How to Apply The Fourth Law of Healing, The Law of Compensation

by | May 4, 2021 | Chronic Disease, Detoxification, Healing, Health, Nutrition | 0 comments

The body responds to every event or agent with first, an observable, ephemeral effect, and second, a reaction which is persistent and runs directly contrary to the primary effect.

“Cold things warm, warm things cool, wet things dry, and parched things get wet.”

—Heraclitus (1)

“Every agent affecting the human organism produces two effects: a first, apparent, temporary effect, and a second, lasting effect. The secondary, lasting effect is always contrary to the primary, transient effect.”

—Henri Lindlahr, MD, ND (2)

The fourth law of healing is the Law of Compensation (otherwise known as the Law of Dual Effect). The Law of Compensation was first articulated by Henri Lindlahr, MD, ND, one of the pioneers of naturopathy in the United States, in his seminal work, Nature Cure, first published in 1913. (3) The Law of Compensation states that every action in the body, elicited by an agent such as a drug, first produces a primary effect which is apparent and temporary. However, an opposite, secondary reaction, or a “dual effect,” then ensues which is persistent in its duration and its action runs counter to the primary effect.

The Law of Compensation can be observed in the application of cold to the body. For example, let’s say you suffer a high ankle sprain and your doctor has you follow. the RICE protocol: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The general recommendation is to leave the ice pack on your ankle ten to twenty minutes, but let’s say that because. you’re watching Netflix, you forget and leave it on for thirty minutes. Well, the initial application of cold produces vasoconstriction, meaning the blood vessels in the superficial layers of your ankle constrict as blood is driven into the interior and inflammation is calmed. This is the primary, transitory effect: inflammation is lowered, pain is reduced.

But a secondary effect will occur which is the opposite, that is, runs contrary to the initial effect, and is persistent in nature.  Your ankle becomes swollen again, as your blood vessels respond with vasodilatory effect, blood is brought to the surface, and inflammation—an essential part of the healing process—rears its fiery head. Almost completely ignored by conventional medicine, this is the secondary, persistent reaction. (Of course, if you leave the ice on even longer, you could cause nerve damage and occlude blood flow altogether.)

Because the body is complex (and rich in confounding factors), as particularly evidenced in the nutritional sciences, (4) it would be difficult to produce a randomized control trial (RCT), which proved (or disproved) the Law of Compensation. However, because the body is intelligent and ordered, it has mechanisms in place which will compensate for any event, so as to maintain balance and prevent death and damage from occurring in the organism.

Organisms continually adapt to their environment so as to maintain homeostasis. This notion that our internal biological systems are tightly regulated was first described by the French physiologist Claude Bernard, MD, in 1865. (5)  Then the concept of I was coined in 1926 by Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon, MD, and popularized in his book, The Wisdom of the Body. (6)  When the body is in health, homeostasis persists, but when the body becomes diseased, a “compensatory homeostasis” can become the norm. (7)

When sailing in a sailboat, if you desire to sail into the wind so as to maintain a certain course, you must turn your bow toward the wind. You will experience a sudden change in the blowing of the wind from one side to the other of your vessel. This action, called tacking, maintains homeostasis of the sailboat, and often one will have to jibe, in the opposite direction, in a series of zigzags to remain on course. Your health is like a sailboat continually tacking and jibing its sails to the changing wind currents of the environment while maintaining a course of optimal health.

The majority of conventional medicine is focused on the primary, transient effect, while the secondary effects are mostly ignored. In no area is this more apparent than in pharmacology. The Law of Compensation can be partially understood in its action by reading what side effects can be caused by a certain medication. A side effects list is like a symptom picture of potential compensation in the body for that particular pharmacological agent. Primary effects are the action which the drug has in the body, and secondary effects are the body’s compensatory response to the primary action. Have you ever wondered why you have to keep taking a drug in order for it to work? It’s because the body responds to cancel out the drug’s therapeutic effects, firstly by lowering its concentrations in the blood (depending on its half-life), and so the drug must be continued to maintain its suppressive action.

For example, if a patient takes Adderall for their ADHD, it will act as an amphetamine-inducing stimulant and raise their heart rate. Then, the body will attempt to lower the heart rate and downregulate metabolism so as to normalize function. With regular use, the body even begins to anticipate the drug’s action and lowers the heart rate before administration. Over time, a person may need to have their Adderall dosage adjusted in order to maintain its same effects. (8)

Take another example: Let’s say you have a fever of 102 and you take two 500 mg tablets of Tylenol (acetaminophen) to suppress it. At first, the agent has anantipyretic action in the body which inhibits the synthesis of inflammatory compounds called prostaglandins. This production, which is mediated by a group of enzymes called cyclooxygenase (COX), is inhibited and so the fever is suppressed.  This is the primary action of Tylenol. Then, once the medication begins to wear off after a few hours, the body often responds with a fever again, but this time it persists and may be even higher than 102. This is the secondary reaction. You then follow the recommendation on your bottle of Tylenol and take 1,000 mg every six hours, with the daily recommended. upper limit dosage being 4,000 mg.

It is commonly thought that the return of the fever, after Tylenol has worn off, is due to the persistence of the infection, but a case can be made that the Law of Compensation is actually in effect. The fever is the body’s response to the infection, and the dual effect is the return of the fever once the medication has worn off. In other words, the body compensates to the action of the Tylenol by instigating the return of the fever to maintain physiological function. Because the fever is a necessary part of the body’s healing capacity, it returns, perhaps even stronger, and is more persistent.

Even though it is recommended that Tylenol be taken for no more than ten days straight (or a proton pump inhibitor, like Prilosec, for no more than two weeks), in many cases, people become chronic users of these medications well beyond their recommended safety usage. Eventually, the cumulative side effects of having taken these drugs may be diagnosed as a new disease or condition. Some classic side effects include the drowsiness associated with Benadryl, (9) the muscle cramps associated with statins, (10) or the fatigue associated with proton pump. inhibitors like Prilosec. (11)  If the use of these medications is chronic, these side effects can eventually exacerbate the risk of the onset of a new disease.  For example, a 2015 Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) review found that chronic anticholinergic use (such as Benadryl) had a 54 percent increased association with dementia. (12) Also, the chronic use (meaning greater than a year) of proton pump inhibitors (PPI) is associated with an increased risk of fracture, likely due to hypocalcemia and hypomagnesemia. (13)

Knowing this, let’s go back to the example of the atopic triad, where the child with eczema who takes steroids for a period of time ends up with seasonal allergies that progress to asthma. Now, the child is diagnosed with two new. diseases (seasonal allergies and asthma), which according to an understanding of the laws of nature, signify a disease progression due to the secondary effects of chronic steroid use to suppress eczema.  More pharmacology, with new side effects, usually including more steroids, is conventionally prescribed for the onset of these new diseases.

The Law of Compensation is why most modern pharmacology will work for a little while, or seem to, but then it will require a higher dosage or the overlay of new polypharmacy to maintain or amplify its effects or counter its side effects. This is the Law of Compensation in full effect.  Understanding that it is an underpinning of homeostasis helps to guide the naturopathic doctor in restoring normal structure and function in the human organism, as well in preventing the development of chronic disease.

Another example of the Law of Compensation is the sexual arousal that can occur for couples when watching a scary or suspenseful movie, as evidenced by the biphasic nature of the nervous system. When watching a scary or suspenseful movie, the sympathetic nervous system is activated (“fight or flight”) by certain intense scenes, and hormones such as adrenaline, dopamine, and cortisol increase. Then, as things calm down, the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”) begins to take over, but it is much more persistent. The parasympathetic nervous system calms down the couple, and they both hold each other close and become “turned on” while oxytocin courses through their veins. Hollywood understands and applies the Law of Compensation well in these genres when it comes to the biphasic nature of the nervous system.

The field of hydrotherapy, revered and applied for centuries by all cultures over millennia, was developed and refined by Father Sebastian Kneipp, a forefather of naturopathic medicine, in Germany in the 1800s. (14) He understood that the secondary effects of the application of cold and hot water, in a methodical way, could produce lasting health in the human organism by preventing and reversing the development of chronic disease. (15)

Another example of a modality which applies the Law of Compensation is the field of homeopathy, originally based on the idea that ‘like cures like,’ founded by Samuel Hahnemann, MD, also in Germany in the 1800s. By using minute doses of potentized substances, to the point which they are actually often no longer present on a molecular level (in other words, they are below Avogadro’s constant from a chemical perspective), the primary, transient effect is tamped down. (16) Meanwhile, the secondary, lasting effect, in theory, is produced by enhancing the natural, vital healing mechanisms in the body. This enhancement is called potentization, (17) but its mechanism is poorly understood. (18)

How Can We Apply the Law of Compensation to Benefit Our Health?

Well, we can generally benefit from the knowledge that every agent, most notably drugs, but also including food, air, and water, produces primary and secondary effects which can affect our deeper, more important organs and biological systems.

However, this is not something to try to manipulate at home. Rather, it is a law of healing ever-present in the human body, one that can be addressed by engaging the help of a trained, licensed naturopathic doctor or a skilled integrative health or functional medicine doctor.

Applying the Law of Compensation: Explore the Law of Compensation by engaging in the following activities:

1. Exercise a minimum of four times per week, for at least thirty minutes at a time, engaging in a combination of workout programs suitable to you, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), yoga, dance, qigong, and/or cardiovascular exercises. In fact, by strengthening your musculoskeletal organ system, you can improve the outcome of most disease processes. (19). Exercise is perhaps the number one way you can regularly experience the Law of Compensation in your day. You engage in strenuous labor, such as weight lifting or high-intensity yoga, for a period of time, which pumps hormones such as cortisol, growth hormone, and testosterone in your blood and induces muscular contraction and sweating. This is the primary effect. Then, you derive the persistent benefits of relaxation and enhanced mental clarity the rest of your day, which is the secondary effect.

2. Become aware of the subtle or sometimes not-so subtle secondary effects of modern pharmacology, which can produce nutrient deficiencies, raise toxicity in the blood and tissues, as well as lead to a lowered vital force. Become aware of substances whose secondary effects may lower your immune system, compromise metabolism, and produce side effects which may lead to the diagnosis of a new chronic disease.

3. Seek out therapies and modalities which gently enhance your vital force and treat you as a whole person, rather than suppress your symptoms with drugs and therapies which potentially could drive the disease or condition deeper into your body, thereby worsening your condition.

4. Please fill in the blank: I’m grateful for my health because _________.



  1. Heraclitus, H. B. Fragments: The Collected Wisdom of Heraclitus. New York: Penguin Books, 2003.
  2. Lindlahr, H. Nature Cure: Philosophy & Practice Based on the Unity of Disease & Cure. Charleston: BiblioBazaar, 2006.
  3. Lindlahr, H. Nature Cure: Philosophy & Practice Based on the Unity of Disease & Cure. Charleston: BiblioBazaar, 2006.
  4. Boudreau, C., and H. B. Evich. “How Washington Keeps America Sick and Fat.” Politico. November 4, 2019.
  5. Bernard, C. An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine. New York: Dover, 2018.
  6. Cannon, W. B. The Wisdom of the Body. New York: Norton, 1967.
  7. Fan, X. J., H. Yu, and J. Ren. “Homeostasis and Compensatory Homeostasis: Bridging Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine.” Current Cardiology Reviews 7, no. 1 (2011): 43–46. doi:10.2174/157340311795677671.
  8. Lecklitner, I. “What a Lifetime of Adderall Does to Your Brain.” MEL Magazine. 2018.
  9. Zhang, D., et al. “Next-Day Residual Sedative Effect After Nighttime Administration of an Over-the-Counter Antihistamine Sleep Aid, Diphenhydramine, Measured by Positron Emission Tomography.” Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology 30, no. 6 (2010): 694–701. doi:10.1097/jcp.0b013e3181fa8526.
  10. Parker, B. A., and P. D. Thompson. “Effect of Statins on Skeletal Muscle.” Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews 40, no. 4 (2012): 188–94. doi:10.1097/jes.0b013e31826c169e.
  11. Novotny, M., B. Klimova, and M. Valis. “PPI Long Term Use: Risk of Neurological Adverse Events?” Frontiers in Neurology 9 (2019): 1142. doi:10.3389/fneur.2018.01142.
  12. Gray, S. L., et al. “Cumulative Use of Strong Anticholinergics and Incident Dementia”. JAMA Internal Medicine 175, no. 3 (2015): 401. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7663.
  13. Florentin, M. “Proton Pump Inhibitor-Induced Hypomagnesemia: A New Challenge.” World Journal of Nephrology 1, no. 6 (2012): 151. doi:10.5527/wjn.v1.i6.151.
  14. Kirchfeld, F., and W. Boyle. Nature Doctors: Pioneers in Naturopathic Medicine. Portland: NCNM Press, 2005.
  15. Kneipp, S. My Water-Cure: As Tested Through More than Thirty Years and Described for the Healing of Diseases and the Preservation of Health. Memphis: General Books, 2010.
  16. Lindlahr, H. Nature Cure: Philosophy & Practice Based on the Unity of Disease & Cure. Charleston: BiblioBazaar, 2006.
  17. Fiddian-Green, R. G. “‘Succussion’ and ‘Potentization’ of Homeopathic Products.” The British Medical Journal (2019).
  18. Khuda-Bukhsh, A. R. “Towards Understanding Molecular Mechanisms of Action of Homeopathic Drugs: An Overview.” Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry 253 (2003): 339–45. doi:10.1023/A:1026048907739.
  19. Moore, T. “Muscle as Medicine: A Most Naturopathic Anti-Aging Medicine.” Naturopathic Doctor News and Review. May 1, 2017.


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