The Thesis

The Meaning of Natural Medicine. An Interpretative Study.

Having served as an educator in natural medicine in Australia for close to three decades, I have for most of that time grappled with the paucity of documented material that describes and elucidates just what it is that practitioners of natural or complementary medicine offer to patients.


I have had ample opportunity to observe the progression of natural medicine from its status as a marginalised and often-vilified approach to health care during the 1970s to its progressive movement into formal tertiary environments during the 1990s.

Having taught in such areas as Western herbal medicine, history and principles of osteopathy, history and philosophy of medicine, and qualitative research methods in several theatres throughout that time, I was acutely aware of the limited scope and nature of the documented resources that were then available to both educators and students in the complementary medicines.

I therefore leapt at the opportunity to further my own knowledge and understanding of the philosophical and pragmatic bases of natural medicine when offered entry into a Master of Health Science by Research program at Victoria University during the 1990s. At that time, Victoria University had developed undergraduate programs in traditional Chinese medicine and osteopathic medicine and had in place a strong and committed undergraduate program in holistic nursing.

There were also available a small number of graduate programs in complementary medicine, and there was a receptive attitude to the development of further such programs within the Health Sciences Department.

It was in such an environment that I embarked upon my thesis, which had as its aim the explication of the meaning of natural medicine. It eventually saw the light of day in December 1998. There is no need to go further into the details here, as they are all presented in the text of the thesis, “The Meaning of Alternative Medicine. An Interpretive Study”, which is available below in its entirety.

This thesis provided the framework around which the book “Holism and Complementary Medicine” was constructed. It is offered as a further resource to students, practitioners and lovers of natural medicine. It provides an early and tentative exploration of the understandings of a number of educator/practitioners of several modalities of natural medicine regarding what they do and why they do it.

It is hoped that by making this thesis more widely available, senior and graduate students of the modalities of complementary medicine who are particularly drawn to qualitative epistemologies and modes of research will find encouragement to pursue their passion. It is hoped that this will thereby further the development of a new way of medicine that is more focussed upon the human than the technical, the empathic than the cerebral, the holistic than the symptomatic dimensions of the healing project.

CHAPTER 8   Justifying the Empiric:

Effectiveness and Validation in the Natural Medicines

CHAPTER 9   Aspirants to the Caduceus:

Education in the Natural Medicines

CHAPTER 10   On Becoming a Profession:

Professionalism and Regulation in the Natural Medicines

CHAPTER 11   Envisioning the Future:

The Renewal of Medicine

CHAPTER 12   Completing the Circle

The Meaning of Natural Medicine