Some time ago I was gifted a wonderful, musty-smelling but obviously well-loved book. I was so delighted as I adore vintage books, and discovering that it was all about family health and medicine made it so much more special.
And what a gem of a book it is turning out to be. Titled “Modern Medical Counsellor – A Practical Guide to Health” published in Melbourne, Australia in 1959, it offers almost a 1000 pages of medical and health science of that time.
Now, I must admit that I was prepared to have a bit of a scoff at the advice given in the pages of this 1950’s text. The world in general, but especially our knowledge of health and medicine has advanced so much in 60 or so years, hasn’t it?
But after an initial flick through the title pages, my prejudices started to fall away as I spotted chapters dedicated to “Diet”, "Climate", “Mental Attitudes” and “Growing Old Gracefully". Hmmmm. This book was starting to look like it covered the pillars of naturopathic health philosophy which looks at an individual's nutrition, lifestyle, environment and emotional health when considering treatment options and advice.
And then I came to Chapter 18 “Natural and Other Rational Remedies”.
Let me repeat that. Natural and Other Rational Remedies.
It was at this point that I was won over. And surprised. I had a vague perception that by the 1950’s, natural remedies were beginning to be put aside (and even scorned) as pharmaceuticals and surgery were on the ascendant.
It made me think about how often in what we consider mainstream and orthodox medicine today, do we see the words "natural" and "rational" in the same sentence. Sadly, with many looking to discredit natural medicine in favour of new pharmaceuticals, you rarely see the word “natural” and “rational” in the same sentence today.
This text now had me intrigued. What actually was the current medical thinking on natural medicine in 1959?
Let quote directly from the book.
“There continues to be much talk about ‘nature’ and ‘natural’ remedies in connection with the treatment of disease. There is so much solid truth and good sense in this talk…we also hear the word ‘rational’ applied to various remedies or treatments. This word is properly applied to whatever is the logical or reasonable remedy given in any case. A truly natural remedy is always rational.”
“It should be self-evident that the most reasonable way to fight a disease is to find its cause and then to remove or correct that cause. And since the body has numerous natural defences and great powers of self-repair and restoration, another reasonable way to fight disease and restore health is to reinforce or co-operate with the body’s own defence and restorative forces, thus increasing the effective of these natural remedies.”
Wait, what! These paragraphs are essentially the underlying principle of naturopathy - aiming to work with the body’s own innate ability to heal, rather than fight against these natural processes.
The book then goes on further to talk about patients who “give far too much credit to the drugs and seem to think that they should seek primarily for some pill, powder, medicine, tablet or injection to use in treating every variety of disease in any of its stages. Such individuals will leave a doctor who gives their case careful study and then tells them to change their habits of eating and working but gives them no prescription to take to a chemist, and go to another doctor who takes but a minute or two in questioning and examining them and then prescribes from two to half a dozen different kinds of medicines. Sometimes a physician who would prefer to make a much greater and more nearly exclusive use of natural remedies is forced by these circumstances to write prescriptions in order to keep the patient under his care long enough for the natural remedies he recommends to take effect.”
Wow. The more things change the more they stay the same.
Now I don't want to go into the whole debate of pharmaceuticals and natural medicine right now - I believe there is a place for both where appropriate. But it would appear from this book that so many individuals look for the “fast fix” or silver bullet” to take away symptoms without addressing the underlying cause. And that this way of thinking has been in place for some time.
What I think we are starting to see now, however, (and research backs me up on this), is that more and more are turning back to natural medicines, and indeed consulting with natural and integrative practitioners who are able to take the time to really delve into a patient’s case on a wholistic level.
It makes sense. We have evolved over many thousands of years along with the plants that have provided our much of our food and medicines. Our bodies simply haven't adapted to the rapid increase in chemicals in our day to day living. So is it any wonder that we see side effects from our reliance on modern drugs, processed foods and cosmetics? And then find that the solution we really need is to take the time to look after ourselves with food and herbal medicines, just as our ancestors have for millennia?
I see so many clients are finding that the quick fix hasn't been serving their long-term health, and instead are getting lasting results by the use of herbal medicine, good solid nutrition, and living in harmony with our natural environment. This does take time and is not always a fast fix. And there can be so much to investigate with each person to figure out the right combination of natural medicines as we are all so different. An initial consultation with a naturopath can take up 90 minutes and that is really just the beginning of the journey to helping a client to bring their health back into balance.
So it is just wonderful, as a naturopathic practitioner who believes wholeheartedly that nature provides us with what we need to stay well, to have this affirmed in the pages of a medical text. Even if it is from the 1950's. I think our grandparents had the right idea when it came to taking care of ourselves - just eat real food and respect the herbal lore of our ancestors. By all means, turn to modern medicine when we need to, but let's also use the gifts of nature to stay well.
Food for thought indeed.
In the meantime, I’m going to read on, and perhaps share more wisdom from this 1950’s text on medicine in future posts.
The chapter “Survival in Atomic Bombing” is no doubt going to be fascinating...
Naturopath, Nutritionist and Herbalist