A fellow called me the other day to talk about vitiglio, asking whether I could do something about it. I began to explain that vitiglio is an auto-immune condition, and so the majority of my protocol for working with him would be similar to those for other autoimmune conditions, and that we may also add in some specific treatments to help the symptom of vitiglio.
After a while he said something like, “Well, you know, because vitiglio has no cure”…
I don’t know if I made my explanations clear or not, but it’s been really haunting me ever since the call – this concept we have of “cure”, and the idea that certain conditions “can’t be cured”.
Similarly, I get really vexed about those Walk for a Cure events – why are we so focused on “cure”? The word we should be looking for is health.
It is not my goal to cure anyone of any disease. Diseases, as we define the word currently, are simply symptoms of a state of lack-of-health. Let’s take a very basic example: I ride in a crowded elevator with a person who has a respiratory infection. He coughs. The next day, I begin to get sniffly, and by evening, I have a fever. At this point, most of us would say “I’m sick”, but the fever is not the sickness. Fever is the body’s (positive, or healthy) reaction to sickness.
In the case of autoimmune disorders, this is also true. Rheumatoid arthritis, dermatitis herpetiformis, lupus, vitiglio, eczema – these are not the sickness, they are merely symptoms of the sickness, or, in other words, they are signs to show us that our body is reacting (negatively, in this case). The actual problem is that the body is in an autoimmune state. To say that these individual disorders are “incurable” is not really wrong – as long as we are looking only at the disorders, for anything we do to try to cure the disorder itself while failing to treat the underlying autoimmune state will have little or no curative effect.
Instead, let us look at achieving health. Let’s consider rheumatoid arthritis, for example. We could try to treat the condition by making the pain in the joints go away, and there are several common tools to use in that attempt – both pharmaceutical tools and herbs. But if that is the only method we employ, eventually the tools will stop working, we will need to progress to ever stronger tools, and eventually we’ll run out of options – the client will be left in more pain than she started.
If instead, or in addition, we begin to address the autoimmune state of the whole body, the symptoms of that autoimmune state will dissipate – just as a fever goes away once the respiratory infection is cleared.
These examples can be difficult to grasp, because we have been raised in this society, and our ideas about disease were formed from childhood. So let’s consider an example that has nothing to do with the human body:
Our apartment in Boston is one of three in this house. Every apartment has multiple smoke detectors, and there are also smoke detectors in the stairwells, and the basement. The smoke detectors are hardwired so that if the detectors in the stairwells go off, the alarms in all apartments go off.
Let’s imagine that I am cooking dinner, and I get a phone call from a good friend. We haven’t spoken in a while, and I get distracted from the cooking. The frying pan starts to smoke, and the smoke detector in the kitchen starts to beep. It’s pretty annoying, and it’s interrupting my phone call, so I reach up and pull the battery out of the smoke alarm. This is my “cure”. Soon, the detector in the dining room gets some of the smoke, and it goes off as well. Then the one in the hallway. I can pull the batteries out of each alarm – “curing” the disorder – but pretty soon, the alarm in the stairwell will go off, which will set off the alarms in the other apartments, and then the whole building will be blaring and beeping. Also, pretty soon, there will be actual flames! Removing the batteries to stop the beeping didn’t do anything to stop the actual problem, and so that problem was allowed to keep growing.
If instead, when the first smoke detector goes off in the kitchen, I tell my friend that I will need to call her back when I am done cooking, and attend to the stovetop, ultimately the problem will be resolved. I may also turn on the stovetop fan or open the kitchen window, so that the “symptom” – the smoke – dissipates more quickly. It’s possible that I didn’t attend in time and the dining room alarm also goes off. However, because I have attended to the stovetop, in fairly short order, the smoke is gone, the alarms stop alarming, and the rest of the apartment is spared the particularly obnoxious beeping that is our hardwired alarm system. That is achieving health.
Back to our rheumatoid arthritis example: if we resolve the autoimmune state, her body will no longer be attacking her joints, and there will be no need for inflammation or pain. We won’t need to cure the RA; instead, the body will stop the “alarms” because the smoke is gone. Once we move the body in a direction of health, the causes of our symptoms evaporate. When we look to achieve health, we don’t need a cure.
Join our newsletter for more herby goodness!
Get our newsletter delivered right to your inbox. You'll be first to hear about free mini-courses, podcast episodes, and other goodies about holistic herbalism.