PRO with the Central Railways, India.
He adds: "It is the oldest mode of treatment. When an animal injures itself, it will hasten to dip the injured part in water." S. Swaminathan, a Delhi-based minimalist naturopath, describes the systems thus: "Nature cure is synonymous with nature care and is essentially concerned with the care of the mind, body and spirit. Nature cure is a harmonized amalgamation of the basic sciences like physiology, applied psychology, nutrition, sanitation and immunity."
He continues, "There is an ingrained power of healing within the body that has to be activated by following certain simple doctrines. Not only does it improve the condition of a diseased person but it also enhances the immunity of a healthy person. Nature cure is nature's prerogative and cannot be imposed. Those who live in tune with the laws of life keep their body and mind clean and maintain health. Human health, as everything else in the world, is governed by the laws of nature. One of them is cause and effect. Happiness and hygienic living are the cause and health is the effect."
Naturopathy, according to Dr.Bakhru, was popular in ancient India but died out subsequently. "Mahatma Gandhi tried to revive it but did not succeed fully," he adds.
Import from Germany and USA
Modern-day naturopathy can be traced to the concepts of Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), Louis Kuhne (1844-1907), Adolf Just (1838-1936), and Henry Lindlahr (1853-1925). Louis Kuhne expounded the 'unity of disease and unity of cure' theory.
Father Kneipp, a German priest, opened a 'water cure' centre after becoming convinced that he and a fellow student had cured themselves of TB by bathing in the Danube river. Lust was treated by Kneipp. In 1895, Lust went to the USA to promote the system there. Lindlahr further systematized naturopathy and opened a sanitarium and school in a Chicago suburb.
Incidentally, John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1944), whose name is now synonymous with Kellogg's cornflakes, was an American naturopath who wrote books on hydrotherapy and massage . Adolf Just also wrote many books to popularize the system, one of them being Return to Nature, which attracted Mahatma Gandhi to the system.
Gandhi not only wrote several articles advocating naturopathy in his magazine, Harijan, but also did several experiments on himself, on his family members and on the inmates of his ashram. He included it in his constructive programmes and wanted India to use it for the treatment of the poor as it is cheap and cures the disease without any side effects.
To set an example, he established a nature cure ashram at Urlikanchan, a village near Pune, in India. Former Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai also practised naturopathy from the age of 14 till 100 but became better known for professing auto-urine therapy.
In India, translation of books by Louis Kunhe and Adolf Just sparked off interest in the system. Many individuals were inspired by Gandhi to adopt and promote naturopathy. Pioneering naturopaths include Dr Mahavir Prasad Poddar, Dr Vithal Das Modi, Dr J.M. Jussawala, Dr B. Venkat Rao, K. Lakshmana Sarma and Dr R. Krishnaswamy Gounder.
Today, there are around 2,000 practitioners all over India and according to Dr B.T. Chidananda Murthy, director of National Institute of Naturopathy, Pune, around 10 major hospitals, 30 medium ones, 50 small ones and 50 clinics are in existence.
The best known ones in India are the Nisargopchar Ashram at Urlikanchan, Jindal's health farm near Bangalore, Arogya Mandir at Gorakhpur. There are four-degree colleges in the country conducting Bachelor of Naturopathy degree courses of five and a half years duration.
What it entails
Naturopathy is dead against the use of drugs of any kind unlike allopathy where they are the mainstay. It is more receptive to ayurveda, though it baulks at prescribing medication. Homoeopathy would be considered grudgingly, if at all. However, other drugless therapies such as yoga, acupressure, magneto therapy are considered complementary.
"Water treatment and the right food such as raw food are fundamental to nature cure. All other therapies are supplementary," asserts Dr Murthy. Another unique theory of nature cure relates to what they call the vital force. All-out effort is made to enhance the vitality in the body that can then heal itself.
Says Dr R.V. Nisal, chief medical coordinator of the Urlikanchan ashram: "Modern science would call it immunity. Ayurveda calls it ojas. Vitality is perceptible. A sick person looks quite different from a healthy one." Naturopathy divides all foods into acid and alkali producing.
Since the blood's natural balance is 20 per cent acid and 80 per cent alkaline, we should consume more alkaline foods. Most food, especially processed and refined foods, are considered to be acidic. Beans, lentils, non-vegetarian foods, cereals, rice, sugar, maida (flour), tea, coffee, chocolates are all acidic. Most fruits and vegetables and a few nuts like almonds are considered to be alkaline.
Then there is the question of how much to eat. Ek bhukta yogi, dwi bhukta bhogi aur tri bhukta rogi. It means that the person who eats once is a saint, one who eats twice is an indulgent and one who eats thrice is a sick man.
· To be mindful of the wholesomeness of food.
· Chewing food properly. Drink your food and eat your water.
· Eat only when you are really hungry.
· Refrain from eating when hurried or harried.
· Not to eat or drink food that is too hot or too cold.
· Foodstuffs should be as close to their natural state as possible. For example, the same fruits when freshly plucked will have more vitality than those from a cold storage.
Treatments specific to the system
There are several treatments from which the practitioner chooses to suit the patient and his health problem. Some yogic kriyas such as neti (passing water through the nostrils) and kunjar (induced vomiting by drinking copious amounts of warm, salted water) are now part of the naturopathy routine.
Fasting: In naturopathy fasting is considered to be a weapon against many diseases. Fasting gives the system rest so that it can work towards eliminating toxins from the body. Minor problems like cold, cough and fever can be cured by fasting for a day or two.
Relaxed digestive system after a fast should not be loaded with food immediately. So begin with liquid and semi-liquid food before slowly increasing the intake and resuming normal diet. Though most practitioners suggest fasting on lemon-honey water, purists believe results are better if fasting is done on plain water.
Fasting for a few hours every day, a day in a week or a few days in a month is also a good idea. If a long fast is undertaken accompanied by naturopathy treatment to cure a certain disease, a condition called healing crisis may occur. It usually manifests as an acute disease like fever or boils. No need to panic. It is a welcome sign that the vital power has grown strong enough to throw away foreign matter.
Juice diet: Alkali-genic foods extract the toxins accumulated in the cells of the body to eliminate them. Juice diet supplies plentiful alkalis to the body. It provides sufficient enzymes and vitamins to increase the healing powers in the body. Only fresh juices should be consumed.
Wheatgrass juice therapy is mostly heard in naturopathy circles. Considered a wonder food, wheatgrass has an abundance of active chlorophyll apart from all the minerals essential for the body. The pH of wheatgrass juice is 7.4, exactly the same as that of blood.
Chlorophyll purifies blood, boosts up functions of the heart and leaves a favorable effect on blood vessels, intestines, lungs and kidneys. It is effective in anemia, and many physicians have tried it in a number of ailments including pyorrhea, skin problems, TB, heart disease and cancer.
Hydrotherapy: Hydrotherapy uses water as an element for the healing process. Enema, hipbath, steam bath, hot footbath, local wet packs, spinal bath, colon irrigation are the chief hydrotherapy methods. Discussed her are three main hydrotherapies.
Enema: Constipation hosts many diseases. To relieve chronic constipation, enema is the most effective and gentle method. It also helps to get rid of the waste accumulated in the large intestine. Regular enema during fasts is a must. It is not harmful like purgatives.
The use of glycerin or soap as in allopathy is a no-no. Usually, lukewarm water in an enema can with a one liter capacity is used. In some cases, a decoction of some leaves or herbs is added. Swaminathan, who has devised a much smaller enema tumbler (capacity 10 ounces), says enema should merely supplement and not supplant the natural activity. He also prescribes plain water and not hot water.
Hip bath: Hip bath is effective in stimulating digestive organs. It increases and maintains the efficiency of liver, stomach, intestines and kidneys. Hip bath should be taken on an empty stomach. No food should be consumed for half an hour afterwards. Hip bath is not recommended during menstrual cycle or any abdominal pains.
Steam bath: This is a widely accepted method for eliminating toxins from the body by inducing perspiration. One should begin steam bath after drinking one or two glasses of water. Wet cloth should be wrapped around the head to keep it cool during the bath.
Pregnant women, heart patients and blood pressure patients should refrain from taking steam bath. It increases metabolic rate and helps in reducing weight. Sauna, that produces dry heat, is also becoming acceptable in naturopathy institutions for the same purpose.
Mud therapy: Clay or mud acts as an excellent healing agent. It is directly applied as a pack or a salve. It can be applied either to stomach and affected area or over the whole body except the head. Mud helps in absorbing toxins, cools the affected region, reduces swelling and gives relief from the pain.
It should be examined and freed of impurities before using. It is used in conditions like constipation, diarrhea, appendicitis, stomach ache, boils, wounds, swellings, etc.
Air therapy: This therapy increases oxygen intake in the body, purifying the blood in the lungs. For this, deep breathing in a place covered with greenery is advised where the proportion of oxygen is higher than in polluted areas.
Walking in open spaces covered with greenery accompanied with deep breathing is also helpful. One should always breathe through the nose, since nose hair act as a filter in removing fine dust particles. Breathing should be deep but not forceful.
Sun bath: Sunlight is the only source of vitamin D, which helps the formation of teeth, hastens hair growth and cures skin diseases. Infrared rays emitted by the sun relax and soothe muscles whereas ultraviolet rays produce vitamin D in the body.
Deficiency of vitamin D causes rickets and disease of the bones. Sun bath should be taken with minimum clothes on the body. It is advisable to take mild sunlight, i.e., only during early morning or evening. Take a cold water bath afterwards.
Massage: Massage is another remedial measure of naturopathy. Massage has a positive effect on all organs and systems of the body. It increases blood circulation, thus increasing the capacity of the blood to carry oxygen. It also reduces muscular tension and pain.
Abdominal massage improves digestive system and elimination of waste is promoted. Skin pores open up, eliminating poisons from the body through perspiration. It also has positive impact on heart efficiency. Massage should be followed by a steam bath.
Massages are contraindicated in fevers and skin diseases. Pregnant ladies should avoid massaging the abdomen. In case of high blood pressure, massage should be reversed i.e. moving from the head to the feet. One naturopath who scoffs at this battery of treatments is Swaminathan.
He strictly follows the philosophy of his guru Acharya K. Lakshmana Sarma, which he has condensed in a book titled Speaking of Nature Cure (Sterling). Sarma's knowledge of the ancient scriptures enabled him to provide crucial links in the system of nature cure. He set up an ashram in Pudukkottai in Tamil Nadu (India), called The Indian Institute of Natural Therapeutics.
Since 1948 Swaminathan has been giving free consultations in New Delhi. He believes in recommending only those things which people can do on their own. "I am not a doctor. I can merely tell people how to lead life in a healthy manner in tune with the principles of nature and keep themselves free of diseases. I help people to regain their vitality and vigor."
Swaminathan alos says, "Naturopathy is like a walking stick to a person who cannot move independently. It can only aid you and not do the work for you." Although Indian naturopathy is influenced by western practices, for instance, the equipment used is largely devised by the technically superior West, there are significant differences.
Says Dr Nisal: "The introduction of yoga into naturopathy was done by us, not by the West. Then, they do not believe in the use of milk permitted by us since we live in a warm climate. We are particularly partial to buttermilk. Western naturopathy also does not have the body-mind-spirit concept."
Dr Omprakash Oumanshu, who runs Om Upchar Mandir in DLF, Gurgaon, India, argues that since a majority of the diseases are psychosomatic, nature cure must address the mind. He makes it a point to include meditational practices such as nihskriya dhyan and visualizations after the yoga session.
Prayer and silence, if practised during fasting, also help, he says. At Jindal's naturopathy institute, yoga nidra is part of the yoga routine. At RK Nature Cure Home in Coimbatore, a city in India, Agnihotra, prayer and meditation are practised daily.
What it can do
What are the diseases that naturopathy can cure? Says Dr Murthy: "It can cure all illnesses as long as the patients are not brought at the last moment. Even cancer can be cured if brought to us in time. Take away all causative factors, irrigate the patient through bowel, urine, sweating, etc, and make vital economy, which means shifting him to a diet that does not consume the body's energy, and he can heal."
Dr Bakhru echoes him: "Nature cure can heal all diseases." Dr Nisal, however, sounds a cautionary note: "It is effective against psoriasis, hypertension, diabetes, respiratory allergies, gynecological ailments and arthritis. However it has its limitations. One cannot stop insulin, nor can one stop the medication for hypothyroid conditions and it is not very effective against kidney problems."
Several practitioners complain that in most cases patients seek help of naturopathy after exhausting other medicine systems. The disease by then is too advanced and the vital force in the person weakened. Another observation is that most seats in naturopathy sanitariums are claimed by obese women desperately looking for weight control.
It must be pointed out, however, that naturopathy and its principles if followed diligently, can offer a permanent solution to obesity and not a quick fix as in most weight-reduction clinics in the cities.
Step motherly treatment
Popular perception of naturopathy is that it may be effective but it takes a long time to show results. Naturopaths starve you, is another comment you can hear. Basically, the system is not very popular because it calls for oodles of self-discipline and restraint.
Agrees Dr Nisal: "People want quick solutions. The idea is fixed right from one's childhood when vaccinations are recommended and chlorine water advocated. The focus is never on improving one's immunity. Amla contains 500cc of Vitamin C and millets, carrots and leafy vegetables are rich in nutrients, but instead we take multivitamin tablets."
When asked why it still was not as popular as ayurveda or homoeopathy, Dr Murthy puts the onus on naturopathy practitioners who should take an active role. "The physician must persuade the patient to give up his old habits, which is not easy for the patient to do. It is a laborious process requiring individual attention."
Dr Bakhru puts the onus on Dr Murthy. "The National Institute of Naturopathy (NIN) should do aggressive publicity to overcome lack of awareness about naturopathy."
There is consensus, however, on one point that the government is giving a step motherly treatment to naturopathy. Jaiprakash Agarwal, founder of Surya Foundation which is involved in practising and promoting the system, is planning to lead an agitation to demand an allocation of 5 per cent of the health budget to nature cure.