Herbal Medicine and the Mind-Body versus Body-Mind Debate

Friday, February 08, 2008 by: Kal Sellers
Tags: mind-body medicine, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) What affects the body more - our beliefs and thoughts or the foods and drinks we consume? Without even acknowledging the debate, many people have nevertheless been stressed by it, trying to decide how to approach their own health and healing.

At one extreme, there is a belief that it really does not matter what we eat or drink, only what we think and believe. This is mind-body medicine in the extreme. It has lots of evidence supporting it. Dr. Deepak Chopra, for example, writes abundantly on this subject, pointing out how thoughts and intentions can change physiology at the subatomic level. That this is possible certainly calls into question the value of diet at all, especially specific diets that attempt to control so many physiological processes.

It also calls into question the value of nutrition and herbal medicine since the real healing seems to happen fastest at the level of thought.

On this note, there is a personal experience I shall share. My wife had purchased some pH level testing tape and was testing her saliva to determine where she was. She follows a good diet and for the most part, she was quite alkaline and really just kept it around for curiosity's sake.

One day she approached me and handed me a piece of the tape and said, "Let me see what your pH is."

I put the tape in my mouth and in a few seconds had the results of this test of my saliva (which, presumably, also indicates my blood pH). I was about neutral at that moment.

I asked her to come back and test me again in 45 seconds. During that time I did some positive self-talk, which included primarily my sincere expression of gratitude for my Higher Power, the Earth, plants, animals and humans that had contributed to my life experience.

When she came back, she tested my saliva with the pH paper again and found that my saliva had moved four shades more alkaline on the pH testing chart, in 45 seconds!

Clearly, there is an immense amount of power in the mind and emotions to change the physiology spontaneously. This makes a pretty good argument for the mind-body position in healing and health.

The other side of the coin is body-mind healing. To open this discussion, I shall paraphrase a Dr. John R. Christopher story.

It seems that a woman (a registered nurse, in fact) came into his office one day and stormed up to his desk, slapped her hand loudly on his desk and demanded, "What can you do for me?" As the story goes (and it must have been something to see and hear), Dr. Christopher responded to her, "Madame, when was your last bowel movement?" She replied that it had been [as I recall it] 10 days ago. Without another word, he went and got some of his bowel formula. He gave it to her and said, "When you are having 3-5 easy bowel movements per day, come back to see me." He said that when she came back, she was the most pleasant woman you ever saw.

The moral, if not painfully obvious, is that constipated and liver congested people cannot have healthy thoughts. This happens physically, chemically and energetically. They literally are disposed to be stuck in their issues, unable to let go of them so they may live life and love others, until they break loose their blockages.

Dr. David Pesek, my iridology instructor, used the example of a picture of the produce section and then the meat and milk section of the grocery store. He had us just feel what the energy was like, without passing any judgment. Then he observed that it is very difficult to raise your level of consciousness while eating only the dead/processed animal foods.

David Wolfe, who is a household name among raw foodists, pushes this idea to the extreme opposite of Dr. Chopra. In his co-authored work Nature's First Law, we read, "Disease is not psychosomatic in origin... the trouble always begins in the colon with an impaction..." (9)

Certainly, for people choosing botanical medicine, there is a strong pull toward the latter opinion. The power of cleansing for helping people to let go of toxic old patterns is very real and the power of raw food to pull someone into the joy of the present (instead of the worries, wants and fears of the past and future) is truly transformational. On the other hand, we can hardly ignore the relationship of the mind to the body, both in causing disease and in curing it.

Real healing, as observed by another teacher of mine, Dr. Richard Schulze, includes enlightenment. You have to learn something from the process. Anything else is just pushing away symptoms.

So the third option, which adheres to the old (and often wrong) adage that "the truth is in the middle" indicates that we are really looking at two sides of one coin.

When I use botanical medicines, I use four steps for establishing a healing pattern. These four steps are half mind-body, the other half body-mind. I use both because it seems that there is a relationship between mind and body that is something like a swinging door. Things freely go both directions. The body says as much to the mind as the mind says to the body.

We find a biblical reference that supports this relationship, as a matter of fact. Ironically, this probably has narrower appeal than the sources just cited.

In Romans, chapter 14, Paul gives some timeless counsel on this matter:

"For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs"

In other words, herbs, or whole plants, are used by the person who is weak, who needs some help.


"For meat destroy not the work of God. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak."

In other words, the best thing is to eat raw plant food which can be eaten without destroying the work of God. Also, be respectful to the feelings of others when you choose what you should eat so that you do not offend a weak person who is easily offended or hurt.

And Finally:

"All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence."

In other words, nothing really hurts the person of faith (which is a good, steady, mind-body word about how powerfully our thoughts and beliefs can change our physiology), but if you have offence (and we could add fear, worry, doubt, anger, pain, etc.) in your heart, your food will become disease in you.

If you are weak in this way, according to Paul (and according to me and David Wolfe and Dr. Christopher), you should probably eat only live plant foods and use whole plant medicines.

Part of the reason that I am so avidly supportive of only using whole (largely raw) plant medicines for my medicine is that I have found them to be more effective and safer than their drug and refined vitamin counterparts. The other part, however, is that I have seen in myself, my family and in many clients and colleagues the power of that vital energy and symbiotic symbolism on our minds and hearts over the long-run.

The person who uses whole, live plant medicines and foods not only gets to work on the symptom at hand, but also gets to work on the long-term level of consciousness, which has a powerful and intricate hold on health and longevity.

By the same token, I do not work with anyone these days without talking to them about the need to work on their belief systems and thinking patterns.

In a previous article, I discuss the four steps that I do use to create any healing or health program. To read more about this, search for "New Universal Health and Healing Template: 4 Steps Anyone Can Use" on NaturalNews.

About the author

Kal Sellers, MH currently operates and teaches a 2-year curriculum for Natural Medicine, via live teleclasses.
Kal is a Master Herbalist and holds several other certificates and licenses for hands-on healing modalities. He maintains a current practice in the Atlanta area.
Kal and Traci have six children, the last four of which were delivered at home. They live now in Powder Springs, GA where they teach live classes on food and medicine. Kal is also a full time Chiropractic student.

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