I said I would write about why Iâ€™m not a big fan of the body-as-temple theory of health. This might have been a surprise to some people, because a lot of â€œnatural healthâ€ advocates teach this theory. It goes something like this:
Your body is your temple. It should be kept pure and holy. Bad health is a result of the desecration of your pure and holy temple by impure and unholy things. Therefore you must constantly purify your body and rigidly avoid everything unholy.
False assumptions. Bodies canâ€™t be separated from their environments any more than body systems can be separated from each other. The skin is a permeable membrane, not a brick wall. Human beings are part of larger living ecosystems, and any model of health that tries to separate us from our surroundings just wonâ€™t work.
Disrespect. Human beings are vital and resilient ecosystems, not piles of dirty laundry. Human ecosystems have finely adapted detoxification and repair systems that should be respected and supported rather than bypassed and abused by â€œcolon cleanses,â€ â€œliver flushesâ€ and other such nonsense.
Rigidity. Puritanism is just not helpful. Sure, sugar (for example) isnâ€™t good for you. But feeling superior and repressed because you didnâ€™t eat any birthday cake is likely worse. Emotions are a part of your ecosystem. Culture is a part of your ecosystem. Sometimes itâ€™s okay to eat birthday cake, sometimes it isnâ€™t. Pay attention and youâ€™ll know the difference.
An herbal practice that respects human bodies doesnâ€™t try to â€œpurifyâ€ them or take them out of ecological context. A truly vitalist herbal practice pays close attention to each human ecosystem and works to support its innate intelligence and adaptive capacity. A truly vitalist herbal practice works with, rather than against, human ecology.
Next in this series: My herbal philosophy is very simple.
(And I swear that millet polenta post is on the wayâ€”it’s just that it’s evolved into a whole series of posts on grains.)