Q96: Orthomolecular Medicine


“For every drug that benefits a patient, there is a natural substance that can achieve the same effect.” ~ Pheiffer’s Law

Carl C. Pheiffer, M.D., Ph.D 1908-1988

OrthoOrthomolecular medicine describes the practice of preventing and treating disease by providing the body with optimal amounts of substances which are natural to the body.

The term Orthomolecular comes from ortho, which is Greek for “correct” or “right,” and “molecule,” which is the simplest structure that displays the characteristics of a compound. So it literally means the “right molecule.”

Two-time Nobel Prize winner, and molecular biologist, Linus Pauling, Ph.D., coined the term “Orthomolecular” in his 1968 article “Orthomolecular Psychiatry” in the journal “Science.”

The key idea in orthomolecular medicine is that genetic factors affect not only the physical characteristics of individuals, but also their biochemical. Biochemical pathways of the body have significant genetic variability and diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer, schizophrenia or depression are associated with specific biochemical abnormalities which are contributing factors of the illness.

The importance of diet in relationship to optimal health has been understood throughout recorded history. Hippocrates regarded food as a primary form of medicine more than 2,500 years ago. Records from ancient Egypt as far back as 5000 BC show the use of specific foods to treat various conditions.

True scientific understanding of diet did not occur until the 18th century, beginning with the work of French physicist Rene de Reaumur, who is credited with conducting the initial research of digestive chemistry. Later in that same century, Reaumur’s work was built upon by chemist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, who provided the scientific foundation for the study of how the body metabolizes food to create energy.

The first person to show a direct link between disease and a lack of a specific nutrient was James Lind, a physician in the British navy, who discovered that sailors on long voyages without rations containing citrus fruits developed bleeding gums, rough skin, poor muscle tension, and slow-healing wounds, all symptoms characteristic of scurvy. Today, it is well known that scurvy is due to vitamin C deficiency.

“Man is a food-dependent creature. If you don’t feed him, he will die. If you feed him improperly, part of him will die.”

Emanuel Cheraskin, M.D., D.M.D. 1916-2001

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