A brief summary of why natural medicine is important.
Why is natural medicine important?
Natural medicine is an alternative form of treatment to conventional medical care, employing modalities such as homeopathy, herbalism and acupuncture (Cordell and Colvard, 2012). The underlying philosophical premise that natural medicine is based upon is that there is a natural healing capacity in nature and in every human being that can be harnessed through natural treatment modalities (Pizzorno and Murray 2012). Therefore, the role of a natural therapist is not to cure the ailment directly, but to empower the patient to enhance their own innate healing abilities (Pizzorno and Murray 2012). This challenges the traditional concepts of the medical model, where the power and control of the expert practitioner in determining effective pharmacological, psychological and or invasive treatments is viewed as the instrument of curing illness (Cordell and Colvard, 2012). A key criticism of natural medicines however, is that such treatments are not based on evidence based practice, but on historical traditions and so can be ineffective and/or harmful due to a lack of empirical testing (Ekor et al. 2010; World Health Organisation, 2002). This has led ethical debate calling for the regulation of the complementary health care industry as natural ‘healers’ and practitioners are largely unregulated and without ‘formal’ qualifications (Ekor et al. 2010).
The benefits of medicinal plants, however, have been corroborated through scientific testing evidencing their potency in eliciting healing, demonstrated in many pharmaceutical derived medicines (Pizzorno and Murray, 2013; Ekor et al. 2010). The importance of natural healing modalities lies in empowering patients to take control of their own health and fits well within the National Health service model of person-centred care (Nissen, 2010; Department of Health, 2013). As Pizzorno and Murray (2012) highlight, a paradigm shift has occurred in modern healthcare to integrative medicine, where natural medicine treatments are now offered alongside medical treatments.
Cordell, G.A. and Colvard, M.D., (2012). Natural products and traditional medicine: turning on a paradigm. Journal of Natural Products, 75(3), 514-525.
Department of Health (2013) NHS Constitution. London: DoH.
Ekor, M., Osonuga, O. A., Odewabi, A. O., Bakre, A. G., and Oritogun, K. S. (2010). Toxicity evaluation of Yoyo ‘cleanser’ bitters and fields Swedish bitters herbal preparations following sub-chronic administration in rats. American journal of Pharmacological Toxicology 5, 159–166.
Nissen, N. (2010). Practitioners of Western herbal medicine and their practice in the UK: beginning to sketch the profession. Complement. Therapy Clinical Practice 16, 181–186
Pizzorno Jr, J.E. and Murray, M.T., (2012). Textbook of natural medicine. Bristol: Elsevier Health Sciences.
World Health Organisation. (2002). Traditional Medicine Strategy (2002–2005). WHO/EDM/TRM/2002.1. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.