The whole body is greater than the sum of its parts. When we utilize the combined, cooperative forces in the body, we can align with the laws of nature.
“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration.”
—Nikola Tesla (1)
“Synergy is the only word in our language that means behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the separately. observed behaviors of any of the system’s separate parts or any subassembly of the system’s parts. There is nothing in the chemistry of a toenail that predicts the existence of a human being.”
—Buckminster Fuller (2)
The sixth law of healing is the Law of Synergy. Synergy is a concept refined by the inventor Buckminster Fuller, who coined the term “synergetics.” The Law of Synergy says that, when combined, two different forces, agents, or substances can have a shared action whose effects are greater than merely their sum. The concept can be applied to health and wellness, where two medical treatments or two physiological systems in the body, when combined, can have a shared action which exponentially amplifies health effects in the body.
The Latin phrase for “treating the whole person” is tolle totum, which is a basic tenet held by naturopathic. doctors. It means just that: treat the whole person, not just a part of the person. In other words, when treating a lower respiratory infection, don’t just treat the lungs, but other systems as well, such as the gut, the immune system, and the upper respiratory system, such as the nose and nasal passages.
Naturopathic doctors have many tools in their toolbox, such as clinical nutrition, herbal medicine, physical medicine, and homeopathy. They know that the combined effects of their different modalities, as part of a holistic treatment plan, can produce far more potent and beneficial health effects than one modality used by itself and targeted at one organ system. This, of course, does not take away from a healthcare practitioner who has mastered and specializes in one treatment modality, disease, or area of physiology. Take the analogy of a carpenter’s toolbox. Imagine a carpenter who was limited to the use of just one tool, a hammer; no tape measure, no level, no screwdriver, no other tools. If all this carpenter had was a hammer, then everything would probably look like a nail! We all know that proper carpentry can only synergistically occur if multiple tools are applied. The effects of their application, with the oversight of a general contractor, exponentially lead to a house! One hammer cannot build a house. In the same way, one treatment modality, such as clinical nutrition alone, cannot reverse chronic disease as effectively as using multiple tools and modalities together.
The Law of Synergy can also be understood by studying certain herbs that share synergistic properties, such as the combination of turmeric with black pepper, (3) to activate anti-inflammatory and detoxifying effects in the human body; or frankincense and myrrh, used since 1500 BCE, which have been shown to have enhanced antimicrobial efficacy against select pathogens; (4) or the combination of the herbs gentian with skullcap, to optimize digestion and nutrient absorption, developed by O.G. Carroll, ND. (5)
The root meaning of the word healing is “wholeness.” In other words, the word heal essentially means “to make whole.” The whole person must be treated in order for the restoration of normal structure and function to occur, and for chronic disease to be reversed. When the Law of Synergy is applied to the human organism, healing is more likely to take place. The best way for the body to heal itself is by treating the whole person. Treating the whole person, hence, is a synergistic concept with profound implications.
When we introduce a drug into our bodies, how does it know where to go? The answer is that it does not know where to go and even though we are taking it for one thing, such as an anti-migraine drug for a headache, the anti-migraine drug is affecting our whole body. Over time and because of this, drugs can cause multiple systemic side effects, such as glucocorticoids potentially inducing weakened, more porous bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis),6 antipsychotic medications dysregulating blood sugars (prediabetes or diabetes), or biologics weakening our immune system (immune-compromise). (7)
There is an idea that comes from chaos theory, called the Butterfly Effect, which states that small changes—the flapping of a butterfly’s wings—can cause large changes, like a hurricane on a different continent. This notion can be directly applied to the human body, in the context of the Law of Synergy. A small change in the biology of our bodies can lead to large changes which may ultimately progress to a disease state or a restoration of health.
The body is a complex interplay of different parts: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. All of these parts add up to make a totum, a whole person, and the whole is cumulatively much greater than simple mathematical addition of its constituents. This notion was taken up in Gestalt psychotherapy, where the whole self is seen as possessing a kind of reality of its own. The Law of Synergy tells us that a butterfly can cause a hurricane or a rainbow to appear on the horizon, and that butterfly is living within your own body. That horizon is your health and your vital force is the butterfly.
How Can We Apply the Law of Synergy to Benefit Our Health?
We must approach the whole person, acknowledging all levels in order to benefit the whole, as opposed to a reductionistic, isolationistic approach where merely a lab value or an organ system is differentiated and treated. As human beings, we are much more complex than a lab value, and disease impacts the whole organism multifactorially. The Law of Synergy tells us that we must be specialists not just in disease but also in health. Health is much more than merely the absence of disease. Health can be defined as the presence of fully functioning systems harmoniously interrelating on all levels: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Applying the Law of Synergy: Explore the Law of Synergy by engaging in the following activities:
1. List five pairs of things that have synergy in your life. This could be something as simple as two flavors, like salt and vinegar, or following an intense workout with sitting in a steam room. Feel. free to get creative with this exercise.
2. Become aware that whatever you do to your body affects the whole organism. If you introduce a drug into your body, be aware that this drug can produce multiple synergistic side effects.
3. Become aware that you can stack certain diet and lifestyle activities, actions, or modalities in your own life that have a synergistic effect on your health and wellness. Find ones that resonate with you and that make you feel alive. For example, you can stack intermittent fasting (IF)8 with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) (9) and a modified Weston A. Price–style diet (10, 11) to amplify their combined health benefits. Or you can stack spending time in a sensory-deprivation float tank with martial arts and avoiding your food intolerances to experience greater health and wellness. You can find synergies between different diets and lifestyles that resonate with your body and your genes by working with the help of an integrative medicine practitioner.
4. Seek out a naturopathic doctor or another skilled, medically trained physician to help guide you on your healing journey. Choose different modalities and therapies, with the help of your naturopathic doctor, whose synergistic effects will benefit the totality of your body.
5. Please fill in the blank: I’m grateful for my health because __________.
- Tesla, N. My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla. n.p.: Merchant Books, 2019.
- Fuller, R. B., and J. Snyder. Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. Zürich: Lars Müller Publishers, 2018.
- Manap, A. S. A., et al. “Synergistic Effects of Curcumin and Piperine as Potent Acetylcholine and Amyloidogenic Inhibitors with Significant Neuroprotective Activity in SHSY5Y Cells via Computational Molecular Modeling and in Vitro Assay.” Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 11 (2019): 206. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2019.00206.
- Rapper, S. D., et al. “The Additive and Synergistic Antimicrobial Effects of Select Frankincense and Myrrh Oils—A Combination from the Pharaonic Pharmacopoeia.” Letters in Applied Microbiology 54, no. 4 (2012): 352–58. doi:10.1111/j.1472-765x.2012.03216.x.
- Kronenberg, L. D. “The Carroll Food Intolerance. Evaluation and Its Applications.” Naturopathic Doctor News and Review. March 17, 2011. https://ndnr.com/autoimmuneallergy-medicine/the-carroll-food-intolerance-evaluation-and-its-applications/.
- Panday, K., A. Gona, and M. B. Humphrey. “Medication-Induced Osteoporosis: Screening and Treatment Strategies.” Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Disease 6, no. 5 (2014): 185–202. doi:10.1177/1759720×14546350.
- Henrickson, S. E., M. A. Ruffner, and M. Kwan. “Unintended Immunological Consequences of Biologic. Therapy.” Current Allergy and Asthma Reports 16, no. 6 (2016): 46. doi:10.1007/s11882-016-0624-7.
- Ganesan, K., et al. “Intermittent Fasting: The Choice for a Healthier Lifestyle.” Cureus 10, no. 7 (2018): e2947. doi:10.7759/cureus.2947.
- Alansare, A., et al. “The Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training vs. Moderate-Intensity Continuous Training on Heart Rate Variability in Physically Inactive Adults.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 15, no. 7 (2018): 1508. doi:10.3390/ijerph15071508.
- Price, W. A. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Lemon Grove, CA: Price-Pottenger, 2016.
- Fallon, S., et al. Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. Brandywine, MD: NewTrends, 2005.