Natural Went Wrong.
Updated: Apr 25
“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything” – Voltaire.
The idea that overusing certain expressions can make it tiresome and uninteresting exactly fits the word ‘natural’ as being one the most misused words, specifically among the self-help and wellness industry.
That’s the pity, because the natural perspective, from the very beginning of the astonishing history of all natural sciences, was (and indeed still is) the main subject of research that seeks fundamental understanding of the physical (non-living) and living (biology, human and health–performance) world around us.
Visual of natural sciences with simplified division of physical and life sciences. All sciences tend to point out principles, called laws of nature, being more accurate descriptions of the natural phenomena found in the surrounding world.
Frequent mindless repetitions of the word ‘natural’ in speech, writing and media impacts the original sense or novelty of the still very mysterious idea about the Nature itself. This is how a cliché is formulated becoming dull, predictable and trite, failing to convey a fresh or insightful perspective on a subject, being ultimately a betrayal of a lack of original thought, something we might even call a Mc Nature.
The popularity of the term stems from the general perception that things labeled as ‘natural’ are inherently better, healthier or safer than their synthetic or artificial counterparts. This perception, however, isn't always accurate, as not all natural substances or products are inherently safe or beneficial and not all synthetic substances are harmful or inferior.
Some reasons why 'natural' has become a banality include:
Consumer appeal: many companies capitalize on the positive connotations associated with the term 'natural' to promote their products, regardless of whether the product is genuinely natural or has any real benefits over alternatives.
Greenwashing: products labeled as "natural" may in some cases contain synthetic or artificial ingredients, or the natural ingredients might be present in insignificant amounts.
Oversimplification: the notion that 'natural' equals 'better' or "safer' is a common bias based on oversimplicity. While some natural products can have advantages over synthetic alternatives, this is not always the case.
Excessive use of the these practices causes the state in which the term 'natural' is so diluted.
Of course, we find a plenty of natural remedies used in modern medicine that were derived straight from nature, to list just a few: aspirin (willow tree), artemisinin (sweet wormwood), morphine (opium poppy), digitalis (foxglove plant) or psyllium (plantago ovata).
Pharmacology enhances their efficiency by synthesising their chemical structure, thus minimising potential side and placebo effects and pointing (with evidence) the specific mechanism of positive influence on the biological level of the living organism.
Sports medicine follows that strategy of maximizing the precision effect on body's functioning and when it's indicated by proven outcomes, chooses the natural solutions. Fair example is the use of natural tissue autografts in ligament reconstruction surgeries (from the patient's own body) rather than synthetic ones made from artificial materials, such as carbon fibres, due to their greater durability, long-term efficacy and safety.
Important phenomenon to mention is physical exercise, being one of the finest examples of natural intervention – a key ingredient of all preventative care – causing a cascade of health-related pharmacological effects that cannot be replaced by any single manufactured pill. It strengthens the person's body–and–mind, acts as shield agains multitude of diseases and may be one of the crucial factors of person's longevity.
Apparently, the attitude of modern medicine to natural solutions seems to be very ethical and healthy.
Moreover, ff we acknowledge the deep scientific understanding of the (again) natural immune response of humans and the molecular biology of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that shaped the rapid invention of the vaccine that saved lives, saying that vaccines – still being a topic full of controversies – are something absolutely opposite to the ‘natural’ is a fool's lie.
Matter of Perception.
At this stage, we directly see that much depends on how the word 'nature' is perceived, understood and defined. But "vaccines don't grow on trees, they are artificially obtained" – being one of the main cognitive and emotional conflicts of the discussed rationale, a source of misunderstanding and the lack of fundamental knowledge of the principles governing the complex phenomenon of health.
There are numerous instances where chemical drugs have proven more effective than natural alternatives in treating various medical conditions, e.g. antiviral medications, antibiotics, antidepressants, chemotherapy and insulin, all offering more targeted and potent treatment options, despite being 'synthetic' in the common sense.
Therefore advising that in the context of a serious disease 'natural' in means of non-synthetic is explicitly better, thus overriding the more targeted medicinal cure is something potentially unethical and harmful.
Imagination of the natural scientist seeking fundamental understanding of the Nature.
It's clinical reasoning it's important to regularly remind ourselves of what natural intervention really is and not follow blindly the overused perspective of the term 'natural' used in the modern society.
The efficacy of a treatment should not solely be determined by whether it is natural or synthetic, but rather by its proven effectiveness in addressing a particular medical condition.
Oversimplification based on the purely natural perspective of treatments can be harmful to health.
This article is published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.
Farnsworth NR et al. The Conservation of Medicinal Plants. Chapter: Global Importance of Medicinal Plants. Cambridge University Press (1991).
Ernst E et al. The Desktop Guide to Complementary and Alternative Medicine: An Evidence-Based Approach. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (2000).
West RV et al. Graft Selection in Anterior cruciate Ligament Reconstruction. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (2005).