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Author: PG La Barre
Title: The Healing Crisis


Thinking about the Healing Crisis in preparation for the Nature Cure Story No. 2. I re-read the relevant parts of Lindlahr's Philosophy of Natural Therapeutics. I also refreshed my memory of Leslie Thomson's Healing Crisis. This set me thinking about the relationship between homeostasis and healing crises. Homeostasis (Homoios, like and Stasis, standing) was formalised by Walter B. Cannon (1871-1945) in his book The Wisdom of the Body. It is a term used to explain the body's ability to maintain physiological equilibrium. Lindlahr, similarly was probably the first person to formally describe the concept of the healing crisis. Both concepts had been noted but not developed from the time of Hippocrates onwards. There are further applications of these self-regulatory principles evidenced by homeostasis and healing crises. The domains of relationship, finance, politics, commerce, and ecology all show signs of self- regulation and control. I propose to run a brief critical analysis of the two ideas, investigate their validity, see if they complement each other and whether they are capable of being projected onto a wider screen.

The Healing Crisis

The first conscious memory that I have of the concept of the healing crisis was when I arrived at Kingston to start the E.S.N.T. course. Although I had read Lindlahr's Philosophy of Natural Therapeutics previously, this aspect hadn't made much of an impression on me, despite the fact that there were more than twenty quite lengthy observations about it. At the beginning of the first term it was impressed on us that we would probably experience some form of a healing crisis after some six or seven weeks. As promised, it duly arrived, in my case in the form of large boil on my arm, the size of a golf boil. I still have its scar nearly sixty years later. The beneficial effects to a person's health following fevers, eruptions, colds, inflammations and other acute conditions had been recognised from the time of Hippocrates (c.460-c.370 b.c.).

It was not until Lindlahr, presumably as a result of his tour of European natural health clinics and his study of advocates such as Preissnitz, Schroth, Kneip, Kuhne and others, that he felt able to make a comprehensive and forceful statement explaining how he believed the healing crisis worked. In evaluating the writings of Lindlahr it is important to take into account the situation that existed in America at the beginning of the twentieth century. America was still a young country and rugged individualism was valued. Lindlahr himself had made a fortune out of land speculation. The style of writing and the making of claims with little or no verifiable evidence were fairly widespread. Claims that today would seem rash and unsustainable were taken in their stride. This is not to say that the 'healing crisis' did not exist, but to claim that it was a major player in the curing of diseases such as cancer, typhus, syphilis, epilepsy needed a little more evidence than a statement to that effect from Lindlahr himself.

It seems common sense to me that most acute conditions with accompanying fever, inflammation and eliminative discharges of all kinds have both a cause and a purpose, and it would be reasonable to help, not hinder, this process. To ascribe to the phenomenon properties, which it may or may not possess, does not do it any favours. To my mind it remains as only one of the many aspects to be found in the experience of the ease, dis-ease axis. The sad irony is that Lindlahr died of septicaemia at the age of sixty-two!

Leslie Thomson's "The Healing Crisis", was first published in 1950, revised and extended in 1965 and reprinted four times to 1988. It is a ten thousand-word monograph that presumably reflects the Society's current position with regards to acute illnesses. It is important to realize that since this was written over forty years ago, styles have changed and that evangelic rhetoric is no longer acceptable.

Furthermore a great deal of factual information has been revealed which calls into question many of the unsubstantiated statements that are made in this article. In order to do it justice, any critical review would take more space than I have at my disposal. Of the twenty four sections to the article, eighteen are taken up with discussing the healing crisis proper; five are concerned with a sideshow dealing with citrus fruits and their relative uses and misuses and finally a summary which to my mind is the only section that I could unreservedly commend. Because of the prominent position that the concept of the healing crisis holds, particularly in relationship to the orthodox view, I feel it is important to present it in as rational and coherent a way as possible.

I would like to propose that a small focus group is formed whose brief would be to review all the sections of the paper to see how it could be brought up to date both stylistically and factually. Hopefully when completed it would be able to stand the scrutiny of not only any friendly constructive criticism but also be able to hold its own against any hostile attacks from vested interests.


Homeostasis a less contentious issue than the implications of the 'healing crisis'. Nevertheless it is an important contribution to the factors that combine together to offer some light on the problems of health and the threat to it. Cannon was the first person to give formal recognition to the body's stabilising abilities. He named the ability 'homeostasis', literally 'standing the same'. A more accurate and more commonly used term is that of 'dynamic equilibrium'. The usual analogy used to explain this state is that of a thermostat that controls a centrally heated room. If the temperature of the room gets above that which was set, the system shuts off. Then if someone opens a door or a window the system starts up again. Similarly if you get too hot you sweat, too cold you shiver, and this generates heat and brings the temperature up. Similarly body fluids are maintained within narrow limits. Likewise, blood pressure, pulse rate, respiratory oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, the blood's sugar and calcium levels, and many more complex biochemical reactions combine together the body's systems functioning within acceptable limits. Any action, either psychological (fear, anger) or physiological, external (hot, cold) or internal (blood sugar, blood calcium levels) that disrupts the dynamic equilibrium will cause stress.

Integration- Comparison- Questions

Is the healing crisis part of the homeostasis experience, or are both a reaction to a hostile environment?

Is the healing crisis another example of homeostasis or does continuous disruption of the homeostatic process provoke a healing crisis?

Is the healing crisis just a more active homeostatic response, or are they both part of the adaptive process in humans?


It is suggested that the principles of homeostasis can be extended into other areas of human endeavour. Behaviour, e.g. the need to interact with the outside world in order to maintain body fluids, visits to the village pond. Human Relationships, confrontations need to change to avoid repeats. Financial crises, both personal and global. Political crises. The World, Lovelock in 'Homage to Gaia' and Meadows in 'Limits to Growth' both note that nature is homeostatic and that this might lead to the extinction of the world's greatest predator.

Psychological examples, my namesake mentions several in his book, The Human Animal.

In Conclusion

The similarities between homeostasis, a main player in conventional medicine and the healing crisis, central to the nature cure theory, are such that if either processes are disrupted, disaster will not be far away. Yet scant heed is taken by the powers that be.

The (n.c.) story this space.


Cannon, Walter B. The Wisdom of the Body, 1932, Norton. Kirchfield, F. & Boyle, W., Nature's Doctors, 1994, Medicina Biologica. La Barre, Weston, The Human Animal, 1954, University of Chicago Press & C.U.P.

Lindlahr, H. & Proby J., The Philosophy of Natural Therapeutics, 1975, C. W. Daniel. Lovelock, James, Homage to Gaia, 2000,Oxford U.P. Meadows, D. & D. and Randers, J., Limits to Growth, the 30- yr. Update, 2004, Earthscan.

Peter La Barre is a Naturopath Practitioner.

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