The Healing Paradox: A Revolutionary Approach to Treating and Curing Physical and Mental Illness
What’s the first thing you do when you stub your toe? Grab hold of it and add even more pressure. When you think about it, it seems illogical but it works!
Steven Goldsmith, MD and author of the new book The Healing Paradox: A Revolutionary Approach to Treating and Curing Physical and Mental Illness (North Atlantic Books and distributed by Random House), addresses Nature’s Paradox below.
by Steven Goldsmith, MD
One day at work, I spilled boiling water onto the top of my hand. Naturally, I sustained a second degree burn. Except that I didn’t, not really. Because within just 90 seconds, I fully healed my hand, using a method that prompted co-workers to believe that I had lost my mind.
How did I recover so quickly from this injury? By plunging my hand under a faucet, into a stream of hot water. The water was not hot enough to burn me further, but it did intensify my pain for maybe 30 seconds. And yet, when I withdrew my hand from the stream, I felt no more pain and my hand looked normal except for a tiny sliver of red near the base of my thumb that disappeared by the end of the day. (Since then, several people have told me that this method promptly and fully healed their burns as well.)
My behavior following the injury was, of course, the antithesis of our usual practice of applying cold water to burns. But applied heat works more quickly and fully. (I am not talking ICU-level, third degree burns covering 60 percent of the body; rather, I refer to the more usual kinds of burns that affect limited patches of the skin.) I learned of this paradoxical treatment from stories of Chinese restaurant cooks who, when singed with boiling oil, immediately expose the injured part to the heat of a stove burner. Typically, they experience a brief intensification of pain followed by its disappearance, as I did.
How unique is this paradoxical resolution of an ailment or its cause when exposed to, what is essentially, more of the same? Not unique at all. For evidence abounds that problems resolve, and often resolve best, when exposed to the hair of the dog, as it were, rather than to their opposites.
Here are some examples from daily life:
o Hot soaks, not cold soaks, reduce inflammation on or within the skin, even though inflamed tissue is abnormally hot.
o Spicy food cools overheated people by causing them to perspire (the evaporation of the sweat cools them).
o Rubbing snow (not ice!) on frostbitten skin is safer and more effective than the application of heat.
o The drinking of diluted, raw organic apple cider vinegar can stop heartburn, even though vinegar is acidic.
o Scratching relieves itching of the skin, even though we should expect the opposite because itching stems from a stimulation of pain receptor
If such therapeutic paradox is a more prevalent phenomenon than we realized, then perhaps we need to revise our fundamental notions of desirable treatment for other ailments too.
But the assumption compelling our application of cold water to burns seems so logical. So commonsensical. It is the same assumption that guides almost all conventional medical treatment: oppose any problem with its opposite. We combat fever with Tylenol, anxiety with tranquilizers, bacteria with antibiotics. Think of all the “anti” drugs--antivirals, antipsychotics, antiinflammatories, anticonvulsants, etc.--that constitute medicine’s formulary.
Yet what if this adversarial approach to ailments is wrong? And not only wrong, but as wrong as it is possible to be? Perhaps the answer to the fire of disease is not water, but more fire.
Fanciful is how mainstream medicine would term these challenges to its orthodoxy. Yet the most successful of its endeavors embodies a “hair of the dog” paradox--immunization! In this practice, individuals are exposed to weakened or inactivated versions of microbes that can make them ill. The same can be said of that bread and butter of allergists, immunotherapy, which consists of the protective administration of substances--bee venom, grasses, etc.--to allergic patients in order to desensitize them.
So let us examine with a more open mind the possibility that what seems bad for what ails us is actually good. In the meantime, I’ll make sure I pay my hot water bills.
Steven Goldsmith a graduate from the Columbia College of Physicians & Surgeons and the author of The Healing Paradox: A Revolutionary Approach to Treating and Curing Physical and Mental Illness (North Atlantic Books and distributed by Random House). He lives in Portland, OR where he maintains a psychiatric practice specializing in helping people recover from illness through natural means.