you could do at least as well by taking a long walk every day, which would cost you nothing.
Combining mild herbal products with naturopathy results in a valuable and effective system. The more specific nature of the herbs, which are aimed at particular organs or areas of the body, complements the generally helpful effects of naturopathy on the body's overall health.
But where do you start?
One way is to decide which area of your life you would benefit most from improving: your eating habits, exercise, stress management or working habits. Or perhaps you would like to make some changes in more than one of these areas. Set a day when you are going to start implementing these changes.
Then, choose which areas most need herbal remedy support. If you are generally in good health, then you will probably benefit most from colon cleansing and liver cleansing. These are two of the main organs that eliminate toxins from the body, and so you will benefit from colon and liver cleansing.
Keep Yourself Healthy
If you are ill, do visit a practitioner for a consultation and treatment plan. But if you are healthy and want to keep well, herbal naturopathy is a practical and empowering approach that will help you to care for your own health.