Sun, 02 Mar 2003

Naturopathy: The nonchemical and noninvasive treatment

Debbie A.Lubis, Contributor, Jakarta

It was a pleasant Friday afternoon when Delia, 41, left naturopathic clinic Griya Natura in Jakarta smelling of herbs.

She said a hormonal problem had caused her face to become sensitive, resulting in irritation and pimples.

During a medical checkup in Singapore, a doctor also warned her of the possibility of more serious problem, a leak in her heart valve.

"I don't want to harm my body by exposing it to chemicals. So I try to use natural medicine, although I know it will take some time to get the results. But it's not a magical thing, it's a process," said the mother of two.

Delia flies from Yogyakarta to Jakarta twice a week to receive naturopathic and aromatherapy treatments at Griya Natura, which is the only naturopathic clinic in Indonesia.

By her sixth visit on that pleasant Friday, she said she was feeling both physically and mentally healthy.

"This is what I've been looking for. I'm glad I have been able to get what I want. Look at my face, it doesn't look odd anymore," Delia said.

And a medical examination found that her heart valve is in good condition.

Naturopathic medicine, or naturopathy, is a system of medicine that uses natural substances to treat the patient.

The first foundation of naturopathic medicine is the philosophy of the "healing power of nature". We are told that the healing energy includes the treatment of the immune system in the fuller sense of both the physical and psyche, which is responsible for wellness and the ability to heal and maintain health.

Amarullah H. Siregar, an expert in the field who is also a cardiologist and pediatrician, said naturopathic treatment did not simply treat the manifestation of the disease -- rather it searches for the cause and treats that.

"We believe that the symptoms appear because of a disease, an unbalanced condition of the body system. The unbalanced condition is usually caused 30 percent by physical disorder, 60 percent by mental disorder and 10 percent by spiritual disorder," he said.

Naturopathic medicine incorporates many therapeutic modalities such as herbal medicine, aromatherapy, physical therapy, acupuncture, nutrition, food, lifestyle and counseling.

The therapies used to support and stimulate the healing power of nature must be natural, noninvasive, nonchemical, person- centered and nature friendly.

"We cannot give the same medicinal dosages to patients although they show similar symptoms of an illness.

"Therefore we need to pay attention to the patient's characteristics, nature, habits, lifestyle and dietary habits because that will affect the treatment," Amarullah said.

He added that he needed at least 45 minutes to assess a patient's holistic condition.

He still uses equipment like X-ray machines and lasers to help diagnose patients. Patients first fill out a form that attempts to gather some information on the nonmedical background of their well-being, such as their emotional condition.

Griya Natura, established last September, has treated at least 400 men and women of all ages for various illnesses. Some of them came with autism, cancer, hormonal imbalances, infertility, depression and degenerative diseases.

"People turn to natural medicine because they cannot bear the debilitating effects caused by chemical treatment," Amarullah said.

Modern medication such as radiation (ionizing radiation in the treatment of malignant tumors) and chemotherapy (introducing toxic chemicals into the blood stream to target cancerous cells) can be helpful -- but the side effects lead many patients to seek out alternative treatments, even if they have not been tested scientifically.

Apart from loss of hair, patients exposed to chemotherapy, for instance, complain of nausea, loss of weight and weakness.

Griya Natura is a two-story, artistically decorated building with cozy rooms filled with sophisticated equipment, plus relaxing instrumental music and the scent of herbs and flowers.

The clinic has a drugstore selling imported herbal medicines from Australia. There are also "herbal snacks" for those who cannot help stop munching on something but want to stay fit.

Amarullah said the clinic only uses herbal medicines that have gone through clinical trials and have been certified by the Australian Federal Drugs Agency.

"We have to make sure that there are no chemical contents in the plants themselves," Amarullah said.

The clinic also tries to grow some medicinal plants in Jonggol, West Java.

But Rachmi Primadiarti, a physician who is also a herbalist and medical aromatherapist at the clinic, said of all 300 known plants used in modern medical aromatherapy, only 40 were found in Indonesia.

She added that it was also hard to produce herbal medicine in Indonesia because the medicine had to meet the requirements of standardized and certified distillation and other technical processes.

Griya Natura, Jl. Prapanca Raya No. 21, South Jakarta; Phone: 720-4136/727-99520; Fax: 727-98353;