Healing the Body Naturally

A Manhattan naturopath provides holistic care and discovers personal meaning through natural medicine.

Jared Hanson believes in naturopathy, or treating many ailments of the body with acupuncture,
homeopathy and medicinal herbs like these. [Credit: click-the-shutter, flickr.com].
By | Posted January 14, 2009
Posted in: Health
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Jared Hanson knows how lucky he was to have overslept that fall morning. Two snooze alarms late, he rushed to spend another day changing light bulbs and filing papers at his office job in New York City. As he approached the World Trade Center, the building exploded, raining dust and debris. Hanson sprinted away so fast the sole of his shoe broke in half. “I could’ve died filing stockbroker’s stock correspondences,” he says. “I knew I needed to find something meaningful.”

Hanson, who is now 32, was working as a temp doing odd jobs around the city. He found the work monotonous, something to pay the rent while he searched for a fulfilling profession. He was an interdisciplinary studies graduate of Long Island University’s Global College, where students travel to different campuses around the globe each semester. Although he was fascinated by the world around him, none of the jobs he had held since graduation excited him, and he had yet to decide on a career.

The fall of the towers pushed Hanson to find his life’s purpose. Hanson yearned for a career that would improve the lives of others and also remembered his childhood fascination with his grandmother’s herbal remedies, which seemed to him more beneficial than conventional treatments. From a young age, Hanson was skeptical about the health risks that can accompany Western medicine. “As a child, when I’d take medicine for asthma or hay fever or anything else, I always felt that it didn’t work very well and had associated side effects,” says Hanson, whose calm demeanor contrasts sharply with the noise and clamor outside his Manhattan office.

Hanson’s interest in alternative treatments led him to naturopathic medicine, a field that focuses on enhancing the body’s ability to heal itself. “If you look at medicine today, most drugs actually interfere with your body’s own chemistry,” he says. “Naturopathic medicine has a totally different viewpoint, which is to support your body’s chemistry.”

With a career goal in mind, Hanson headed to accredited programs in acupuncture and naturopathic medicine at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. There he learned the basics of the herbal medicine, acupuncture and homeopathy now central to his practice.

Hanson’s high test scores allowed him to pursue an array of career options, says his wife, Seema Srivastava, an adjunct art history professor at New York University, so his choice to go into naturopathy is “a real testament to his genuine beliefs in its possibilities,” she says.

Hanson remains dedicated to the benefits of naturopathy, which includes practices like acupuncture, homeopathy and herbal medicine. It’s a growing field, with 3,000 licensed naturopathic doctors in the U.S. today, three times the number practicing 10 years ago, according to the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. Naturopathic doctors and traditionally trained physicians, known as allopathic doctors, are licensed by separate organizations – one by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the other by the American Medical Association.

Although many traditionally trained physicians question whether there is hard evidence to back up naturopathy’s purported benefits, Hanson and his patients are true believers. In fact, he is so dedicated to natural medicine that he treats himself only naturopathically, provided he doesn’t need emergency care. Instead of taking the standard antibiotic treatment for strep throat, for example, he battled the condition with homeopathy that healed him overnight. “[Western] medicine often doesn’t have the answers we need,” he says. “A lot of times doctors don’t know why a certain medication or procedure helps, but they do it because sometimes it works.”

Doctors removed Hanson’s sister’s spleen, for example, to temporarily relieve an autoimmune condition. But “having a spleen is not a health problem,” says Hanson. “Often, [doctors] take out the body part that senses pain” without eliminating the discomfort’s true cause, says Hanson, adding that he is not staunchly against all conventional medicine, especially in emergency situations.

For many with chronic illness, he’s a “practitioner of last resort, Hanson says. Naturopathic medicine often is an option only explored when conventional treatment fails. Hanson’s patients say his dedication to them sets him apart from other doctors they have visited. He calls himself “a practitioner of last resort” for many with chronic illness, an option only explored when conventional medicine fails. “Quite often [my patients] have been through a lot of medical doctors and have been told there’s nothing else to do,” he says.

Once patients begin the homeopathic, herbal and other treatments Hanson prescribes, it is not only the improvements in health but also the doctor-patient relationship that keeps them coming back.

Sheila Anozier, a 40-year-old dancer from Brooklyn, visited Hanson after two surgeries failed to alleviate pain and bleeding caused by recurring fibroid tumors. Hanson’s willingness to truly listen was what struck her most. “There is a deep understanding that you’re an individual,” she says. “I appreciate that someone is working with me, not against me.”

A holistic approach is important, Hanson says, because identical symptoms in two individuals may have two completely different causes. “There’s never going to be enough scientific studies to give you the information you need for an individual case [in conventional medicine],” he says. Naturopathic medicine allows doctors “to look at [a patient’s] very specific symptoms, such as the degree and type of pain, and their constitution,” he says. “That’s when you get a better idea of when something is going to heal itself.”

Although Hanson loves the medicine behind his practice, he cherishes most the impact he has on his patients’ lives. “If you get the right treatment for the right person,” he says, “something you thought was impossible actually is possible.”

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  1. We really need, as a society, to get behind healing treatments like this. Personally, I have not needed an Md’s services for decades, and feel healthier without the pharmaceutical drugs, chemotherapy, and surgeries that these doctors prescribe.

    I truly feel our Medicare, Medicaid and insurance companies need to support these holistic modalities without a need to be underwritten by MD’s, mostly trained in a different way.

    For more on this and other pertinent subjects: http://www.HealingNews.com

    HealingNews, January 15, 2009 at 1:06 am
  2. Hmmm,

    let me think for a moment:

    naturopaths do not distinguish between the scientific, the supernatural, the science-ejected, and the antiscientific…

    and in fact they label all that “health science.”

    Me thinks this is “junk thought”, while this “science” web page’s “profile’s in science” article lauds naturopathy.

    To quote from Susan Jacoby’s “The Age of American Unreason” (ISBN 0375423745; 2008):

    “all real scientific research must be and is subjected to rigorous scrutiny by peers. That is what separates science from pseudoscience and junk thought. Without a basic understanding of what constitutes good science neither ordinary citizens nor the politicians who represent them can hope to make thoughtful judgments separating quacks, con men, and practitioners of bad science from thoughtful experts whose advice ought to be taken seriously. Intellectual quackery extends throughout the landscape of academia [p.250].”

    -r.c.

    daijiyobu, January 15, 2009 at 1:03 pm
  3. Hey Scienceline,

    I’ve been doing a lot of research on this topic on my own recently so I felt like I had to speak up.

    This is a very interesting profile, but to write a story like this and not discuss some of these facts strikes me as somewhat irresponsible medical journalism.

    1) That most “natural” medical practices have been shown to be completely ineffective compared to placebo.

    2) That homeopathy ascribes to a mystical theory of mechanism: that the molecules in water can “remember” a substance dissolved in them after being smacked on a piece of leather a few times. And that the water remembers substances to such a degree that even after being diluted till there would be only one molecule of the substance in a volume of water the size of the universe (or none of it in your sugar pill), the water still has a “memory”.

    3) That some people die tragically after seeking natural treatments to an illness that could have been cured by western medicine.

    Clearly this is a profile, and the author is correct to focus on the character of the person profiled. But Scienceline is also a science magazine. And I can’t believe that at least item number two in my list, a facet of natural medicine so blatantly pseudo-scientific and down right wrong according to the most basic understanding of physics and chemistry, wasn’t addressed.

    -Or, in light of item number 3 on my list, that the author didn’t go into more detail about Hanson’s policies about what he will and won’t treat. Does an arrhythmia merit referral to a hospital or M.D.? Does cancer? What about mental illness? These are the detailed questions I as a Scienceline reader would have wanted to see answered in this piece.

    The really interesting thing about natural medicine, is that it truly does seem to make people feel better, even though it can’t prove itself against placebo. A lot of this might be the effect of the more personal attention to the patient, and admonishments to change diet and lifestlye. If so, such details should have a relevance for all medical practitioners. I am not saying that people shouldn’t be able to seek treatment that they experience as beneficial. I actually strongly believe they should.

    But in a story, even a profile, in a magazine that has the word “science” in the title. Or really in ANY magazine as far as fairness and balance are concerned, I think you owe it to your readers to at least touch on some of these issues.

    I am interested to hear your opinion in response, and that of other readers. If you are writing a science story and your subject has beliefs and practices that are clearly unscientific, or worse- pseudo-scientific, are you bound ethically as a journalist to discuss that?

    Shouldn’t someone who believes in homeopathy be treated in science reporting the same as a global warming denier, or am I totally overreacting here?

    Molly, January 16, 2009 at 12:10 pm
  4. This is an interesting article and topic. As a physician, I am frequently asked about various homeopathic treatments by my patients. While I don’t agree with the scientific basis for much of this movement, I have found that if a patient is not responding to traditional medicine, these remedies have a place in the overall treatment program. It is hard to ascertain if the improvement is emotional or a placebo effect , but I think this type of medicine should be discussed more openly by physicians and other health care professionals. Sometimes, there simply is no truly ‘scientific’ reason for improvement. As far as safety of these techniques, tragically, people die as a result of traditional western medicine as well.

    Pam Scobal, January 16, 2009 at 2:58 pm
  5. Molly commented:

    “if you are writing a science story and your subject has beliefs and practices that are clearly unscientific [i.e. naturo.’s vitalism, & supernaturalism!], or worse, pseudoscientific [claiming such as science!], are you bound ethically as a journalist to discuss that? [me thinks so]”

    Molly, and to those interested, there is a “code of ethics” for high-quality journalism, including science and medical subjects

    (see http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp ).

    I’m not sure where scienceline.org as a publication outlet sits in terms of obligations to such SPJ stringencies.

    Even most major newspaper outlets use generalist reporters to report on specialty subject areas they often have little knowledge about — due to budget cuts.

    And, as a reminder of naturopathic absurdity:

    a) naturopathy claims that its mandatory homeopathy is a “clinical science” (see http://www.nabne.org/images/clbull.pdf ) while,

    b) Erst and Singh recently stated in “Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine” (2008; ISBN 0393066614)”:

    “with respect to homeopathy, the evidence points towards a bogus industry that offers patients nothing more than a fantasy [p.219].”

    That’s quite a contrast.

    In my view, the idea of “natural medicine” is a fantasy, e.g.:

    “there is no alternative medicine. There is only scientifically proven, evidence-based medicine supported by solid data or unproven medicine, for which scientific evidence is lacking [JAMA 1998, 280: 1618-1619].”

    That observation parallels my experience, and I went to the same school for four years that this profiled ND did, UB — but, I left because I found it ethically repugnant to give patients empty remedies while telling patients that those homeopathy pills were medicinal [placebo-kind effects, like almost all ‘essentially naturopathic’ CAM therapies], and where I was taught that physiology is run by a ‘purposeful life spirit’ or “god power within” / “life force” and to label naturopathy “health science” and a naturopath “the modern science-based primary care provider.”

    I consider naturopathy an ‘unethical sectarian pseudoscience’, when looked at closely.

    Caveat emptor.

    -r.c.

    daijiyobu, January 16, 2009 at 5:40 pm
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    Ismail-28, October 2, 2010 at 5:01 pm
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