Health wisdom… a natural & inevitable part of human existence.


We’ve marvelled at stories of grandmothers who knew herbal remedies for all ills. We’ve been amused by stories of young mothers running to the doctor in panic when their child has wind.

The past seems to be characterized by a sort of confidence in one’s ability to handle health events, including performing basic surgery and of course childbirth. It was even a necessity in rural areas.

Why then is the present caught up in a sort of helplessness, a need to resort to a medical expert to fix and administer all aspects of our life, from conception to death?

Turmeric — the Golden Spice — has been used in folk medicine over the centuries in different parts of the world

The Impact of Modern Medicalization

Societies all around the world are losing their ancient health wisdom — a wisdom that is a natural and inevitable part of human existence — as the western medical phenomenon extends its web, or should we say sovereignty.

This scenario has been observed: As self-proclaimed specialists, experts and authorities take over any aspect of society which was formerly public domain, individual intelligence and responsibility disappear.

Ivan Illich stated that the increasing medicalization of society in the 20th century had an adverse effect on public health (Illich I, Limits to Medicine – Medical Nemesis, 1976) — Illich claimed that the apparent effectiveness of medical institutions was an illusion. To the contrary, medical intervention had taken away self-awareness, basic health wisdom and the skills of self- and mutual-care; necessary preconditions for optimum personal health.

Illich described three forms of iatrogenetic disease (iatros – physician; genesis – origin):

  • Clinical iatrogenesis: disease directly caused by treatment or medicines

    This is now the second largest cause of death in the United States, the third largest in New Zealand (according to official statistics which are often omitted in government publications).

  • Social iatrogenesis: morbidity caused by overmedicalization of society

    An increasing number of consumers of medicines are created by an increasing number of real or illusory diseases, with toxic repercussions.

  • Cultural iatrogenesis: a situation in which diseases and even natural physiological events such as birth and death, are “managed” in an institutionalised way

    This disempowers people from experiencing normal human events — such as pain, impairment and the natural death process — in a “personal and autonomous way”.

Ayurveda… a means of reawakening our innate health skills

An Alternative System of Comprehensive Medicine

While natural health knowledge and skills have been almost eradicated in the west, there exists other documented systems of comprehensive medicine, such as Ayurveda from India.

The Treatise of Charaka (dated at around 400 BCE) is the basis of ayurvedic practice.

This system, which covers every aspect of life from fertility to gerontology, is based on observation of the qualities of nature — something every human is capable of.

This makes everyone a potential expert, and potentially skilful at maintaining their health and the health of their loved ones.

Charaka, c 500 BC — Wellcome Collection (CC BY 4.0)

I see the potential of Ayurveda, not as the spread of Indian food (or exotic therapies or Sanskrit words) but as a means of reawakening our innate health skills — regardless of our culture. Ayurveda can provide us with a simple language with which to describe natural influences, our physical and mental constitutions, the qualities of our diet, and a host of events that determine our health.

If we have no language to describe art, we can only say “I like it” or “I don’t like it”. By going to an Art Appreciation course, we learn a language which empowers our ability to analyse and describe our responses to art in a more sophisticated and useful way. Similarly, the ayurvedic language of the qualities of nature gives us a powerful tool to make conscious choices to enhance health.

For example, we could say that a springtime chest congestion has heavy, cold, sticky qualities (i.e. with lots of phlegm). An ayurvedic would deal with this by bringing in the opposite qualities — something with light, heating and clearing properties, such as black pepper. Thus, black pepper is used in ayurvedic cough medicines (and virtually anyone can make this).

Black pepper — an important healing spice in ayurveda

Intuitive Common Sense

When I explain the concepts of Ayurveda in my workshops, people nod their heads. It’s something they have “known” all along, but has been somehow lost. It’s sheer intuitive common sense.

The message of Ayurveda is that, given a useful and workable language, health is simple — It is not the exclusive domain of experts. However, when we do ignore our health (and the many subtle signs indicating imbalance), complications arise. This is where a trained physician is needed to help unravel the tangled web.

Next time: Over the next issues of It’s My Life, I will further describe Ayurveda and its concepts, showing how it can be an exciting model for re-awakening your health wisdom and confidence. For me this is so exciting because, as more people become empowered and autonomous in health management, the implications for a healthy and mutually caring world society are enormous.

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GERALD LOPEZ gained a law degree in London, and has been a photographer, writer, natural health practitioner, yoga & aikido instructor, and digital media consultant. His passions are photographing the beauty of New Zealand, and explaining how the Blockchain, Decentralised Finance and Web 3.0 could offer wealth and freedom for every human.

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