UNDERSTANDING THE HEALING CRISIS
Due to the many pathogenic influences and stresses of daily life, as well as environmental toxicity and pollution, and the various imbalances and defects that can crop up in the process of pepsis, or digestion and metabolism, toxins, metabolic wastes, and morbid or superfluous humors inevitably accumulate in the organism over time. If the body is to remain strong, vital and healthy, it must be periodically cleansed and detoxified.
If the body's eliminative organs are not functioning optimally in the cleansing and detoxification of the organism, and they often aren't, there will be some residual or remedial cleansing and detoxification work that needs to be done. This is done through certain hygienic purification therapies, or what Hippocrates called procured evacuations, in which the physician provokes certain cleansing or detoxifying responses from the organism to eliminate the offending toxins and waste.
The Six Hygienic Purification Therapies of Greek Medicine are diaphoresis, diuresis, emesis, purgation, venesection and derivation. They provoke the natural cleansing and detoxification responses of the organism, and utilize all the major eliminative organs and channels of the body, as follows:
Diaphoresis - Sweating - Skin
Diuresis - Urination - Kidneys and Urinary Tract
Emesis - Vomiting - Lungs, Stomach, Upper GI Tract
Purgation - Stool - Bowels
Venesection - Bleeding - Veins and Blood
Derivation - Flushing, Blisters and Boils - Skin
But it's important to remember that all these Hygienic Purification Therapies, or procured evacuations, are remedial in nature, to be used only to relieve certain toxic conditions and toxicity signs and symptoms, as indicated. They were designed to provoke cleansing responses from the organism that are in imitation of the natural, spontaneous cleansing processes and reactions of the body.
Ideally, the body and its eliminative organs should be doing for itself what these various Hygienic Purification Therapies are provoking the organism to do. And when conditions are right, and when the inherent vital forces of the organism are sufficiently strong, balanced and robust, the organism will spontaneously eliminate accumulated wastes and toxins by the most appropriate, accessible and convenient route open to it. When such spontaneous cleansing and regeneration on the part of the organism gets particularly acute and dramatic, it is called a Healing Crisis.
The various cleansing reactions that may be experienced during a Healing Crisis, and the particular Hygienic Purification Therapies that imitate or provoke these reactions, are as follows:
The body may sweat excessively or dramatically (Diaphoresis).
There may be vigorous or dramatic elimination through the urine (Diuresis).
There may be spontaneous nausea, giddiness, regurgitation or vomiting (Emesis).
There may be acute, spontaneous episodes of loose stools or diarrhea (Purgation).
There may be spontaneous bleeding, as in nosebleeds (Venesection or
There may be spontaneous flushing or changing of the complexion, or the formation of blisters, pustules or boils to eliminate accumulated pus, toxins and morbid or superfluous humors (Derivation).
When it comes to the Healing Crisis, there's a huge philosophical difference between conventional allopathic medicine and Greek Medicine. Modern allopathic medicine sees these signs of the Healing Crisis as troublesome reactions that must be covered up or suppressed, whereas Greek Medicine welcomes them as great opportunities for healing, detoxification and recovery. The only catch is that the physician has to clinically be able to tell the difference between signs heralding a genuine Healing Crisis and the onset of disease symptoms.
Herring's Laws of Cure
In the nineteenth century, the great German-American homeopath Constantine Hering formulated Hering's Laws of Cure. For the student of Greek Medicine, these simple laws explain a lot about how the Healing Crisis works:
1) Healing progresses from the top downwards.
2) Healing progresses from within outwards.
3) Healing progresses from more important organs to those of lesser importance.
4) Disease symptoms are released and cured in the reverse chronological
order of their onset.
Hering's First Law of Cure states that healing progresses from the top downwards. With the onset of the Healing Crisis, the patient's general mental, nervous and emotional state may shift quite profoundly. Or, giddy, nauseous feelings in the pit of the stomach may progress quickly to colic, irritable bowel and diarrhea. The head and general psychic state may be the first to experience a change or catharsis as a sign heralding the onset of a Healing Crisis, followed by cleansing and cathartic changes in the somatic organs of the rest of the body.
Hering's Second Law of Cure states that healing progresses from within outwards. The core internal organs are the first to undergo a healing catharsis, which progresses outwards towards the body's periphery, following the normal eliminative routes and channels of the organism.
Hering's Third Law of Cure states that healing progresses from the more important organs to those of lesser importance. In Greek Medicine, the more important organs would be the principal and noble organs of the body's various faculties and organ systems, whereas the organs of lesser importance would be their attendant vessels. And since the principal and noble organs are usually located deeper within the organism, and their attendant vessels more peripherally, there's a great degree of congruity and overlap between Hering's second and third laws.
Hering's Fourth Law of Cure states that disease symptoms are released and cured in the reverse chronological order of their onset. This is kind of like pushing the reverse or rewind button on a video. So if the physician finds the patient going backwards through disease symptoms and conditions in the reverse order of their onset or appearance, starting with the most recent ones first, he should be pleased and satisfied that the patient's body is finally starting to heal itself. This is one of the reasons why taking a thorough and complete medical history is so important.
Hering's fourth law attests to the fact that, the more chronic and longstanding a disease or condition is, the more deeply it will submerge or be held within the organism. And passing off these conditions and their symptoms in the reverse order of their appearance is like peeling off the successive layers of an onion.
Hering's Laws of Cure tell us many things about natural healing and the Healing Crisis. They remind us that the organism has an inherent wisdom in healing itself, and that its processes of purification and regeneration don't happen in a random or haphazard fashion. Rather, there is an inherent order and consistency to the healing and purification process.
They also remind us that the symptoms, or surface manifestations of an illness or disease, are not the essential heart of the disease or disorder itself. The core vital, humoral, and/or metabolic imbalance or disorder that is the essential disease is often submerged or latent, and involves the whole organism, whereas its surface manifestations are often focused or localized in a particular part of the body. If we mistake the surface symptoms for the totality of the disease, or if we merely treat the part while ignoring the whole, we go off on the wrong track.
And so, surface symptoms are like clues that the holistic physician follows, much like a detective, to uncover the hidden or latent systemic disorder that is causing the disease. Or, surface symptoms are like barometers that indicate the nature of underlying humoral or metabolic disorders, as well as their location, depth and degree.
When we start to clean house and heal, these latent disorders and imbalances, once held deep within the organism, start to come to the surface to be passed off. And as they do, they start to manifest certain signs and symptoms, according to their inherent humoral nature and temperament, as well as the route or channel that the organism chooses for their elimination.
Palliation versus Healing
Palliation is doing the most convenient and expedient thing to get rid of the surface symptoms of the disorder as quickly as possible. Healing is removing or resolving all aspects and ramifications of the disorder, both latent and manifest, by treating its root cause.
Palliation is too often a mere stopgap measure, a way of putting off having to really heal and resolve the disorder until later. Palliation, especially in modern medicine, all too frequently means simply masking or suppressing the surface symptoms, which usually drives the disorder deeper within the organism, to resurface later in a more serious form. Pharmaceutical drugs that mask the symptoms create many undesirable side effects, which are signs that the organism is protesting as the underlying disease or disorder is driven deeper.
Nevertheless, there may be certain situations, even when using natural healing methods, in which palliation may be the wisest and best way of dealing with an acute crisis situation. If a fire is raging out of control, first put out the fire, because that's the most urgent order of business, then rebuild the house.
Unfortunately, too much of modern medicine is mere palliation, as disease and crisis management, and too little of it is true healing. To modern medicine, true healing may be a lost art, impatiently shoved aside in our search for magic bullets and quick fixes. True healing always takes time, and comes in its own sweet time if we strive to improve our overall state of health.
The true physician and natural healer must work on two levels to provide his patient with complete and comprehensive healthcare. On the surface, he is giving the patient palliative measures, as necessary, to get him safely through temporary health difficulties and/or crisis situations. But beyond this, on a deeper level, he is always seeking to guide the patient towards a greater level of overall health, balance and wellbeing, in which his innate vitality and resistance would be able to adequately support and manifest a Healing Crisis.
Signs of the Healing Crisis
The whole gist of the Healing Crisis is this: If you have undertaken a program to detoxify and truly restore your health, that you may experience a temporary period of feeling worse before you finally feel better. The strange thing is that these distressing signs and symptoms of the Healing Crisis may suddenly come on just after you feel that you've achieved a new, higher level of overall health, balance and wellbeing.
The path back to better health is not a straight, linear progression; neither is it all a bed of roses. Nevertheless, the onset of the Healing Crisis should be welcomed with joy and gladness, because the organism, no longer burdened with having to cope with disease symptoms and morbidity on a constant, daily basis, can now turn its energies and resources towards true healing and regeneration, and the throwing off of old, latent problems and conditions that may be holding it back.
Whatever the particular signs and symptoms of the Healing Crisis may be, there are three crucial differences that distinguish the Healing Crisis from the onset of disease symptoms:
1) Core energy and vitality levels are good and improving; with disease onset,
there is oppression and devitalization.
2) Signs and symptoms of a true Healing Crisis are much more temporary and
transient, lasting only days instead of weeks, months or even years.
3) The general progression and unfoldment of signs and symptoms in the
Healing Crisis follows the patterns outlined in Hering's Laws of Cure.
On page 123 of The Traditional Healer's Handbook, Hakim G. M. Chishti tells us what preliminary signs and symptoms presage the onset of various forms of spontaneous elimination and detoxification during the Healing Crisis, so that we may have an idea of what is to come. If the elimination and detoxification crisis episode is to happen during the day, these preliminary signs and symptoms will appear the previous night, and if the acute episode is to happen during the night, they will appear on the previous day.
Crisis by vomiting: wheezing or dyspnea, a change in the breathing rhythm, a bitter taste in the mouth, pain in the cardia or upper epigastrium, stomach convulsions, a lowered pulse and trembling of the lower lip.
Crisis by diarrhea: intestinal pain and cramping, heaviness of the body, stomach gas, backache, strangely colored or formed stools, and grumbling intestines.
Crisis by nosebleed: dull sense of hearing, ringing in the ears, tears, nose itching, and a full pulse in the arteries of the temples.
Crisis by urination: heaviness and distension in the bladder, thick excessive urine, bright urine color on the fourth day of a detoxification program, and the actual crisis on the seventh day.
Crisis by sweating: lightheadedness, itching, alternating chills and feverishness.
Although a Healing Crisis can come on totally spontaneously, this is not often the case. It is usually earned by undergoing a program of cleansing, detoxification and health improvement.
And neither is the Healing Crisis, once experienced and gone through, a magic silver bullet or a permanent and final solution to all one's health problems. The process of healing and regeneration occurs in growth spurts and plateaus; the growth spurts are the Healing Crises, when the organism is struggling to achieve a new level of health and regeneration, whereas the plateaus are settling in periods in which the organism stabilizes and accustoms itself to operating on a new level.
Therapeutic Management of the Healing Crisis
Once the Healing Crisis starts, whatever form it takes, the most important thing a physician or healer can do is to stay out of the way and not interfere, as much as possible. Do not step in and interfere with the crucial elimination, detoxification, healing and regeneration that the body is trying to do for itself.
Above all, palliative measures that merely suppress or mask the symptoms without getting to the root of the problem must be avoided. They will usually stop the Healing Crisis dead in its tracks.
Neither should one second guess what the body is going to do at the onset of a Healing Crisis, and then give remedies, even natural ones, to help the process along. This will only confuse and/or weaken the natural cleansing and healing reactions of the organism, especially if you predicted wrongly.
For example, it may appear, from all preliminary signs, that crisis by vomiting is imminent. But in some cases, what may initially seem like an impending crisis by vomiting may turn to diarrhea at the last moment. If you had prognosticated that crisis by vomiting was definitely in the works and had given an emetic to help it along, you would have only wound up confusing the the natural cleansing reactions and innate healing wisdom of the organism. Even if your prognostication had been right, and the organism was indeed headed for crisis by vomiting, the emetic would have only co-opted or weakened the body's natural cleansing reactions, and substituted an artificial aid or crutch for the real Healing Crisis.
Dietarily, the physician or therapist should not interfere with the cleansing and purification the organism is trying to accomplish during the Healing Crisis by burdening it with a lot of heavy or hard to digest foods. This will also stop the Healing Crisis dead in its tracks.
Generally speaking, the more intense and vehement the symptoms of the Healing Crisis are, especially the gastrointestinal symptoms, the lighter and more restricted should be the diet. And when the crisis is in the acute phase and the signs and symptoms are at their most intense, only a liquid diet should be administered, such as diluted fresh fruit or vegetable juices, herb teas or vegetable broths.
Until the acute phase of the Healing Crisis comes, a light and easily digestible diet that provides basic caloric energy and nutrient, mineral and electrolyte support should be given. In designing the appropriate dietary regimen, two basic factors must be taken into consideration:
1) The closeness or imminence of the acute phase of the Healing Crisis;
2) The constitutional needs of the patient as to what kind of diet he or she can support.
The closer or more imminent the acute phase of the Healing Crisis gets, the lighter and more restricted should be the diet until, at the acute phase, only a liquid diet should be given. While in the preparatory and recovery phases before and after the acute phase, a light diet of vegetable soups and stews, or barley gruel, also known as ptisan, may be given.
Constitutionally, more robust individuals are able to withstand a lighter, more restricted diet and still manage to maintain their basic strength and vitality. Those whose constitution is more frail and delicate need a heartier, more nutritious diet in the preparatory phase to give them the basic vitality needed to withstand the cleansing and detoxification.
The herbal teas used during the Healing Crisis, especially in its acute phase, should be gentle and mild, and support the organism in the cleansing it is trying to accomplish. Good examples of such herbs would be Dandelion leaves, Plantain, Yarrow, Centaury, Red Clover, Hyssop, Fennel and Violet leaves. If desired, these herbs can be mixed together in equal parts into a cleansing herb tea blend.
During the acute phase of the Healing Crisis, no alteration or innovation should be made in the treatment or the regimen. Rather, things should be kept the same, so as not to impose any undue stimulation or shocks on the organism, and let it do its healing and cleansing work undisturbed.
Hering's Law of Cure by Dr. Robert Schmidt
The Traditional Healer's Handbook by Hakim G. M. Chishti, N, D.
@ 1988, 1991 by Hakim G. M. Chishti
Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont USA