Hippocrates v Hypocrite  



The entire history of medicine is a story of continuous trial and error – an awful lot of the latter

Let’s get down to first principles.

What are we doing when we medicate?

Two things –

1 we are trying to save lives

2 we are trying to improve quality of life by removing unpleasant symptoms

Symptoms are the body’s way of signifying that something is wrong. Diagnosis of symptoms depends upon an understanding of the way in which the body works and what gives rise to the symptoms in the first place.

Medicine can only be predicated upon what is known and what can be seen. For the first few millennia without the assistance of microscopy what could be seen was literally that – what could be seen with the naked eye. The invention of microscopy inevitably changed all that – not necessarily for the better. Until that time arrived physicians were constricted by what they could see and what they knew of the body’s functioning.




Jeremy Narby has described in his book The Cosmic Serpent how to this day the Navaho Indians imbibe psychedelics in order to be able to commune with the spirits of plants, because they know that in Nature there is to be discovered a remedy for every ill.

This almost certainly was the origin of all medicine, the origin of the notion that it is possible to heal through discovering an herb or any other plant that contains healing properties.

The problem we have in our much vaunted civilisation is we don’t have access to more than a fraction of what Nature has to offer. We only have access to that that has been monetized – either though drugs or supplements.

This is the main difference between the medicine of today and the medicine of the Stone Age. A BBC article comments condescendingly ‘The early physicians stumbled upon herbal substances of real power, without understanding the manner of their working.’ And we do?

This is the million dollar question – do we truly understand the ‘manner of their working’ – or do we just think we do...??

The same article gives the following examples of herbs that have been incorporated into contemporary medical practice.


Snakeroot plant is used in orthodox medical practice to reduce blood pressure.

Doctors in ancient India gave an extract of foxglove to patients with legs swollen by dropsy, an excess of fluid resulting from a weak heart;

Digitalis, a constituent of foxglove, is now a standard stimulant for the heart.

Curare, smeared on the tip of arrows in the Amazonian jungle to paralyze the prey, is an important muscle relaxant in modern surgery.’

See http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=aa52

Gradually over the centuries knowledge of the healing properties of plants accumulated so that by the 6th century BC we find a physician working in India in about the 6th century BC, Susruta listing literally hundreds of herbal remedies.

And these remedies have continued to be recognised as efficacious in treating the whole spectrum of human disease conditions to the extent that there has been mounting concern in the pharmaceutical industry at the continuing widespread use of herbal remedies in preference to pharmaceutical drugs:

See http://www.japsonline.com/admin/php/uploads/121_pdf.pdf

Big Pharma will never lose an opportunity to warn against the dangers of self medicating with natural products – which is laughable when you consider the well documented lethality of many prescription medications.

In any case this should not lead us to imagine plants and herbs in ancient times were reckoned to be the main means of healing sick individuals.

So called primitive peoples were far more advanced than we are today in one respect – they realised that all illness has a spiritual or mental component as well as a physical component. They thus acknowledged something that we have lost, namely that herbs and plants could only address the surface of the problem – the symptoms. In order to truly heal a patient it was necessary to be rid of the cause of the ailment. And for primitive peoples this was often caused by evil spirits and would require an exorcism.

We may scoff at this, but the science of epigenetics has proved conclusively that sickness is always related to environmental issues, which includes primarily the state of mind and the emotional condition of the patient.

Thus it is not enough to address the symptoms. It is essential to get to the root of the problem that caused the diseased condition in the first place.

Of course we now know that environmental issues can include many physical challenges, principally pollution, whether of the water, the food supply, the air or the soil. Anything toxic is a threat to organic homeostasis. But the psychological factor remains a critical factor.

Read Viktor Frankl’s In Search of Meaning to see what I mean.

All the prisoners of the Nazi death camps were confronted by the same horrendous circumstances. All were malnourished. All were diseased to some extent. Those that survived were those that held on to a sense of meaning in their lives in spite of all the horror surrounding then.

See https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mans-Search-Meaning-classic-Holocaust/dp/1846041244

Thus the shaman’s exorcism should not be discounted. The mind of man sabotages his health far more than physical stresses.

Incantation, spells and self-induced trances (often assisted by herbal drugs) form the standard practice of the medicine man or shaman.

And it could be said nothing much has changed except the intention behind the incantation, spells and trances. Whereas it used to be to rid the patient of evil spirits now it is to brainwash the patient into believing he or she needs whatever pharmaceuticals doctor thinks best.......


How about we stop devolving responsibility for our health onto pharmaceutical companies and their myriad minions and start researching for ourselves what constitutes Health and how best to go about attaining it....


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