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 Naturopathic Medicine: Fever As Healer 
It was Western history's first great physician, Hippocrates who said "give me fever and I will cure all disease". A shocking statement perhaps to some, as we are constantly reminded by advertisements for cold and flu medicines, which characterize fever as the villain, that we should always suppress a fever before it does harm. Within the past decade, research has provided a scientific basis for what has been observed empirically by physicians and those caring for the sick for hundreds of years; a fever that is allowed to develop and run its course naturally is one of nature's great healing responses.

The word "fever" is taken from the Latin word favere which means "to warm". In adults, the normal body temperature is considered to be 98.6 F (37C), with young children being slightly higher. While the onset of a fever may be frightening , it is not caused by a breakdown of the body's temperature-regulating mechanism as in heat stroke. Rather, it is the bodies normal self-preserving mechanism of "hyperfunctional repair". In other words, a fever is a normally occurring body process that destroys the infecting agent or toxemia and repairs the damage done by these agents. It acts to preserve the status quo of the healthy body.

Fever may occur for a variety of reasons. It is most often a response to a bacterial or viral infection that has occurred because of the body having a lowered resistance. But fever may also occur when toxic wastes have accumulated in the body, the increased temperature serves to neutralize and eliminate the toxemia. In response to the offending agent's influence, an elevated temperature acts to increase resistance to disease and restore the body to health. Fever has been shown in research to elevate the white blood cell count. White blood cells act to bind toxic materials and engulf microorganisms, aiding in their removal from the body. In addition there occurs an elevation in the heart and respiration rates which aid to spread oxygenated blood to the site of infection. Microorganisms do not tolerate high oxygen environments well and are less likely to multiply. In addition, the body's metabolic rate increases, causing elimination of toxic wastes from the infection site. While enhancing these normal body mechanisms to fight disease, fever also acts to lessen microbe growth. Most microorganisms that cause harm to the body are only able to live within a narrow temperature range. A higher temperature destroys these organisms by restricting their growth and allowing the white blood cells to get the upper hand.

In the wholistic view, an elevated body temperature is the organism's way of correcting an imbalance between its own "vital force" and the external environment. Viruses and bacteria prevalent in the air, soil and water around us cause infections when a persons "vital force" is no longer able to oppose it. When we are in good health, exposure to these infective agents can occur without the person getting sick. This is why some people get a "flu bug" that is going around while others are unaffected.


It is important in therapy to support a fever, allowing it to do its work by eliminating the infective agent or toxin and building the immune system. If not allowed to complete its natural progression, the body will become progressively weaker, unable to mount the reactive power to overcome disease. Administering agents that block the ability to mount a fever is similar to teaching a child to tie their shoes then never allowing them to do so because someone finishes it for them. When the time comes to do it on their own, they are not able to do a good job as they have not been able to practice and are not well prepared.

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 About The Author
Thomas A. Kruzel N.D. is a Naturopathic Physician in private practice in Portland, Oregon with an emphasis on family practice, geriatric medicine and diseases of the urogenital tract. He is an Associate Professor of......more
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