Can you help improve the health of a nation?

By Naturopath Hermann Keppler, Principal of CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine).

Every day, natural health practitioners like me witness at least some cases of ill health which have been caused or worsened by the very environment which should help us to flourish. I am a Naturopath and the Founder and Principal of a college that teaches Natural Therapies.  If you, as an expert Landscape or Urban Designer can take anything from my thoughts below, then I hope that they inspire you to help restore health to our open spaces.

Hermann-CROPPED-again-July-2012Beware the toxic environment
Thousands of tonnes of chemicals are sprayed in our public spaces every year, to kill weeds on our pavements and playgrounds, on our golf courses, parks, and in town squares. Research has linked some products to birth defects, reproductive, developmental, kidney, and hormonal problems, and cancer. Yet our children and pets play on them, we walk barefoot on the grass, or carry residues home on our shoes.

It was only during the 20th century that our world became polluted by chemical pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified organisms, PCBs, dioxins and the like.  These have found their way into our bodies, along with synthetic hormones, and antibiotics used in farming.

The connection between what we touch or breathe in, as well as consume, and our health, is ignored at our peril.  Products are rapidly absorbed through the skin, or into our lungs by breathing.

Our bodies can become stressed by our toxic burden, and use up vital nutrients trying to deal with them, making our immune system less effective at protecting us.  The cumulative effect can be a health melt-down.  We can see the NHS buckling under the weight of sickness, allergies, and chronic ill health and disease.

Do your own research
Please read independent reports about the toxic effects of products, rather than rely on manufacturers’ PR. Biotech companies are amongst the richest and most influential corporations on Earth.  They have a history of profiting from products highly damaging to human health, wildlife, and the environment. The legacy of these products is not quickly come and gone. Many will remain in the ecosystem, and will be traceable in generations of our children still to come, where fertility has not been impaired by such products.

Consider Organic
During ‘Organic September’ it’s worth remembering that once upon a time, all plants were organic.   Now you even have to ensure that your ‘bee-friendly’ plants (ultimately supplied through a biotech firm) don’t contain built-in pesticides deadly to bees.  Since bees and other pollinators are essential for a high proportion of the food crops humans eat every day, this isn’t only an altruistic concern.

In our ‘pill for every ill’ culture, many people have lost sight of the fact that our bodies have a completely awe-inspiring ability to self-heal if given the right conditions. How to provide the right conditions is the basis of our naturopathic teaching at CNM.  In our student clinics,  it can be seen time and time again that such is the power of natural plants to sustain and nourish us,  that simply changing diet and personal care products to a toxin-free, organic source is a first and highly powerful step to removing stressors which impede the immune system.  This applies regardless of individual symptoms or whichever healing protocol is appropriate.  Organic plants can have higher levels of beneficial nutrients and disease-fighting chemical compounds which protect against disease.

Learn more about natural health
Understanding more about the impact of food and herbs on our health promotes total respect for nature.  CNM offers a Diploma Course in Naturopathic Nutrition, and one in Herbal Medicine.  Both combine traditional wisdom with up to date research.  In fact, since nutrition is the cornerstone of health, students training in many different therapies at CNM all gain an understanding of the importance of nutrition and the power of herbs.

Make room for nature’s gifts

herbs-in-tray-woman-holding-Large[1]Food, herbs, and medicinal plants are gifts of nature which give us life, energy, and immunity. Nothing could be more of a positive benefit to health, since our immunity governs our susceptibility to illness or infection, and the speed and extent of our recovery.  Some of the Herbalists who graduated from CNM have gone on to make their own medicinal herb gardens.   From food sustainability, to a resource for bees, could organic food or herbs be grown in the spaces you design?   And must weeds always be something to be destroyed?  The humble dandelion, for instance, offers remarkable health giving properties.

This one is much harder to avoid.  Many towns and cities proudly claim excellent mobile phone and wi-fi coverage, with the consequence that we are all living in a soup of electro-magnetic and wireless radiation.  You can look up some of the documented ill-effects of this on humans or watch a video on our website.  Save to say that an increasing number of people are suffering from electro-hypersensitivity (EHS) and their rights should be respected when planning a safe area.   Animal and plant health too, is affected.

Mental health
A garden or a public space is often designed to be a sanctuary; a refreshing place of respite and calm in an increasingly frenetic world, where we can reconnect with nature.  The evidence for nature being soothing, and greenery combatting depression, is well-rehearsed.   The holistic approach to health which we teach here at CNM, views each person’s mental, physical and emotional state as an inseparable whole.  Trying to heal, for example, will be physically harder if there is anger or fear.  Similarly, toxins which disrupt our physical health, such as our hormonal system, can have a profound knock-on effect on our mental state.

A ‘grass roots’ movement
Changes in society never happen from the top down.  If Landscape and Urban Designers are aware of the issues that affect our health and can represent the true needs of the communities they work in, there is more likelihood of them being part of a growing movement that stands up for our right to health.   For example, every practitioner who graduates from CNM goes out and supports others to achieve better health through educating them about dietary and lifestyle matters.   It is an empowering ripple effect that allows people to take back control of their health and their lives.   We all have the power to change the world for the better, however small or large our contribution may be!

About CNM
CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine) is the UK’s largest training provider in natural therapies.  It was founded in 1998 by Hermann Keppler, a former engineer who trained as a Naturopath when natural therapies helped restore his health following an accident.   CNM’s part time Diploma Courses are offered in Naturopathic Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Acupuncture, Homeopathy, and Natural Chef Training.   Short Courses are offered in a wide range of natural therapies.  To learn more about CNM Courses, visit  01342 410 505