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Nature and Artifice


For about sixty years, a “Back to Nature” movement has taken firm root in American life. Born partly out of environmental concern, the movement addresses what it considers our highly artificial modes of living. We are estranged from Mother Earth, we are told. Our vehicles run on polluting chemicals, our food is overly processed and adulterated with additives, and we generate too much trash. Agriculture depends too much on chemical herbicides and fertilizers. Industrial processes force conformity and alienation. We consume too many resources. Our economic life isolates us, feeding social division.

We must make radical changes in lifestyle, we are to believe, to expiate our sins. We will be healthier and more spiritually aware. We will no longer exploit the downtrodden. We will cease polluting. We will, for a change, preserve vital resources for future generations.

This Back to Nature movement has spawned new industries. We can replace overly processed, additive-ridden foods with ‘natural’ foods.  We can buy ‘natural’ toiletries, ‘natural’ bedding’, ‘sustainable’ electricity sources, and composters. We can replace pharmaceutical medicine with ‘natural’ remedies.

There is some truth in these claims. Transport and industry do pollute, though much less than they did a few decades ago. Modern medicine relies far too much on chemical drugs and other invasive methods, which often carry harmful side effects. The most common cancer therapies weaken the immune system.

There has to be a better way. But how do we know what’s good for us and for society? The question is complicated by the lack of a fixed, reliable definition of the ‘natural’. Some ‘natural’ foods are more highly processed than the ‘unnatural’ foods they are meant to replace. Many are unhealthful. ‘Natural’ medicines and therapies are often ineffective, and some are downright harmful. Does the ‘natural’ always bring us closer to nature? Consider one popular ‘natural’ therapy: acupuncture. What could be less natural than inserting steel needles into your flesh? Don’t take this the wrong way. We believe acupuncture works for some patients, but it is, none the less, a highly artificial form of medicine.

The question is complicated further by the nature of nature. It isn’t always friendly or benign. Some of the deadliest poisons: belladonna, nightshade, and strychnine, are perfectly natural. The simple lifestyle can shorten life expectancy through malnutrition, exposure, or infection. Get too close to nature, and it can kill you.

What should you do, then? First, understand when a ‘natural’ product or mode of living is beneficial, and when it could be harmful. For anything you buy, investigate all claims. Get in the habit of reading labels of ‘natural’ foods. Ask detailed questions about how ‘natural’ therapies work. Be sure you understand the theories and the mechanisms behind their advertised benefits. For ‘natural’ medicines, ask about sources, ingredients, potency, and processing.

This applies in particular to clay therapy. For any clay you are considering, ask for the material safety data sheet. Ask for the chemical or elemental profile. Ask for the clay’s efficacy rating. Ask where it came from. Ask how it was processed. If you intend to consume it internally, ask if it has been certified by the FDA as safe for internal consumption.

Great American Clay happily answers these questions. Most of our competitors refuse to answer one or more of them- which should tell you all you need to know about them.

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