you are basically a plant with complicated feelings

Gardeners know that healthy plants have certain basic requirements: they need the right temperature, the right amount of sun, the right amount of water, and the right amount and kind of nutrients in the soil. Different plants have different needs, but one that has all these will be the most resilient, able to withstand pests, diseases and climate variations.

People are no different.

There’s even a meme about this that floats around social media from time to time. It concludes that people are basically plants with complicated feelings.

I was a gardener long before ever thinking about becoming a doctor. And I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the idea of feeding the soil is fundamental to naturopathic medical philosophy.

The profession even has a specific term for it: Terrain.


The concept is hardly unique to naturopathy; it’s the root of all systems of healing, even if modern medicine sometimes gets caught up in shiny new diagnostic tools and treatment protocols.

This idea of terrain is foundational, both philosophically and practically. That’s why it’s the first of my Five Pillars of Natural Medicine. No treatment will work — long term if at all — without addressing underlying imbalances. And it becomes an important guide to action when folks have complicated health issues.

Here’s an example:

Early in my practice I saw a patient with severe symptoms. She was seeing many doctors, on the highest doses of three pages worth of prescription medications, and nothing was helping. Her doctors had despaired of her. And I had to be careful not to diminish the actions of any of her drugs and potentially cause her harm.

So what to do? We went back to the concept of terrain.

Feed the body like you feed the soil

We worked on basics like digestion, nutrient repletion and mindset. In just a few months, her intractable symptoms were abating and she was able to reduce her medications. And she ended up healthier over all.

Not all of my patients start out this complicated and sick. But healing always begins here.

People referred to me by other patients know that I’ll tell them to drink more water, eat more vegetables, and take probiotics and fish oil. It’s part of the reset, part of feeding the soil.

Resilience is what we’re after. A plant in the right place, with the right support can flex in a hailstorm, throw off diseases, survive some drought or neglect.

A person in the right place, with the right support, can flex in stressful times, heal quickly and thrive.

— Dr. Orna



Header photo by Daniel Hajdacki on Unsplash.