In Margaret Atwood’s novel The Year of the Flood, Toby’s character begins practicing holistic healing once she arrives among the Gardeners. Holistic healing (sometimes called functional medicine) is defined as “a form of healing that considers the whole person—body, mind, spirit, and emotions—in the quest for optimal health and wellness” (WebMD). For Toby, this meant starting off making herbal lotions and creams, but Pilar soon took Toby under her wing and began teaching her the ways of natural healing. Toby immersed herself in Pilar’s ways, learning about mushrooms, plants and flowers that could be used to heal someone. There is mention of maggot therapy, which the Gardener’s use to heal wounds. The maggots would “eat the decaying flesh, they killed necrotic bacteria, and were thus a great help in preventing gangrene” (Atwood 107-8). This method of healing is very different than those of modern day medicine. It’s very natural and doesn’t harm the body. So who wouldn’t want that?
Our society chooses conventional medicine over the natural approach based off of science. This means using surgery and drugs to try and cure the ailments of patients. However, because of this, we have become “vertically ill” which means that people walk around with mental and physical illnesses that they don’t understand or that aren’t recognizable to them or anyone else (Henry). Doctors prescribe pills constantly for every little thing, which only hides the symptoms and doesn’t get to the root of the issue. Holistic medicine tries to address the issue and fix the cause of the problem. Let’s say a patient suffers from depression. Instead of immediately prescribing antidepressants, a holistic practitioner might use a variety of treatments or informative tactics such as psychotherapy, educating the patient on diet and lifestyle changes, naturopathy and/or spiritual counselling (WebMD). These practitioners believe that since the mind, body and spirit are all connected, that less severe illnesses are caused by imbalances with the body as a whole, which can have a negative effect on one’s health.
Mark Hyman, a functional practitioner, talks about why this alternate form of healing is so important. I encourage you to watch the video, it’s quite interesting!
That’s not to say conventional medicine isn’t helpful though! It definitely is, in the sense that it should be reserved for life threatening diseases and illnesses. But just seeing how effective and natural the holistic approach in the novel was, makes me hope it takes off in the future and makes conventional medicine the less approached form of healing. Do you think holistic medicine is more beneficial than conventional medicine? Do believe the natural way of healing actually works?
Atwood, Margaret. The Year of the Flood. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2010. Print.
Doherty, Rhiannon. “My Newfound Passion – Functional Medicine”. Beyond the Brain. 17
Oct. 2014. www.beyondthebrain.net/blog/my-new-found-passion-functional-medicine.
“Eastern (Holistic) Medicine vs Western Medicine”. HumanCure.com. 13 Sept. 2015.
Henry, Derek. “The Difference between Holistic Medicine and Conventional
Medicine”. Healing the Body. 16 June 2014. healingthebody.ca/the-difference-between
TEDMED. “Mark Hyman at TEDMED 2010”. YouTube. 7 Dec.
“What Is Holistic Medicine?”. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/what-is-holistic-medicine#1.