by Mark Maxwell Abushady, NYC
Numen: The Nature of Plants
Numen is by no means an exhaustive survey of the vast array of medicinal plants; nor is it a scientific review of what we know of the life-force of plants (though the word ‘Numen’ is defined as that which animates the living). Rather, the film is an examination of our current cultural relationship with plants (especially those that we know to have medicinal properties and were used as such historically), and how much of society has become divorced from both the knowledge and practice of healing with plants.
The interviewees include herbalists, naturopaths, native healers, philosophers, and a Harvard Medical School neurologist. They challenge, amongst other things, the benefits of modern day Western medicine – specifically as it relates to pharmaceuticals. Several also challenge the separation between the medical-science community and the holistic community.
An informative statistic: from the 1890s to the 1930s, 90% of Americans knew how to take care of themselves with herbs, and herbal products were available everywhere . . . and manufactured by the companies what would later “evolve” into our present day pharmaceutical companies. Just as most of us no longer know where the food for our meals comes from, we no longer know where the compounds that purport to heal us come from. When we do see a doctor, internist or emergency room worker, how many listen to us, the patient, and really look at us in a diagnostic way, and how many base their diagnoses solely upon blood tests and data from diagnostic machinery, discounting information related by the patient as superfluous, or “anecdotal” at best?
Plant-based healing is more subtle than synthetic pharmaceuticals, occurs over a greater time span than synthetic pharmaceuticals, and supports the body’s own healing process. Contrast that with the dramatic effects of synthetics, which often come with dramatic side effects. As one interviewee states: there are no side effects; there are just effects you don’t want. Often plants have mitigating compounds in them that soften or eliminate unwanted effects. Think of tea, which has the stimulant caffeine, but also carminative compounds as well.
Holistic healing takes into account the system as a whole, whereas modern medicine tends to look at “parts.” It is a telling statistic that the 4th leading cause of death in the U.S. is the appropriate use of pharmaceuticals in hospitals. (The 3rd leading cause is medical mistakes.)
While many of the interviewees where thought-provoking and informative, I must single out the Naturopathic Physician, Bill Mitchell. In preparing this review, I learned that he had, sadly, passed away. His words, especially regarding the sacredness of science, healing and life itself, give the listener much to ponder. His dedication to the healing arts is unquestionable.
A fine, important film, with a great time-lapse opening and much good information. Recommended!
Bethany’s Story is, ultimately, the story of food as medicine . . . food with far more power to cure ills than we have heretofore realized.
As a young teenager, Bethany suffered several health issues, including a bad reaction to a Tetanus shot given for an injury from a nail, an infection at the site of a pain-killer drip, and the interaction of a broad spectrum antibiotic given for that infection without regards to a muscle-relaxant she was on at the time, rendering the muscle relaxer toxic. She became paralyzed from the neck down and told she would never walk again. Her story is one of an amazing comeback, spearheaded by a switch to a raw diet, yoga, and meditation.
About half the film is Bethany’s story; the other half consists of interviews with dieticians, nutritionists and doctors extoling the virtues of a vegan diet and lamenting the great lack of nutritional education in the Western Medical Profession. Indeed, the comment is made that the average person on the street knows more about nutrition than the average doctor in America.
Brian Clement, of the Hippocrates Health Institute, comments how, in the 19th century, mercury was “the nuclear waste of its day;” and how it is currently being injected into people in the form of preservatives for vaccines and silver amalgam for dental fillings. In the population of M.S. patients, 5-10% were said to be actually suffering from mercury poisoning.
Interviewee Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona, considers the absence in Third-World countries of asthma, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and type I diabetes, and notes an inverse relationship between these auto-immune diseases and infectious diseases. These countries have high infection rates, but extremely low rates of auto-immune diseases. Could diet, and/or lack of multiple vaccinations in such countries, account for this?
The film is certainly thought-provoking. Especially likable is the level-headed, balanced contributions by Dr. Michael Greger. Of course, Bethany herself, and her recovery, is a great testimonial to the power of food and a call to take responsibility for what we choose to eat.