What image usually comes to mind when we hear the word ‘medicine’?

Most of us probably think of doctors in white coats, hospitals, GP surgeries, drugs and medications. And yes, this would be correct as all of these things are part of the profession and system we currently call medicine, but what if medicine was much more than that?

Was medicine around before doctors and hospitals were invented?

Just how old is medicine?

Let’s go back in time before we had modern medical systems or even modern technology. If a human being for example ate a red berry that was poisonous and then was violently ill for several days after eating it, the other human beings in the community would have taken note of which berry it was and wisely decided to not eat it again.

And if a person broke their leg before doctors and hospitals were invented, they would have simply rested the leg, intuitively splinted it with something and waited for it to heal. Perhaps they might have even noted the activity that caused them to break their leg in the first place, and wisely decided to not repeat that activity or do it in a different way.

In other words, we were learning and changing our ‘life style’ according to lived experience. We had a living wisdom based on being aware of our surroundings and our own bodies.

As there was no official modern medical system in place there was no alternative.

Can we say that just because there was not a doctor or a pill or a hospital around that this living wisdom was not medicine?

It makes sense that this lived wisdom based on awareness and observation was the beginnings of medicine as we know it today. So being aware of our bodies and our environment, adapting our lifestyle and making daily choices based on lived experience, has actually always been part of medicine since day one.

So when did lived wisdom, awareness and lifestyle cease to be part of the definition of medicine?

Why don’t we think of our daily behaviours and lifestyle choices these days as medicine? For example, why don’t we consider what foods or drinks we consume or how much sleep we get, as part of medicine?

Modern medicine is truly amazing and much needed but perhaps in its well-intentioned enthusiasm to solve problems, it has inadvertently given the solution or excuse for us to avoid taking personal responsibility for our own health.

Modern medicine has become so good at fixing and propping up our broken bodies that we no longer have to change the way we live after experiencing illness and disease.

Is it time for us to reclaim the definition of medicine as it being the marriage of the wonderful skills and knowledge of our health professionals and our own living wisdom and choices? In other words, Living Medicine.

Filed under

HealthMedicineIll healthSickness

  • By Andrew Mooney, Chartered Physiotherapist, Complementary Health Practitioner, Researcher and Presenter.

    I am fascinated and endlessly curious about the human body and the magic and order of how it works and moves. I am equally fascinated by people and discovering the common elements that make us all one human family.

  • Photography: Dean Whitling, Brisbane based photographer and film maker of 13 years.

    Dean shoots photos and videos for corporate portraits, architecture, products, events, marketing material, advertising & website content. Dean's philosophy - create photos and videos that have magic about them.