Halth Care's Lost Past

By Keri Hayes

Arizona Daily Wildcat

With the uncertainty in health care reform and the strong traditions

of our multi-cultural society, many of the "healing arts" have

recently regained the interest of Americans.

Margaret Avery, owner/director of the Desert Institute of the Healing Arts, 639 N. Sixth Ave., said the reason for this has been developing over a period of time.

"We have more cultural influences from other countries to learn from and then we have our own history to fall back on remedies used on the farms and by the Native Americans modern medicine isn't as old as these traditional forms."

Another reason more people are turning to natural healing is that the standard medical establishment has "failed to address people's issues and provide information to the public about health and illnesses," said Pam Hyde-Nakai, owner of Tucson's Sonoran Herbal Institute.

"Physicians charge a lot of money , but don't always communicate with their clients about what the illness is," said Hyde-Nakai. "For diagnosis, standard medicine is the best, but treatment is where it fails."

Lynn Smiley, a doctor at the UA Wellness Center, said she has a problem with the dispensing of herbs and homeopathic medicines.

"There still can be side effects from combining herbs or homeopathy with other medications, or even caffeine," said Smiley. "There are still chemicals in herbs, and if you don't know biochemistry, which most people don't, they can have side effects."

Smiley said that

natural does

not necessarily

mean better, and that she thinks natural medicine will not become any more popular in the future and that its current popularity is just part of a cycle.

There are a wide variety of natural healing options available these days. Herbal medicine uses plants that have been recognized for their healing properties to work with the body's functions and strengthen its natural defenses, according to Healthy Healing: An Alternative Healing Reference, by Linda G. Rector-Page. Herbal medicine is most commonly administered in the form of teas, tinctures, capsules, poultices, baths or salves.

Homeopathic medicine has seen a recent worldwide rise in popularity due to its effectiveness in treating epidemic diseases, such as AIDS, according to Rector-Page. Tests have shown that homeopathy is effective in treating the acute infective stages of AIDS as well as improving the overall immune system.

"In significant 1991 tests, Internal Medicine World Magazine reports six HIV-infected patients who became HIV-negative after homeopathic treatment," Rector-Page wrote.

Homeopathy also works by stimulating the body's natural defenses, with minute plant-derived doses of the actual virus the body is fighting.

Ayurvedic medicine, a 4,000-year-old Indian healing method, hypnotherapy, guided imagery, biofeedback, aromatherapy and bodywork are also making comebacks, according to Rector-Page.

Interest in natural healing has been growing steadily since the 1970s, said Hyde-Nakai, a Tucson herbalist who studied with Southwest herbal expert Michael Moore. Prior to the 1920s, most American medicines were herbally-derived. There existed a school of practitioners who called themselves eclectic physicians and employed a variety of healing techniques to treat patients, Hyde-Nakai said.

When the American Medical Association came into existence, these physicians were declared invalid and were not recognized or accredited because they did not follow the "standard" medical approach. Chemical drugs became more common after WWII, and unless one lived in a rural area with strong herbal traditions, information about natural healing became quite suppressed, Hyde-Nakai said.

Recently, those supportive of natural medicine have had to battle its suppression by the FDA.

"The FDA, the AMA (American Medical Association) and the pharmaceutical industry are all tied in together," said Hyde-Nakai. "The AMA and the pharmaceutical companies have big lobbying interests in Washington, and once they saw people were truly interested in this (natural medicine), they wanted a part in it too."

Hyde-Nakai said the groups are pushing the FDA to treat herbs like drugs, applying all the same tests and regulations to them as they do to chemical drugs.

"I don't really see how they can regulate herbs they can't be duplicated or synthesized in a lab," said Hyde-Nakai. "The only reason they're pushing this is that they see the opportunity to make money."

Avery said that some of the things the FDA says about natural medicine are true, especially about some companies' claims of effectiveness not standing up.

"But to close down the production on all levels is harmful," Avery said. "This is where the system fails to be as democratic as it claims to be."

Hyde-Nakai's Sonoran Herbal Institute instructs students in natural healing methods. Hyde-Nakai teaches a general overview of Western herbalism, emphasizing plants native to the Sonoran desert and mountain areas. Physiology, herbal therapeutics and herbal preparation are also part of Hyde-Nakai's coursework.

"Herbal medicine focuses primarily on stimulating the body's natural defenses," Hyde-Nakai said. "I think it has a definite place in modern medicine."

While herbal medicine works best when used for prevention, it can also aid in sub-clinical chronic conditions like sinusitus and digestive disorders, improves general fluid transport and works well for some acute conditions, Hyde-Nakai said.

Many pharmaceutical medicines have effective herbal counterparts. Willow bark is used effectively to replace things like Advil and Tylenol for headaches. Devil's claw and black cohosh have been used as anti-inflammatory agents. Echinacea is a very popular immune system stimulant that acts in an antiviral capacity, unlike any pharmaceutical medicine, said Hyde-Nakai. Herbs are also very helpful for digestive problems mint and chamomile help relieve indigestion after a meal.

Hyde-Nakai said herbal medicine is also very helpful for women who experience menstrual or reproductive problems. Astringent herbs like raspberry leaf and nutrient herbs such as nettles and wild oats are often used to strengthen the entire reproductive system. Anti-spasmodic herbs like valerian root and wild yam are helpful in treating painful cramps. Although herbs work differently in everyone's bodies, these remedies have been effective in many cases, Hyde-Nakai said.

Since herbal treatments have become more popular lately, Hyde-Nakai suggested the use of herbal tinctures (concentrated herbs suspended in alcohol) or fresh, high-quality dried herbs to guarantee their effectiveness. Hyde-Nakai said that New Life Health Foods carries the best line of dried herbs and Reay's Ranch Market carries the best selection of tinctures.

Herbalists are also recommending that people grow their own herbs whenever possible, as increasing demands have put many plants in danger of extinction. Goldenseal has already been put on the endangered plant list due to overharvesting.

Bodywork also

has a tradi-

tional history

of practice. Used on early American farms and by native cultures, this art is now being taught at schools like the Desert Institute for the Healing Arts. The Desert Institute is a comprehensive school that teaches students how to heal through massage and other forms of body work. The owner/director of the Desert Institute, Margaret Avery, said she became interested in the integration of body and mind when she was a college student.

"I used to get one-hour massages every week, regardless of whether I had exams or a lot of studying to do," Avery said. "I would think about my exams and visualize myself doing really well sometimes answers to questions would just pop into my head, but not frantically because if you've read the material and been in the class, it's in your brain and it's really just a matter of getting it out by releasing tensions."

Two types of massage therapy are taught at

the Desert Institute. The first program

instructs students in basic Swedish massage

along with more modern techniques used by contemporary practitioners, said Avery. Students also learn how to use hydrotherapy (the application of hot and cold water, ice and heating pads for good physiological effects) to improve the immune system and treat internal illnesses.

The second program, Zen Shiatsu massage, gives students fundamental knowledge in Eastern medicine and utilizes the five elements theory (earth, fire, water, metal and wood) to teach students how to channel energy through the body. Usually taught by acupuncturists, Shiatsu works with the extensions to the body's meridian pathways using static holding point patterns rather than Swedish massage strokes.

All students must take anatomy and physiology classes that emphasize the muscular and skeletal systems. Avery compared the courses to those taught in university premed programs. The students are also taught communications skills that will enable them to forge successful relationships with their clients. A student clinic is located at the Desert Institute, where the public can receive massage therapy under the supervision of certified instructors.

"The whole emphasis with bodywork is to listen to the client and respect the body as being very intelligent," Avery said.

One of the major benefits of massage is stress reduction, Avery said. Once the muscles are relieved of tension, the masseuse can work on specific problem areas.

"Stress is the precursor to so many illnesses and problems," Avery said. "Stress due to studies and outside pressures is really harbored in our muscles; just the touching of the body creates a parasympathetic relaxation response."

Avery said massage can help people who are physically active receive the full benefits of their workouts, and can help those with physical ailments like arthritis become more physically active with less pain.

Massage can also be particularly helpful for women who experience dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual cramps) or premenstrual syndrome. Avery said shiatsu treatments are wonderful for relieving cramps and give the body extra energy.

Many other channels of resource exist in Tucson. There are health food stores like Reay's Ranch Market, the Food Conspiracy Co-op, Aqua Vita and New Life Health Centers that sell many natural medicines and other treatments.

Naturopaths, homeopaths and various other healers are available for consultation, and if general knowledge is needed, there are thousands of books available at health food stores, libraries and bookstores around town.

The Tucson Open University offers some very interesting classes, such as "Introduction to Hands-on Healing," "Aromatherapy," and "Couples Massage" for those interested. The Sonoran Herbal Institute offers classes, lectures and herb walks, while the Desert Institute provides both professional and student massages at their clinic.

"I think that if more people did get involved in their own health and used alternative medicine, we wouldn't need this huge health care industry," said Hyde-Nakai. "It would be a source of empowerment we'd be much stronger psychologically, physically and spiritually."

"Body therapy, healing ourselves, can probably be a catalyst for society to change, to heal," said Avery. "We'd be able to use our brains more effectively in problem solving, maybe realize that values can change."

For information about the Sonoran Herbal Institute, call 290-0828. For information about the Desert Institute of the Healing Arts, call 882-0899. The Tucson Open University has distributed catalogs around town. For more information call 622-0170.

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