Monday, February 12, 2007

Herbalism vs Vitalism

Herbalism and vitalism are NOT synonymous. There is a mistaken idea floating around our country, and perhaps beyond that anyone using 'natural" medicines and herbs is doing themselves a great deal of good, as opposed to using pharmacuetical drugs. Though this is partially true, I'd certainly prefer tumeric to prednisone, many herbalists, and herbal therapies are still very allopathic in nature.
A VItalist, wheather M.D., N.D. or herbalist supports life, and honors life. A vitalist does not use suppressive therapies to make symptoms go away. The symptoms the body manifests during illness are the body's defenses hard at work, restoring the body to health. Even the infamous inflammatory response, which is known best as one of the culprits in diseases such as arthritis, autoimmune disease down to the simple runny nose of the common cold is the body's defense system at work. Now I do know that inflammation can run too far and cause tissue damage, but immediate suppressive measures like prednisone, or slapping back every sniffle with echinacea may not be the best way to handle inflammation. Likewise guzzling aspirin to quell a fever is not a good choice either in the context of a vitalist LIFE supporting practice or therapy.

Often times suppressing symptoms can lead to more severe, prolonged outbreaks of similiar symptoms, or worse. It can show up in the body in different places and different ways. Supressing a fever tends to draw out the length of illnesses such as influenza, and recovery is much slower. It has been postulated that Chronic Fatigue symptom could possibly be the result of an incomplete recovery from a suppressed febrile illness, compounded by such things as poor diet, food allergies, and excessive stress.
A classmate of mine recounted her experience of throwing some goldenseal powder in a wound with staph, closing it up and going on her merry way. For 10 yrs hence she's been fighting with periodic outbreaks of skin rashes, staph infected boils and the like.

Suffice it to say, suppression of the symptoms of illness is really suppressing your body's best and usually successful attempts at restoring health. SHould you suppress a symptom of one kind or another, you'll likely deal with complications further down the line.

And what do I hear today? A very well known and respected commericial herbal formula company has just created an incredibly suppressive echinacea formula for the symptoms of the common cold. The lecturer spent an inordinate amount of time explaining how the symptoms we experience with the common cold occur AFTER the infection has been wiped out by our immune system, and our runny nose, excess mucous and scratchy throat are the body's way of "cleaning up" after the heightened immune response and removing remains of virus and white blood cells in the respiratory tissues. And what does their product claim to do?? It suppresses the body's natural inflammatory response to "stop in it's tracks" the symptoms of the cold. That means all the viral bits and white blood cells that your body is trying to remove through the flow of mucous is staying right where it is, inside your body.
This sounds like a recipie for disaster! How many suppressed colds will it take for the backed up waste to explode in an itchy rash, digestive trouble, or worse yet, autoimmune problems?

I know as well as anyone that the symptoms of a cold aren't really that fun, and can be downright uncomfortable, but one of the most important lessons as a vitalist is to remember that sometimes the best thing to do is to DO NOTHING. The body DOES know how to take care of itself if you support it with good nutrition, plenty of rest and relaxation and a positive attitude. Rather than suppressing your symptoms with this new fangled echinacea products standarized to this or that compound ( no different than taking some alka seltzer cold plus in the vitalist perspective) why not get some extra sleep, stay home from work, and drink lots of fluids and warm soups to keep that mucous flowing, and trust in the body's innate ability to heal itself.

1 comment:

docwrite said...

Among many factors, intestinal bacteria have been implicated in altered immune status. Limited evidence suggests that probiotics help lower the risk of such infections.

"The mother of us all, the oldest of us all, Hard, splendid as rock, Let the beauty you love, be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth"~ Rumi ~