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In our day more and more people resort to alternative or, so-called, natural medicine. Many people often have to admit that conventional medicine does not “always” work (Buchhaus 24). Natural medicine has gained its popularity due to the assumption that people have failed to create the necessary cure, but nature has the necessary healing capacity.
There are different definitions of “natural” medicine, but the main concept is that natural cure is not contaminated by people’s activity. Nevertheless, it is difficult to define nowadays “natural” medicine as truly natural since human activity has intervened in almost all natural processes.
The goal of natural medicine
Admittedly, the popularity of natural medicine has increased. Numerous books and articles on natural medicine have appeared recently. Scientists, scholars, doctors and journalists reveal advantages and possible downsides of this newly discovered ancient type of medicine. Buchhaus, considering existing literature on natural medicine, suggests a general, accepted concept of natural medicine stating that it is based on the assumption that every individual has “an innate healing capacity” (23).
The goal of natural medicine is “to restore” this capacity “through the use of a variety of natural treatments, ranging from massage to the use of herbs and water” (Buchhaus 23). Therefore, natural medicine presupposes treatment with natural materials like herbs, water, air.
Leon Kass provides a more specific definition to “natural” in his book: natural is “true to life as found and lived” (qtd. in Guinan 121). Thus, natural medicine exploits natural materials for healing: herbs, for instance. Natural materials are opposed to human-made materials, drugs and chemicals. In fact, Kass’s definition is more appropriate for the modern natural medicine.
It is important to state that Kass cautiously claims that it is necessary to move toward “a more natural science” (Guinan 121). It is quite difficult to establish natural medicine at once, but it is possible to gradually move towards it. Admittedly, “the mastery of man over nature” which was promulgated by people since the time of Enlightenment has left a deep trace on medicine and nature itself.
The level of contamination
It goes without saying that people have contaminated the planet greatly for the past two hundred years. Air, water and soil are contaminated, so herbs which are used in the contemporary natural medicine are not that natural anymore.
For instance, test implemented by Congressional investigation reported that “nearly all” herbal dietary supplements tested “contained trace amounts” of heavy metals and other contaminants (Harris). Therefore, the concept of “natural” should apparently be reconsidered by many people. Of course, the level of contamination was not dangerous for people’s health, but those “natural” supplements cannot be regarded as truly natural.
Unfortunately, truly natural materials are not common for the majority of developed countries since “the mastery of people over nature” in these countries was significant. Examples of absolutely natural medical supplements are usually found in wrecked ancient ships. For instance, recently scientists managed to reveal many secrets of ancient medicine when tested tablets which were found on a Roman ship which wrecked about 2000 years ago (Higgins). Of course, the tablets contained only herbs. There could be no chemicals or contaminants.
Popular “natural” health products
Many people may argue that it is possible to use the experience of ancient Romans and Greeks to create effective natural health products. More so, ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Chinese and Indian scripts can be also helpful. Besides, in such countries as China, India or African countries natural medicine still prevails.
Therefore, it is possible to use this experience in developed countries like the USA, Canada and European countries. In fact, there are even more easy ways which are extensively being used now: health products are imported. Many people think that since these products contain (according to labels) only herbs without any man-made chemicals, so they can be regarded as natural since they are “true to life as found and lived” as defined by Kass.
However, this cannot be regarded as a natural medicine at all since the quality of these health products is often of low quality. Thus, popular “natural” health products contain dangerous chemicals and can cause health problems instead of healing (Harris). It is impossible to call a product natural only because it is said that it contains herbs. It is essential to check these products and only when it is reported that there are no contaminants (or at least the content is insignificant) these products can be regarded as natural.
On balance, it is possible to state that the major concept of natural medicine is that the cure should not contain man-made products, but herbs and other natural materials should be used.
However, this concept should be reconsidered, or rather specified. Natural health products should contain natural materials and do not contain contaminants. Only such definition of “natural” can be regarded as complete and precise. More so, it is essential to take into account this definition only since health products based on natural materials contaminated by chemicals are not truly natural and often cause health problems. People should know whether “natural” health products they consume are truly natural.
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Buchhaus, Erich. “Alternative Medicine Explored.” Librarian 50.3 (2006): 23-25.
Guinan, Patrick. “Toward a More Natural Medicine.” Journal of Religion and Health 41.2 (2002): 121-126.
Harris, Gardiner. “Herbal Supplements Commonly Have Traces of Contaminants, a U.S. Study Finds.” New York Times 2010. Web.
Higgins, Adrian. “Ship Wreck Reveals Ancient Secrets of Medicine.” Washington Post 2011. Web.