Natural Medicine Modalities
Although Natural Medicine is practised throughout the world, emphasis on the dominant modality in each country may differ considerably. Acupuncture is the dominant modality in China, whilst homoeopathy is dominant in India. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, nutrition appears to be currently at the forefront of public concern notwithstanding that some of the best herbalists come from there. However, In Australia and New Zealand, although many modalities are practised, due to both legislation and self‐regulation no modality can be said to be more popular than another. However, Federal legislation in Australia, for instance, at s.42AA, Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cth), (Australia) does specifically provide for specific modalities, namely, those of herbalists, homoeopathic practitioners, chiropractors, naturopaths, nutritionists, practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, podiatrists, and osteopaths. Rightly or wrongly, these are often publicly perceived as the ‘senior’ professional modalities of practice in the natural medicine field as a whole.
Since there are undoubtedly many methods of diagnosis not covered here, the main intention of this book is substantially educational, to give insights into some of the natural medicine principles and methods of diagnosis and assessment as I have come to know them over the last 20 years, firstly as a student, and then as a practitioner and lecturer. Accepting that numerous methods and modalities of healing exist, some well accepted and some so unconventional as to be perceived as obscure, one can nonetheless find that each contains its own set of unique particularities and should not be discarded out of hand when assistance is gained by those who adopt them.
In Natural Medicine, there are so many individual modalities of practice that it is sometimes extremely confusing for the general public to know where to look for assistance or what to look for. For those who wish to turn their attention to what has been loosely termed ‘alternative medicine’, ‘complementary medicine’, and more recently, ‘integrated medicine’, it might be more comforting to have a clear direction of what can be achieved by those in professional practice. This does not in any way detract from the essential medical services that have been relied on for the last 200 years, but currently many people seem to want access to different forms of healing treatment that provide success in health without any additional adverse effects.
Therefore, if people do require advice and assistance in ‘alternative’ or ‘integrative’ health modalities, they need to know on what premise their health will be viewed, and of course what they can expect about the diagnostic procedures that will be followed in order for them to achieve a reasonably successful outcome.
Often people will wait until something goes wrong with their health before they act positively. This is simply because they cannot envisage being unwell until it actually happens. They may not have thought seriously about the stories that their faces and bodies can tell, or even wondered what health problems their children might be facing in the future when they too become adults.
In homoeopathy, for example, when a person’s ‘constitution’ tells a story the homoeopath will prescribe “constitutionally”, Lockie remarks, namely, by prescribing not only for current ailments but for problems that have yet to manifest as medically recognizable ailments. (Lockie, 1990 at 17)
Choosing Natural Medicine
In health and healing, everyone has a choice, and everyone is placed to choose what is then available. This applies to health just as it does to all aspects of life. Therefore, realistically, when people view synthetically manufactured drugs as ill suited to their needs, and wish to resolve their problems with natural medicine, they effectively look towards a substitute to the potentially harmful effects of synthetic drugs that are known to occur, or declared likely to occur as ‘side effects’. This does not make the drug bad or wrong, since drug medication is indispensable in many serious cases, but it does give people the opportunity to avoid the unpleasant reactions that they sometimes have to consequently endure when trying to resolve many of their simple medical conditions. People generally prefer to be well informed, and also be well positioned to discover the underlying causes of their respective conditions. But they also want to have them treated appropriately, having as much additional information as possible as to what might be available.
Although drugs definitely have their place and should not be unnecessarily derided, many ailments do not require medicinal prescription, particularly if resulting from nutritional deficits, structural alteration, emotional disturbance, or physical deformity following injury, for example. It is in many of these circumstances that assistance can be obtained without being prescribed any form of ingested medicine. The formula for any treatment must really be based on the proper understanding of ‘why’ a problem might have occurred in the first place, and ‘how’ it might be best answered afterwards. Merely giving a condition a name and a set remedy for that named condition does not always assist either diagnosis or treatment, since there are many areas of the body that could be additionally affected by the condition, and therefore require other types of treatment. Understanding why a condition has manifested in a particular way is one issue, but its numerous underlying effects on other parts of the body will be equally as important. The cause and consequences of a condition, disease, or ailment may be just as important as its presence. And even more important will be the resultant damage caused to body components that might ordinarily be overlooked or otherwise regarded as unimportant at the time.
The actual ‘type’ of condition is not the only consideration, important though it may seem. What may be more important is its ‘location’. If the human body were likened to real estate, it would actually amount to freehold land with absolute tenure vested in none other than the single proprietor who owns its health, ill health and disease, whenever occurring.
For example, a pain in the lower back can seriously disrupt the activities of the organs and body parts having representation from nerve innervations originating from the same spinal segment. A dysfunction of spinal area T10‐T12, for instance, can lead to kidney or prostate problems. Sluggish bowel movement can result from displaced lumbar vertebrae that may prompt people to ingest laxatives to overcome the problem when realistically they might be better improved by vertebral adjustment, increased fibre in the diet, or more water. Medicines taken in cases of constipation might initially feel effective and may also appear to resolve the most apparently pressing issues, but the real problem will not have been addressed at all and may therefore consistently reoccur.
There are numerous other examples where problems resulting from simple nutritional deficiency also cannot be resolved by conventional medication, simply because what is lacking is an essential substance, and that substance must be made available for the body in order for it to operate efficiently. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are classic examples, some of the most obvious being iron, B12, magnesium and folic acid. When these are in short supply, weakness and fatigue can arise very noticeably.
Contemporary Natural Medicine
Previous concerns about the reputation of natural medicine have changed considerably in more contemporary times, and in mainstream public perception natural medicine is no longer derided as pretence, although there are many who would vehemently seek to deny the validity of many of its principles, and unkindly refer to its practices as ‘exotica’. Eventually, however, such unwarranted criticism will undoubtedly end. Whether it is referred to as Natural Medicine, Alternative Medicine, Integrated Medicine, or Complementary Medicine, or any another acceptable description, the nomenclature describes a health practice that differs from mainstream conventional medicine in that it adopts forms of diagnoses and treatments that are not reliant on conventional procedures, surgery, or synthetically produced medicines. The remaining principles and healing intentions of all health professions are, though, the same.
But one might ask a question: “What is the alternative to alternative medicine”, if alternative medicine is denied? If the answer is ‘nothing’, then unreasonable objection will be ill placed. In ordinary circumstances where there is no intervention from others, responsibility for health always remains with the individual, since no one owns health but the proprietor of the body who carries it. With the exception of children or those in care, everyone is responsible for his or her health. Therefore, for those who seek assistance in health, their right to take advice, or reject it, resides in their own trust and faith in the principles and procedures of the health system, and those of its practitioners whom they wish to access. Realistically, where there is no cure or resolution to an ailment, and appreciable assistance cannot be offered, no safe practice should be derided if it gives relief and assists in its resolution.
Natural Medicine in Australia and New Zealand
Although all countries have their individual health differences, in Australia and New Zealand there are clear distinctions between the major natural health professions of Natural Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Natural Therapies, Traditional Maori Medicine, and Indigenous Healing. Since they comprise many separate modalities of practice, there is no single assessment procedure that informs people how best to contend with any given situation. Even with access to advanced scientific and medical tests, practitioners generally still have to rely on sufficient understanding of their patients’ presenting conditions and subsequently formulate meaningful strategies of treatment and healing based upon the practitioners’ own primary diagnostic skills.
In this book, integrated approaches to assessment and diagnosis are based on commonly utilized principles of natural medicine modalities, even though some of the information that natural medicine practitioners pursue in clinical practice is often perceived as being based on unfounded science. However empirical results have shown on numerous occasions that where conventional procedures have been unable to determine ‘cause’, ‘consequence’ and ‘resolution’ of a person’s condition or ailment, the natural medicine practitioner is very often able to give reasoning and answers where others might have been unsuccessful. Free choice of access to those who can assist in health is still always available in some form.
The Diagnostic Journey
One of the greatest difficulties for any health practitioner is to know where to start in the journey of diagnostic or assessment discovery. This is all the more difficult when faced with conditions having no clear aetiology, or those that do not clearly disclose where the primary ‘causes’ may be residing or how they manifested. In the first part of my involvement in naturopathy 20 years ago while attending classes I knew that I had been exposed to an enormous amount of information, and of course many books, but I was still unable to assemble any clear assessment protocol that enabled me to connect all the important pieces of information in a coherent way. Additionally, I also realised that restricted skills in practice would always limit my ability to assist patients if their presenting conditions were to be more appropriately dealt with by practitioners having advanced knowledge and a wider range of diagnostic skills. I held the same viewpoint about Natural Health practitioners specialising in other relevant modalities that I had yet to study, and to whom I would have to refer patients.
Melanie Stephens, a Senior Lecturer in Nutrition based in Ireland, once remarked that she tried to explain to her students that there is no value in practitioners pretending that some aspect of a patient’s condition does not exist merely because it is outside their knowledge base. Everything must be faced squarely, then questioned, and finally appraised.
At one stage of my studies, I regarded a simple stomach ailment such as indigestion to be a relatively easy condition to deal with. However, I eventually found out that it was not the case at all, and that merely providing medicine for the condition did not necessarily relieve the sufferer from the actual cause of its occurrence, when even after pharmaceutical antacids, herbal medicine, mineral supplementation, vitamins, and homoeopathic remedies, the problem returned, and sometimes with a vengeance. It was only later when I was exposed to studies of osteopathic principles, spinal misalignments, Lovett reactors, [The term ‘Lovett Reactor’ is described by Walther as a relationship between vertebral motions where certain vertebrae rotate in the same or opposite directions when a person walks. (Walther, 1988‐2000 at 70).] nerve innervations, traditional Chinese medicine principles, applied kinesiology, and a host of other considerations, that the I learned how to view the condition by making more accurate assessments, not only of the actual physical disruption that might be occurring, but also the mental, emotional and physical connections that triggered the condition. It was those connections that I hoped would eventually assist me to resolve the matter if I followed the laws of the body and gave myself the correct advice and treatment at the outset.
Although that was over 20 years ago, there was little difference in that respect from my previous law studies where it was impressed upon all the law students that they must “apply the law to the facts and never the facts to the law”. On that basis, the rules were set in stone; find all the facts, and only then, act upon what is evident and not what one would assume might be evident. So, with the stomach in mind, the vertebrae, spinal nerves, cranial nerves, traditional Chinese medicine 5‐Element theory, related muscles to acupuncture meridians, and biochemistry principles, for instance, all assisted me to find the way in which many connections could be viewed. After that, antacids were a thing of the past and were never again contemplated to disturb digestion. Hydrochloric acid was needed, but the stomach sometimes adversely reacted to its excesses. All that was really required in many instances was to bring the stomach to a point where it would produce the correct amount of HCl at the correct pH and at the correct intervals.
Inevitably, therefore, it would be the basis upon which my personal skills were implemented that would differentiate my skills from another’s, as well as the concomitant healing intentions that would lead to apparent failure or success. What is known today is what we all have, and that is what we must work with. As time passes though, greater information will arrive at our doorstep. In the meantime we can use only what we know.
If the knowledge that we currently have is compared with the knowledge of the 1800’s, for example, the great advances that have been achieved over the last 200 years will undoubtedly be emulated further in years to come. Similarly, what is known today may well be regarded as outdated in the future. But as with all scientific and empirical advances, natural medicine will progress as our knowledge increases, leaving some of our present beliefs to be recalled only in history.
After reading this book I would hope that students particularly would have gained sufficient understanding of some important natural medicine principles in order to identify many of the reasons as to how ill‐health can be perceived and experienced, and thereafter appropriately treated using natural healing methods from a holistic viewpoint. Therefore, the purpose of this book is to provide information and formulae for integrated approaches to assessments in natural medicine that lead to a better understanding of presenting dysfunctions. Yet, a text such as this cannot cover all aspects of natural healing, nor seek teach major subjects such as Medical Sciences, Biochemistry, Homoeopathy, Nutrition, Chinese Medicine, or Iridology, for example, nor can it outline all the complexities of Herbal Medicine or Mineral Therapy, for instance. Those subjects must be studied over time and applied through practice.
Diagnostics and Assessments
What would seem to occasionally occur is the apparent reluctance of some student practitioners to fully assess patients on naturopathic models covering a number of modalities, but often preferring to apply a diagnostic label for a condition and then treating according to its anticipated symptomatology, relying on a specific modality of practice. This can be a problem if one specializes too early. Put simply, if a patient has a condition commonly known as a ‘frozen shoulder’, for example, then for some all that is required is to treat the shoulder and nothing else. But by having regard to the ‘remedial individualization’ of the patient and the particular causes and consequences that led to the visible manifested dysfunction, the reality is that although the problem may have some particularities common to everyone with similar distress, it is the causa causans specifically relevant to the particular individual under consideration that requires further discovery.
Even more so, the various ‘causae sine qua non’ that are likely to be involved also need to be recognised and assessed. Consequently, it is the diagnostic and assessment skills of practitioners that will greatly benefit patients when additional reasoning is applied to treatment‐selection. This demands the application of knowledge from a number of modalities of practice rather than the specialized knowledge of a single subject previously studied in depth.
What appears to be incomplete in some contemporary educational establishments is the apparent reluctance to teach students not to rely too readily on pre‐manufactured medication, but on the carefully selected medicines and specific adjunct protocols of treatment that clearly would be more appropriate under the circumstances facing them. Not every medicine deals with everyone in the same way, and reliance on pre‐manufactured supplements has its limitations. Discounting homoeopaths and medical herbalists who prepare their own medication specifically for patients, practitioners who dispense pre‐manufactured products lose the opportunity for individual selection of specific remedy content, no matter how good the product might be. When pre‐manufactured products are prescribed, reliance must inevitably be placed on the manufacturer, with the expectation that the product will meet the needs of the patients, have high standards of safety and efficacy, and above all contain the ingredients as declared by the manufacturer.
Natural Medicine Practitioners should be able to determine with some degree of accuracy the main driving forces that have brought about any relevant dysfunction, and correctly decide what form of treatment or medicine might be better utilized to provide relief for patients. But since assessment and treatment will always be a judgment for the individual practitioner based on the confronting circumstances at the time, it will be the manner of assessment and its accuracy together with the skill of the practitioner that will greatly determine the appropriateness of any selected treatment, and not merely because accepted texts direct it, or if manufacturers claim it.
In matters of health and advice, a practitioner’s duty to a patient lies primarily in the proper attempt to assist in resumption of good health, having regard to the peculiarities of the patient under consideration, thereby treating with the full knowledge of the patient’s individual propensities, repugnant though some may indeed be. But this whole concept depends upon the agreement of the person concerned in assisting to overcome the effects of ill health and restore that person to better health. Such a decision does not lie with the natural medicine practitioner alone, for patients must take much of the responsibility for self‐help, and make the appropriate adjustments where necessary: “nemo potest facere per alium, quod per se non potest”. [Translated as: "no one can do through another what he cannot do himself": Osborn, P.G., (1964), “A Concise Law Dictionary”, 5th edn, Sweet & Maxwell, London at p.220.] What it is that some people seek in life is that which is found in good health, or to put it another way, they seek justice for their bodies and appeal to others for help when their bodies fail them. But justice can be very elusive in matters of health. Therefore one might contemplate a simple quotation: “Whereas one might seek justice in some matters, so also must one deliver justice in all matters”. [The Indigenous Cultural Alliance of Australia and New Zealand (2004)]
So before you seek good health, deliver the means for good health to your body; it is your responsibility and yours alone.
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