THE vague, fragmentary knowledge of the subject of health and disease acquired by the average person is, in the main, picked up from medical articles in the popular newspapers and magazines, and by way of the advertisements issued by the vendors of proprietary foods and medicines. Both press articles and publicity matter may be legitimately classed
together for our purpose, as the theories upon which each is based are the same, those of orthodox medical practice. People with medical qualifications are, indeed, found to be connected with the type of commercial undertakings mentioned through directorships and staff appointments. It will consequently be convenient to explain the philosophy of modern medical herbalism or natural healing by a series of comparisons with the views of allopathy or orthodox medicine.It is well known that orthodoxy uses mineral, and frequently poisonous drugs of both mineral and vegetable origin in the treatment of disease, as well as serums and vaccines extracted from the internal organs of diseased animals. Herbal theory holds that treatment by these means succeeds, at best, in masking symptoms, and is suppressive in its action, that is, suppressive of the attempts of nature to rid the body of that poisonous matter (frequently self-generated) which lies at the root of most forms of ill-health. To suppress symptomsis not to touch causes , and it is surely the removal of the causes of disease with which the true healer should be concerned.
What is a poison? It must be understood that the rigid definitions of “exact” science cannot be properly applied to healing as an art, or to health and disease as a philosophy. Indeed, a “scientifically” satisfactory explanation of a poison has not yet been formulated, nor is it likely to be, for this same reason that the word “poison” itself implies association with a living organism. In practice, the terse judicial dictum, “a poison is defined as that which, when administered, is injurious to health or life” serves as a useful working statement, especially if we insert after “administered” the words “in conveniently taken quantities.”
The defenders of allopathy would argue that the quantities in which strychnine, arsenical and mercurial preparations and so on are prescribed re not large enough to be “injurious to health or life.” Who, however, is competent to decide what constitutes an injurious dose in any individual case? An amount that could be tolerated in one person may be injurious
to another who is in an apparently similar state of health, and even in the same person from day to day. Again, all the effects of certain drugs are not by any means immediately observable, and harmful consequences can be cumulative over long periods.
Herbal therapy holds that the introduction of these substances into the system cannot but injure, to some degree, not necessarily the organs to which attention is directed in specific cases of ill-health, but parts of the body possibly far removed from the “seat of disease.” Poisonous substances, in whatever quantity they are present, and whether self generated or administered as medicine, are themselves causes of disease, not promoters of health. They cannot assist the whole body to normal functioning, and the body must be looked upon as a whole, and not as a mere conglomeration of parts or organs. Nevertheless, it is often necessary, in what is called acute disease, to allay symptoms when these extraordinary efforts of the body to expel poisons reach a point which brings too great a strain to bear on the organism.
This, herbalism contends, should be done through harmless medicines and other means which co-operate with Nature’s normal efforts, and not by the administration of further poisons. It may be asking too much of the organs of elimination to get rid of this additional harmful matter, which would then find lodgement in various parts of the system, so laying the basis for chronic disease. Observation and enquiry show that most
chronic diseases can be traced back to influenza, pneumonia, diphtheria, or some other acute disease which has been “cured” by suppressive methods. Sleepy sickness following influenza, and diphtheritic paralysis after antitoxin treatment of diphtheria are examples. Of the latter instance Bosanquet and Eyre, “orthodox” authors of Toxins, Serums and
Vaccines, write: “There is reason to believe that since the introduction of antitoxin, the percentage of cases which suffer from paralysis after diphtheria has definitely increased.”
It must not, of course, be concluded that various minerals are of no value in the treatment of disease. On the contrary, they are essential. The whole case against minerals lies solely in the ‘form in which they are administered. Taken in their crude, unorganised (non-biological) state, they cannot be assimilated and may consequently be definitely harmful.
As has been said of poisons, they are not always, or completely, expelled, and in that case establish themselves and set up irritation resulting in pain, which would be given a name in accordance with the part of the body affected (sciatica lumbago), or a more general description such as rheumatism. Herbal remedies, having themselves assimilated these
necessary mineral substances from the earth, can pass them on to us in organised form, that is, the form in which iron, calcium, sulphur, phosphorus and so on are organically present in our tissues, and the only form in which the cells are able properly to assimilate anything introduced into our bodies, whether we call it food or medicine.
What is the herbalist’s theory of health and the causes of disease? We should, he holds, start from a fundamental observation of the laws of the life process itself, and endeavour to direct and organise our own lives to run, so far as is possible, in harmony with these laws. The commission of those acts, or the formation of those habits which tend to oppose or break this harmony with nature must consequently be avoided. Failure to do so will inevitably bring, sooner or later, that impairment of bodily functioning which we call disease. He then formulates rules based on this view, firstly for the purpose of maintaining existing health, secondly for the regaining of health where these rules have been disregarded.
Physiologically we are nothing but the foods which we ingest, and the air which we breathe. It is to faulty eating (on both quantitative and qualitative sides), and the lack of proper air, including adequate exercise in it, plus enervating habits of all kinds, to which most of the diseases of to-day may be ascribed. A very high proportion of the total food consumed by the majority of people to-day is the product of factories or the end-result of some form of refining or processing. The flour which goes to make our bread rarely
contains the whole of the wheat grain. To facilitate the operations of the milling combines, the outer covering of the grain is removed together with the whole germ of the wheat. The almost pure starch which remains thus lacks the important B vitamin contained in certain layers of the husk, and the bodybuilding albumen of the germ, both of which nature proposed for our benefit, but man disposed. In the same way, rice and
most of the other cereals in common use are highly milled to make commercial “handling” and profit-making easier. Again, the white sugar of commerce is so treated that, although sugar is one of the most urgent needs of the human organism, what we eat under that name does little beyond titillate our spoiled palates and clog our systems. What, then, should we eat?
Let us remember the basic law of harmony with nature and eat only foods which are as near to nature as we can get them—fruit, fresh vegetables (conservatively cooked), salads, whole meal bread, raw milk and dairy products, with fresh fish and meat in moderate quantities if liked, none of which, under our present system of society, reaches the
great mass of the people in anything like adequate quantities.
What, however, when disregard of these factors, indulgence in enervating habits, and, perhaps, years of medicinal drug-taking in a futile attempt at counteraction, results in chronic disease? The herbalist’s advice then is:
(1) Give up the life of antagonism to nature which has brought about this position and return to one of co-operation with nature;
(2) assist that life urge to wholeness, those life-long strivings of the body to expel the
noxious substances which are disease by the taking of suitable herbal medicines and the adoption of natural methods of elimination such as deep breathing, frequent bathing, and friction rubs. He would further tell us to eat near-nature foods in proper proportions, but only when hunger is present, and neverduring phases of acuteillness.
Finally, it must never be forgotten that nature alone restores health. The art of the Herbalist (who is a “Healer” only in the sense that he/she assists nature to heal) is directed solely to bringing about those bodily conditions in which nature can best do this work. But what, it will be asked, is to be done to protect ourselves against the deadly germs of which we hear so much—surely these must first of all be attacked and destroyed? Here we have another issue on which herbalism and allopathy disagree. The latter school regards micro-organisms as a potent primary causeof disease. Thus, one is “attacked” by influenza, smallpox, diphtheria, tuberculosis and so on, and another germ or antitoxin must be discovered which will wage war upon and annihilate the bringers of these diseases.
Herbalism, on the other hand, while recognising that the air is swarming with millions of these tiny specks of life, that they are contained in every breath we take and on each scrap of food we put into our mouths, holds that germs can only be a danger when suitable conditions obtain inside the body in the form of effete toxic matter on which they can thrive.
Germs, therefore, are not a primary cause, but a secondary manifestation of disease. Germs can only nourish and multiply in the body when conditions there are “ripe” for them. If this were not the case, then out of fifty people in a room containing a high’ proportion (uncountable millions) of influenza germs, each one of those people would be in bed shortly after with a temperature. Even Pasteur unconsciously admitted the soundness of this argument when he said: “In a state of health the body is closed against the action of disease germs.” Human disease, then, is mankind’s responsibility and not the act of a God who sends these pests to plague and destroy us. And that mysterious and highly esoteric (in two senses!) department of study known as vitamin research?
A continued shortage of those essential constituents of all natural, “live” foods, known as vitamins, results in stunted growth, rickets, skin diseases, affections of the eyes, various
nervous derangements, and probably numerous other ailments which are not yet in the official list. State medicine, instead of insisting upon the necessity for the consumption of “whole” foods only, and working for the legal prohibition of this wholesale devitalizing of food in the interests of private profit, proposes to get over the difficulty by chemically extracting vitamins from their natural media and adding them to the dietary of all
those who can afford to buy these vitamin preparations. Passive or active support is thus given to the food-fakers and to the manufacturing chemists who make and sell the vitamin extracts, to the greater profit of both and the loss, both in health and pocket, of the unfortunate consumer.
Independent herbalism takes, in this matter, the common-sense view that it is simpler and less costly to let people have their vitamins in the original state. It also accuses on health grounds. The natural philosophy of health and disease holds that a thing torn from its natural environment is no longer the samething, and consequently that a vitamin in a bottle is a very different proposition from its fellow in a glass of undoctored milk or an uncanned pear. It further contends that this tampering with and “chemicalizing” nature’s food will result in a further crop of those mysterious (?)
“diseases of civilization” for which doctors and scientists are still’ trying to find the causative germs, and incidentally building up huge “research” interests with public money. Herbalists are often asked their opinion on the desirability of surgical operations involving the use of the knife. They consider that in certain mechanical injury this form of surgical interference may be necessary, although Herbert Barker and many others have proved in innumerable instances that what is known as manipulative surgery or osteopathy gives better results with less danger attached.
The removal of glands such as the tonsils and other organs is frequently entirely unjustifiable, as the esultant systemic disorganisation and the non-performance of functions for which these parts are responsible invariably brings more or less serious results in its train. Here again we have drastic dealing with effects instead of natural removal of the causes of diseased conditions. Where errors of living and the suppressive treatment of consequent illhealth have been permitted to persist for so long that actual tissue degeneration has followed, and normal functioning cannot be restored, removal of the organ may then have to be considered. Such a stage, however, need seldom be reached if the laws of living are observed. The modern medical herbalist is, above all, a teacher of these laws, universal knowledge of which, and conformity to, must be the prerequisite of an A-1 community. Herbal Manual by Harold Ward – The Southwest School of Botanical Medicine http://www.swsbm.com