Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
‘Nature cures, not the physician’ – Hippocrates
Nature cure refers to the methods of ‘self-healing’. The methods include fasting, dieting, rest, hydrotherapy etc. It is one among the many branches of alternative medicine.
Nature cure adopts natural measures are used in curing the disease. It is a way of life in which the man lives in harmony with the nature. Ayurveda has explained this beautiful concept of ‘homologation of man and nature’ in terms of ‘Prakriti-Purusha Samya’. This system believes that Mother Nature will cure all the diseases and disturbances occurring in us.
Nature cure is also a constructive method of treatment. It aims at removing the basic cause of the disease through the rational use of elements freely available in the nature. Thus, the Nature Cure uses mud, water, air etc for treatment.
Naturopathy is a term of recent origin. But the philosophical basis and methods of treatment and healing used in Natural Cure are much ancient.
Brief history of Nature Cure
Nature Cure was practiced in Egypt, Greece and Rome. Hippocrates who is called as ‘father of medicine’ had strongly advocated the practice of ‘nature cure’ and nature healing (460 B.C. – 357 B.C.)
From whatever evidences are available, it is clear that India was and is the brand ambassador of natural healing system, be it through Ayurveda or by means of evidences of nature cure (though the term prakriti chikitsa or nisarga upachara had not been mentioned in the related treatises). Healing through natural processes, methods and using of materials available in the nature, including the elements of nature and use of them in curing the diseases was never a new concept of Ayurveda. In fact India was always way ahead of the rest of the world in explaining and practicing this system of healing. In the ancient sacred books and treatises of India, we can find many references about the nature’s healing agents in the form of air, earth, water, fire or sun being used extensively in the healing process, right from the time of Indus Valley Civilization.
The modern methods of nature cure and its concept has its origin in Germany / Austria in 1822. Vincent Priessnitz established the first hydropathic establishment in Germany. He observed and started treating people naturally in his own method. He is the founder of Hydrotherapy and also responsible for the inception of the concept of ‘Nature Cure’. With great success of this water cure, the idea of drugless healing spread virally throughout the world. His enthusiastic followers and students (medical practitioners from America and other countries) subsequently developed various methods of natural healing on their own. All these methods were later included under one umbrella i.e. Naturopathy.
The other contributors
- Johannes Schrooth (Czechoslavakia) – adopted methods of hot and cold baths
- Lui Kuhne (Germany) – is known as father of hydrotherapy, spinal bath, sitz bath and hipbath. He was cured by malignant cancer by nature cure.
- Henrie Lehman (Germany) – started his own naturopathy line of treatment
- Adolf Lust – brought an idea of naturalism. He wrote a book named ‘Return to Nature’
- Henry Lindlahr (USA) – wrote many books on nature cure. He founded Iridagnosis i.e. diagnosis on the basis of nature of iris of the eye
- Sabeistein Priest – gave importance to nature cure
- Hippocratus – had said ‘Let the food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’. He believed in healing power from within i.e. ‘Vismedicatrix Naturae’.
- Mahatma Gandhiji and Lakshman Sharma (India) – believed in nature cure
Philosophy and thoughts
Philosophy and thoughts of Nature Cure
Following the ‘laws of nature’ and being healthy
Nature cure is based on the realization that ‘the man is born healthy and strong, he can stay healthy and strong as long as he lives in accordance with the laws of nature’. One can get the benefit of adorning a healthy mind in healthy body when the person is exposed to the below mentioned components
- Proper diet
- Good exercise
- Fresh air
- Constructive and positive thinking
- Right mental attitude
These entities will also help in natural healing when practiced religiously.
If a person is not born healthy, in fact he has some inherited diseases; he can eliminate them by using the natural agents of healing to the best of capability of one’s knowledge.
Health as per nature cure
Health (Normal or Natural) according to Nature Cure –
Normal or natural is a substance which is in harmony with the life of an individual.
Health – According to Lindlahr, Health is defined as ‘Normal and harmonious vibration of elements and forces comprising of human entity on the physical, mental, moral planes being in conformity with its constructive principles in nature applied to individual life’
Physically – joint movements, coordination of brain and its parts, proportionality of height and weight, firmness of flesh, normal bowel and bladder, proper texture of skin etc
Mentally – state of balance between self and external world, response to various requirements of life
Socially – relation between individual and society
Spiritually – unwritten laws
Emotionally – can withstand extremes of hardships of life
Factors responsible for health – Lifestyle, Environment and Genetic makeup.
Read related: Ayurvedic Definition of health – WHO vs Ayurveda
Diseases as per nature cure
Disease according to Nature Cure –
Definition of disease by Henry Lindlahr – ‘An abnormal or inharmonious vibration of elements and forces comprising the human entity on one or more planes of being, in conformity with the destructive principles in nature applied to individual life is called disease’.
According to Nature Cure, the disease is an abnormal condition of the body resulting from the violation of the natural laws. Each such violation of nature laws has ill-effects on the human system in the form of –
- Lowered vitality
- Irregularities of the blood and lymph
- Accumulation of waste materials in the body
- Accumulation of toxins in the body
Acute Disease – It is the result of nature’s effort to eliminate the waste materials, foreign matter, and poisons from the organism to repair the injured living tissue. Every acute disease is the result of cleansing and healing effect of nature.
Chronic Disease – It is the condition of the organism in which vital vibrations are lowered due to accumulation of waste material and poison. This leads to destruction of vital parts and organs. Chronic disease is an advanced condition. In these diseases, the nature’s constructive and healing process will no longer be able to act against the diseases. Chronic disease is also a condition of organisms in which the morbid matter is accumulated so much, that the part of constructive forces of nature cannot counter-act the morbidity.
A faulty, unplanned and unwholesome food will not only damage the digestive system but also becomes responsible for indigestion and accumulation of toxins in the body. These accumulated toxins they damage other vital organs like kidneys, skin, lungs, liver etc since these organs are overloaded with toxins and cannot get rid of these harmful substances as quickly as they are produced.
Blended with these accumulated toxins, the mental and emotional disturbances cause imbalances of the vital electric field within which the metabolism of the cells take place and produce more toxins. When the soil of this electric field is put into disturbance, disease causing germs and micro-organisms can multiply and produce toxins. On the other hand the vice versa is also true. When this field is undisturbed, the same germs do not multiply or producing toxins in spite of living in that environment. The germs also multiply when the blood is polluted with toxic wastes and cause harmful diseases and damage the system.
Philosophy and Basic Principles of Nature Cure
The philosophy of nature cure is based on sciences dealing with newly discovered and rediscovered natural laws and principles, with their application to phenomenon of life and death, health, disease and cure.
Nature cure is the system of building in harmony in man, with the constructive principles in nature on the physical, mental and moral planes of living beings. It is both the way of life and concept of healing, employing various natural means for preventing and treating the diseases.
Constructive principles of Nature Cure – It is the principle which builds up, improves and repairs, and enhance vital powers and which is opposite to the destructive principles in nature whose activity in nature, is designated as evolutionary.
Destructive principles of Nature Cure – It is that principle which disintegrates and destroys the existing forms and types and whose activity in nature is designated as devolutionary.
The philosophy and practice of nature cure is built on the three important basic principles.
All forms of disease are due to the same cause, namely, the accumulations of waste materials and the failure of the body to eliminate these waste materials. These wastes and toxins are constantly removed from the system by the excretory system in healthy people. In diseased people, the wastes cannot be eliminated due to excessive burden on these organs and imbalance between excessive production and deficit elimination. As a result, the wastes steadily pile up in the body through years of practice of faulty habits of living such as wrong foods, improper care of the body and habits contributing to enervation and nervous exhaustion, such as worry, overwork and excesses of all kinds. According to this principle, the only way to cure the diseases is to employ methods which will enable the system to throw off these toxic accumulations. All the natural treatments are directed to accomplish this result.
Human beings are governed by the existence of a life force called vital force. All diseases occur due to accumulation of morbid matter or toxins in the body. These lower the vital force.
Diseases are self initiated purifying attempts of nature.
All acute diseases such as fevers, colds, inflammations, digestive disturbances and skin eruptions are defensive mechanisms. They are self-initiated efforts of the body to throw off the accumulated waste materials and toxins so as to protect self.
All chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disorders, asthma, rheumatism, heart disorders etc are caused due to continued suppression of the acute diseases through harmful methods which include consumption of drugs, vaccines, narcotics and gland extracts.
The human body contains in it an elaborate and comprehensive healing mechanism. It has the power to bring about a return to normal condition of health (reversal of illness into health). This is possible when the body’s healing mechanism is assisted by employing right methods for it to do so. To put it in simple words, ‘the power to cure diseases lies within the body itself and not in the doctor’s hands’.
The above mentioned are the main principles on the basis of which Nature Cure operates.
Other principles of nature cure
- Body and mind should be treated as a whole, as a single entity.
- Cure of diseases cannot be obtained without cleansing the body, without eliminating the stored waste materials and toxins from the system.
- Food does not enhance vitality. It builds the body.
- Germs are the secondary causes of diseases.
- Exercise and physical activity keeps the body in balance.
- External treatments give only relief.
- Patient’s determination and faith in treatment and also in doctor is necessary for curing diseases.
Summary – While the modern system tries to approach towards the disease once it is set in, Nature Cure system lays greater emphasis on preventive method and adopts measures to attain and maintain health and prevent diseases, by using natural methods and not drugs which are considered harmful.
The modern medical system treats each disease as a separate entity. This requires the administration of specific drugs for its cure. On the other hand, the nature cure system treats the organism as a whole and seeks to restore harmony and balance to the whole of the patient’s being.
Factors providing Vital Force in the body (which take part in natural healing)
- Sleep – provides relaxation to body and mind, helps to conserve energy and replenishes the vital force needed for natural healing
- Sunlight – enhances vital force, gives energy, helps in vitamin D synthesis and also has antimicrobial and antibacterial property
- Air – gives life by supplying oxygen, pressure and breathing gives vital energy
- Water – fresh water is the most essential basic need for life processes to keep going and will replenish the vital force in the body.
- Food – positive foods when consumed preserves vital force
- Mental makeup – anger, frustration, hatred, desire, greed, jealousy etc. will bring about disturbance of the mind. This in turn leads to manifestation of many diseases of psychological and psychosomatic type. Mental peace and avoidance of all the above mentioned entities like anger etc enhances the vital force in the body and thus the natural healing system of the body is restored.
- Way of Life – busy life, smoking and alcohol consumption adversely affect vital force and health. They should be avoided at all costs.
Methods of Nature Cure
The nature cure aims at the readjustment process of the human body. In this, methods to bring back the human system from abnormal to the normal conditions and functions are implemented. For this, the methods of cure which are in conformity with the constructive principles of nature are adopted. These methods help in removal of the accumulated wastes and toxic matter from the system without injuring the vital organs of the body in the process. They also stimulate the organs of elimination and purification to better functioning.
Regulation of diet – is the first and foremost requirement to cure any disease. Acid forming foods including proteins, starches, and fats should be excluded for a week or more so as to get rid of accumulated toxins and restore equilibrium in the system. At the same time, one should confine himself to the diet rich in fresh fruits. The fruits will disinfect the stomach and digestive system.
Fasting – One should fast for a complete day or for more days to eliminate the stored toxins when the body is overloaded with wastes and toxins as happens in acute diseases. One can anyhow take fruit juices during fasting.
Only fruits in sickness – When one is sick he should only take light diet including fruits. No food should be taken until normal appetite is restored, which in turn reflects the recovery from disease. Loss of appetite is nature’s warning that no burden should be placed on the digestive organs. Alkaline foods such as raw vegetables and sprouted whole grain cereals can be added to the protocol after a week of fruits-only diet.
Using water – Using water is an important factor and strategy to stimulate the vitality of the body and cure the diseases by natural methods. Water can be used in various ways and at varying temperatures in the form of packs or baths. Application of cold water through cold water sitz bath to the abdomen (seat of most diseases) and to the sexual organs, immediately lowers the body heat and also stimulates the nervous system. When administered in the form of wet packs, hydrotherapy offers a simple natural method of abating fevers and reducing pain and inflammation without any harmful side-effects. Warm water applications are relaxing.
Read related: Benefits And Usage of Water As per Ayurveda: Complete Compilation
Air and Sunbaths – Air and Sunbaths revive dead skin and help in maintaining it in a normal condition. Sunbaths improve vitamin D levels. Thus they help in curing the diseases in a natural form.
Exercise – Physical exercises and Yogic Asanas come in handy in natural healing of the body. They promote inner health and harmony. They help in eliminating all the physical, mental and emotional tensions.
Massage – Massage tones up the nervous system. It makes blood circulation good. It enhances the metabolic process.
Read related: Abhyanga – Ayurvedic Massage: How To Do? Benefits, Oil Choices
All the above said practices drinking pure water, maintaining cleanliness, adequate rest and right mental attitude can ensure proper health and prevent diseases.
Concept of Prakriti Chikitsa and Ayurvedic principles resembling Nature Cure
Prakriti = Nature
Chikitsa = Treatment, Cure
As the name indicates Prakriti Chikitsa means cure by natural measures.
Prakriti Chikitsa is also called Nisargopachara. Nisarga = Nature, Upachara = Remedies, Cure.
Principle behind Prakriti Chikitsa or Nature Cure
According to Ayurveda each one of us is made up of five basic elements of nature i.e. Pancha Mahabhutas. They are –
- Prithvi – Earth, Mud
- Ap or Jala – Water
- Teja or Agni – Fire
- Vayu – Air, breeze, wind
- Akasha – Ether, Sky, Space
All the components of our body, tissues and organs are formed by these five elements of nature, with predominance of one or the other elements in different components (structures). When these elements undergo increase or decrease, the tissues and components of the body made up of these elements also will undergo increase or decrease respectively.
Both increase and decrease (vriddhi or kshaya) of the tissues of the body (and other components also) are damaging to the body and also health.
Prakriti Chikitsa or Nature Cure aims at increasing and decreasing of the decreased and increased bhutas or elements in the body by compensating them with the foods and medicines comprising of the required elements.
In Brief – Our body components are made up of pancha mahabhutas or 5 basic elements of nature. The food materials (and all sources of food) and medicines are also made up of the same elements of nature. When there is imbalance of elements in the body, the tissues and structures made up of these elements also will get imbalanced. Though the body components are made up of 5 elements, there will be predominance of 1 or 2 maha bhutas in each tissue and component. When a particular tissue undergoes decrease due to the decrease of the predominant element making it, the food materials and medicines having the predominance of the same element (which has undergone decrease) should be administered so as to compensate the decreased elements. When the decreased elements are compensated through food and or medicines, the tissues (and other structures of the body) which had undergone decrease (due to the decrease of the elements making them) will also be compensated and regain their quality and quantity. Thus, the health of the structures of the body and hence the health are reestablished and restored.
Thus, in Prakriti Chikitsa or Nature Cure, health is re-established or restored by administering foods and medicines comprising of the elements of nature which compensate the corresponding elements which have undergone decrease in the body and reestablish health. Similarly when some element has undergone abnormal increase in the body, food and medicines having the elements having opposite qualities of those elements which have undergone increase shall be administered. Such foods and medicines will destroy the excess tissues and components of the body (which have accumulated) by depleting them owing to their opposite nature.
Therefore Nature Cure uses the five elements of nature as tools for treatment and also to balance the imbalances of natural elements happening in our physical body.
Panchamahabhuta Siddhanta (basic elements theory) and Nature Cure
As already discussed, our body is made up of Pancha Mahabhutas or 5 basic elements of nature. The diseases are caused by faulty habits of person and accumulation of toxins in the body. So, these should be eliminated from the body by adopting natural substances.
For the imbalances occurring in the elements of our body, we need to compensate and restore the elements by using the same elements available around us, in our foods and medicines.
Alternatively, the basic elements of the nature themselves can be used as a nature cure. They are as below mentioned –
- Mrut Chikitsa – Mud Therapy – balances earth element
- Jala Chikitsa – Hydro-Therapy – balances water element
- Surya Chikitsa – Helio Therapy or Sun Therapy – Balances Agni – Fire element
- Vayu Chikitsa – Air Bath and Pranayama – balances the air element
- Upavasa Chikitsa – Fasting therapy – balances Akasha – ether element.