Is “Natural” Always Natural?

Several years ago I unexpectedly met an acquaintance who told me his wife had unfortunately recently been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. He said they were going to pursue only “natural” treatments–no surgery, no “drugs”, no radiation therapy. When asked what she was going to do, he replied, “Only natural things like dietary supplements. She has just started seeing a ‘natural healer’ who has promised that he can cure her within six months.” 

They pursued the course they had determined. Sadly, a year later the cancer had grown and spread, and within less than two years this man’s wife had died–faithfully pursing natural treatments until it was too late. Her husband told me they finally “broke down” and went to a “regular” physician because he couldn’t stand to see his wife suffering such pain. At that point the end was near.

Scientist peering through microscope.

This, and many other similar experiences, has caused me to do some serious thinking about what “natural” really means. A quick search on the web for definitions turned up:

  • Google: “in accordance with nature”
  • Merriam-Webster: “being in accordance with or determined by nature” or “having or constituting a classification based on features existing in natural”
  • “existing in or formed by nature (opposed to artificial)

The word “natural” is bandied around a lot today. It is very popular in the health field, often mentioned with a significant sense of pride for not doing the “artificial” thing! But we must be very careful here. Popular usage does not determine or define truth. So let’s do some careful thinking about this issue.

My two cats have thick coats of fur that my grandchildren love to stroke. Can we agree that my cats are nude because they are in their natural state? Nudity is the natural state for all mammals–including humans. Therefore, as I sit and write this I am artificially clothed because I am not in my natural state!

Death is natural because all living things die. Why are the devastating results of the earthquakes in Haiti capturing so much attention when they were caused by a phenomenon of nature, and death is a natural part of life?

Just because something is natural does not mean it is safe or good for us. Tobacco is an herb, and we know it contains hundreds of poisonous substances to humans. Yet for many decades millions thought it was “natural” to smoke. Strangely, if you die from lung cancer caused by smoking tobacco, your death will be described as a “natural cause.”

My mother loved to collect and identify mushrooms. Some species of these natural plants can be lethal if eaten–and that death will not be described as natural. What about the person bitten by a poisonous snake who dies from the venom that is quite natural to that species? In fact, molds, bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, and many other natural substances can be very deadly.

Maybe we should not make such a fuss about using only what is “natural”. Ultimately, everything which is made or manufactured comes from nothing more than the natural atoms, molecules, elements and substances originally placed there by God. Scripture says, “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, ‘See, this is new‘”? Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)

We must honestly and carefully answer two questions: Are all natural things safe or healthy? Are all “artificial” or “manufactured” things harmful or deadly?

To be continued…