DEAR DR. FOX: Thank you for your reference and support of indigenous and alternative treatments in a recent column. Since you mentioned you’ve received criticism for this, I felt I should write and express my appreciation. Indigenous wisdom often creates harmony and well-being in our relationships with the Earth and the animal world -- needed especially now!
Our pet is a 5-year-old tuxedo cat, Vinnie, found in an intersection by workmen. Mostly domesticated, he spends his days on our Florida porch defending us from lizards and keeping us fit by demanding we perform doorman duties for him. -- E.C., West Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR E.C.: I appreciate your support of the more holistic approach to health that I advocate. In my mind, that means we cannot live in the absence of the sacred. The dire consequences of not living in such a mindful state are beautifully and succinctly shared by Pulitzer Prize winner N. Scott Momaday, a Kiowa American Indian, in his book “Earth Keeper: Reflections on the American Land.”
I wish for all the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court to read this book, then read attorney Christopher D. Stone’s book “Should Trees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects.” There can be no justice when we do not honor all our relations, human and nonhuman.
The Trump administration’s plan to auction off parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas exploration should be seen as not just a crime against nature, but as a crime against humanity. We are related to and interdependent on ALL life, biologically and ecologically.
E.C., you will enjoy this next letter from another reader.
DEAR DR. FOX: We would appreciate you posting this notice, which may interest many of your readers. -- Zoe Weil, co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education
HUMANE EDUCATION GRAD PROGRAMS WITH ANTIOCH UNIVERSITY
“Imagine immersing yourself in the interconnected issues of human rights, environmental sustainability and animal protection, and learning how to educate others to be ‘solutionaries’ for a just, humane and healthy world for all. Our unique online graduate programs with Antioch University will prepare you to be a humane educator who ignites positive change. The application deadline for spring semester enrollment is Dec. 15. For more information, please visit humaneeducation.org/graduate-programs or contact Mary Pat Champeau, Director of Graduate Programs, at marypat@HumaneEducation.org.”
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)
DEAR DR. FOX: Your appeal to indigenous wisdom was a big disappointment. Your biases sure do come through. When these systems are actually scientifically tested, they fail, and by promoting them, you give false hope to people who use them instead of real science and medicine. Just ask Steve Jobs. Oh, you can’t -- he used naturalistic treatments instead of real medicine, and by the time he realized it did not work, it was too late. -- M.J.P., West Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR M.J.P.: Your declaration that I am somehow “biased” in referencing indigenous wisdom as a contributing element in One Health philosophy is understandable, considering your own evident biases of scientism and rationalism. Indigenous wisdom includes, in modern parlance, evidence-based medicine in our ancestral determinations of harmful and beneficial herbs. It is also a source of complementary therapies in holistic human and veterinary medicine.
Science alone cannot be the basis of disease treatment and prevention. For instance, there was no scientific basis established until relatively recently for the analgesic benefits of aspirin. Aspirin contains salicylate, a compound found in plants such as the willow tree and myrtle. Its use was first recorded around 4,000 years ago. Hippocrates used willow bark for relieving pain and fevers, and some people still use willow bark as a natural remedy for headaches and minor pain.
Hippocrates also advised us to let our medicine be our food, and our food, our medicine.
People in the U.S. spent some 8% of their income on food and 11% on medicines and health care in 2019, according to one review. Other reports put per-person annual food costs at around $7,700, and $11,170 for medical expenses.
Healthful food and its production are more costly, but are the first principle of preventive medicine. This is being realized by ever-more enlightened vegan, vegetarian and organic-food advocates.
Albert Schweitzer spoke of the physician “awakening the healer within,” which is also one of the aims of the practitioners of indigenous healing wisdom, as was told to me personally by Fools Crow, the well-known Sioux leader and medicine man. In psychodynamic terms, this is stimulating the will to live, which all good physicians and veterinarians look for in their patients when deciding on a course of treatment or prevention.
All of this sounds “unscientific” to the Big Pharma pill-pushers, who have neuroscience evidence of the effects of various psychotropic drugs on brain and behavior -- convincing many doctors to market antidepressants, anxiolytics, sedatives and sleeping pills. I say this is nuts.