One of the basic tenants of naturopathic medicine is “Vis Medicatrix Naturae” or The Healing
Power of Nature. “The healing power of nature is the inherent self-organizing and healing
process of living systems which establishes, maintains and restores health. “ (Snider, P., & Zeff,
J.L. (1989). Definition of Naturopathic Medicine. American Association of Naturopathic Medicine Position
To me, this speaks to the intelligent force of life – one that strives for balance and health, one
that can heal us. It is in our bodies. It is in our food. It is in our plant medicine. It is an inherent
force in our natural world. Just look at the Columbia River Gorge – last year it was devastated
by a massive forest fire – this year, you can see new growth happening – in time, Nature will
heal the land, restore habitats, and the forest will return.
But as we get more obsessed with our electronic devices, our on line connections to the world
at large, we lose this vital connection. We are more likely to feel alienated and more prone to
reduced attention spans. Richard Louv called this “Nature Deficit Disorder” in his book, Last
Child in the Woods. Children and young adults are especially vulnerable to this disorder.
There is an immense amount of research showing that nature is good for our health. Spending
time in nature reduces stress, lowers our blood pressure, improves our mental outlook, gives us
good nutrients like oxygen and vitamin D, and decreases pain.
Being in nature increases dopamine and serotonin in our brains – chemicals that are associated
with improved sense of satisfaction and motivation. Nature reduces anger, stress and
aggression. It promotes a sense of community, it promotes healthy babies. Nature is a powerful
And it is a reciprocal relationship- if we spend more time in nature, we come to recognize the
medicine and importance of natural spaces. We are more inclined to maintain and protect the
natural space around us, because we have a relationship with it. It becomes more than a
commodity, it becomes part of our community.
What could be so simple, so natural? Pack a simple lunch, a bottle of water and head for the
park. Put your electronics away and spend an afternoon taking a hike, or strolling through your
garden, or reading a book under a tree in a neighborhood park. Consider it medicine. The Vis