Natural Health

If my body is indeed a temple, I spent most of Super Bowl Sunday defiling its interior sanctums and bowing before its false idols (chicken fingers, Yuengling, etc.). I woke up yesterday sweating honey-mustard sauce; I cut myself shaving and salsa trickled from the wound. This followed a two-week stretch of gorging that prompted taxonomists to reclassify me as some kind of viscous goo.

So as I contemplate with abject fear the prospect of a carrots-and-cottage-cheese lunch, I figure it can't hurt to turn, as I frequently do in times of emotional despair, to the warm embrace of the printed word. Hence today's quick romp through Natural Health.

Short review: I don't get it. Longer version: I don't get exactly what this publication is attempting to accomplish or the way it goes about its business. Even longer than that: Natural Health makes its living by presenting the obvious as revelation, its quick jumps from one natural pseudo-balm to the next rendering daft a magazine category in which it's almost impossible to be too hippy-dippy. That enough of a mouthful for you?

I don't pretend to know a whole lot about wellness, as my aforementioned gastronomic exploits might suggest, but the March issue of Natural Health repeatedly and frustratingly asks its readers to embrace "solutions" they likely learned in second grade. Want to live longer? Eat more greens and fish, and ditch processed food. Want your skin to look better? Try to "chill" and sleep more. Let me save the mag's writers a few minutes and craft a handy tip for the next issue: if you're looking to ease the effects of asthma, lay off the peace pipe, Tonto.

When Natural Health isn't offering glib solutions, it dabbles in alarmist claptrap (a material used in regular dry cleaning could cause cancer, just as knocking back too many tequila shooters could ruin your liver). More alarming is the mag's tendency not to explain its proposed salves. Okay, so bilberry extract can protect blood vessels in the eye. Mind telling me a little more before I start sprinkling this magical fairy dust into my sockets? And what the hell is a bilberry? The boysenberry's inscrutable cousin?

An anti-aging handbook headlines the March issue, and Natural Health earns points with its old-school presentation. But the "balance your hormones" segment proposes a handful of "must-do moves," which overlap on the "fitness fix[es]" suggested only a few pages earlier... minus the vaguely kinky-sounding names (e.g., "ringing the gong"). The feature sags further with the unexplained picks for a "Longevity Care Package" including garlic, flaxseed and "Neurobics" mind strengtheners. Um, sure. My personal Longevity Care Package, for what it's worth, contains Neosporin, a flashlight and Van Halen II.

From a design perspective, Natural Health is pleasant enough, I suppose: colorful, airy and all that. I like the cartoony illustrations that accompany the story about natural ulcer balms, as well as the periodic-table motif in the look at the healing powers of various minerals. A few graphic choices don't work quite as well, most notably the photo that precedes the piece on nut oils. If I didn't know any better, I'd guess that it depicts somebody unleashing an especially healthy torrent of urine onto a plate of pecans. Said story also features the early front-runner for the 2006 Worst Opening Sentence trophy: "If love were oil, it would be made from rich, toasty hazelnuts or smooth, buttery macadamias." Indeed.

As I've stated roughly 7,364 times, I'm a big fan of publications that are oriented towards enthusiasts/true believers. But when a title essentially asks those true believers to accept its every pronouncement without question, declining to give much in the way of scientific or other grounding for its assertions, it veers into the realm of aimless and possibly harmful blather. As such, I can't recommend Natural Health to even the slowest-blinking wellness disciple.

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