The principles of naturopathic medicine aim to work with the laws of nature. The foundation of naturopathy lies in the Vis Medicatrix Naturae; working with the healing power of nature. In this simply stated principle, there are many perspectives to consider, and to explore. What exactly is the healing power of nature? How do naturopaths generally work with it, and is there a clear, consistent way to work with nature to promote resilience and vitality? This article aims to bring perspective to these questions. It also aims to articulate how your Village Naturopaths uniquely engage the healing potential of nature within the individual.
WHAT DOES THE ‘HEALING POWER OF NATURE’ MEAN?
In short, it describes the body’s drive toward homeostasis and balance, in order to maintain optimal physiological function.
Naturopathic doctors refer to the healing power within our nature as the “Vis”, or life force. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is called “Qi”, in Reiki, “Ki”. Regardless of what it is called, it is always present within the body. The healing power of nature is this vital life energy that informs proper physiological function and the body’s drive toward homeostasis. The degree to which this vitality is expressed in the individual depends on many factors: genetics, nutrition, proper elimination of metabolic waste, environmental exposures and stress. When the expression of one’s innate vitality is hindered by chronic stress, for example, the body begins to decompensate, and the disease process begins.
HOW DO NATUROPATHIC DOCTORS WORK WITH THE HEALING POWER OF NATURE?
In short, by removing obstacles to the expression of vitality, and by actively stimulating a vital response within the human body, using the naturopathic modalities.
Generally, naturopaths stimulate the “Vis” using traditional healing modalities (herbal medicine, nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathy). These modalities are deemed “natural” treatments precisely because they work with nature, and physiology, to promote balance within the human body.
When a person is exposed to toxins, endures trauma or practices poor lifestyle habits, for example, the body is asked to adjust, and to compensate. Unchecked, these compensations lead to disease process and symptoms. The body continues to compensate until it perishes, or until it is given the opportunity to heal. This can be achieved by removing obstacles to the expression of vitality (i..e. removal of processed foods from the diet) or by using the healing modalities to engage a physiological response.
EXAMPLES OF “Removing Obstacles”
NUTRITION: It has been found that a mere 2% decrease in trans fat ingestion leads to a 17-24% reduction in cardiovascular disease(1).
ACUPUNCTURE: Acupuncture modulates the stress response, promoting the expression of natural healing processes, such as better sleep(2,3)..
HERBAL MEDICINE: Decreasing inflammatory burden on the liver. Milk thistle decreases inflammation and protects the liver from xenobiotic insult, allowing for better physiological function of the liver(4).
EXAMPLES OF Stimulating a Vital Response/The Healing Power of Nature
HERBAL ADAPTOGENS: Plant substances supply the body with the necessary bio-chemicals to promote resilience to stress(5,6).
NUTRITION: The use of probiotics or fermented foods to actively improve/modulate immune system function via the gut microbiome(7,8).
ACUPUNCTURE: Reduction of pain in chronic pain. Although the mechanisms of action are not clear, some proposed mechanisms include the release of endorphins and increased blood flow (9,10).
IS THERE A CONSISTENT WAY TO WORK WITH NATURE?
The practice of the art and science of naturopathic medicine is as biomedically diverse as a healthy forest ecosystem. There are many ways to practice naturopathic medicine and to work with the healing power of nature. This diversity is both the strength and the challenge of naturopathy. The answer here is INDIVIDUALIZATION. By keeping to the principles of naturopathy, and applying individualized medicine to promote the expression of the VIS, naturopaths are able to make treatment decisions that are consistent with the laws of physiology AND with the individual’s unique expression of compensation and disease processes.
The challenge here is consistency in what to expect in terms of treatment approaches utilized by naturopathic doctors. Here’s how the Village Naturopaths, approach the VIS:
VILLAGE NATUROPATHS: A UNIQUE APPROACH TO NATUROPATHY
As Naturopathic Doctors, as well as a compassionate practitioners, we are always striving to expand our ability and skills to better facilitate the expression of the VIS; to allow for what it organically does, which is to heal. In addition to our training as a licensed NDs and our skills in the naturopathic treatment modalities, we also practice Somatic Experiencing (SE) and Deep Nature Connection.
This technique was developed by Peter Levine. It involves working specifically with the biochemistry of the “master system”, the nervous system, with the aim of promoting a proper biological stress response. A well-regulated stress response then influences all other physiological systems.
SE works with the language of the nervous system; bodily SENSATION. Through the mindful experience of somatic (body) sensation, a person can release or discharge dis-regulated compensations that have been imprinted on the nervous system by past trauma.
Trauma is defined as an overwhelming event, or series of events/stressors that has resulted in a dysregulated stress response. The nervous system becomes entrenched in the fight, flight or freeze mode, with very little capacity to engage the relaxation response.
As the SE facilitators, we support people through counselling. SE does not attempt to re-visit past trauma. SE is aimed at allowing the body to complete the fight, flight, or freeze response that it was not able to complete at the time of the trauma, or overwhelming event (even if that event took place many years ago). This completion allows for a restoration of the relaxation response pathways, opening the door to the expression of the VIS.
DEEP NATURE CONNECTION AS NATURE-CURE.
In short, connecting with nature in a conscious and intended way can facilitate a re-connection to our most vital and potent ecological, psychological and biological Selves.
The forefathers of naturopathy, such as Sebastien Kneipp, worked directly with nature-cure, using emersion in the natural environment (i.e. hydrotherapy, dew walking and forest bathing) as ways of re-establishing proper physiological function in their patients. Today, science is illuminating the profound healing potential associated with time spent in nature. For a wonderful review of this research see the Nature & Forest therapy Guide website (http://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/the-science.html).
As Village NDs we understand that many of our disease processes are related to stress, and that stress is often related to disconnection from natural rhythms in our lives. Deep Nature Connection and SE practices help to re-establish direct, sensory based connection to our nervous systems and to nature. This in turn can facilitate a re-connection to a person’s most vital and potent ecological, psychological and biological Self.
Naturopathy, Somatic Experiencing and Deep Nature Connection are all ways of facilitating the unimpeded flow of natural law through our physiological and psychological selves. They all tap into your vitality, your flow, your Self. The body’s drive toward homeostasis is a pure reflection of nature’s drive toward balance and equilibrium (as seen in a healthy functioning ecosystem, for example) that promotes healing; not the prescription, not the doctor, but you. Healing is in your nature.
We invite you to get in touch with your own body’s ability to heal ,to restore inner balance and enhance your ability to cope with stress.
- (Mozaffarian D, Clarke R. Quantitative effects on cardiovascular risk factors and coronary heart disease risk of replacing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils with other fats and oils.Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;63 Suppl 2:S22-33. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602976.)