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Updated: Oct 11, 2023

The discussion as to the merits of Germ Theory versus Terrain Theory seems to have been gaining traction recently in the media, but the UK and many English-speaking countries are at a disadvantage when discussing the terrain in relation to health as it is not typically incorporated in pharmaceutical-based medicine protocols.

‘Terrain’ is a word used by Naturopathic doctors in French-speaking countries of Europe; it is a term that describes the status of an individual’s health - their background condition - which requires the observation of all the systems of their body, their emotional health, their predisposition to disease and how their bodies react to disease. To summarise, it is a device to determine how resilient a person’s immune system is to combat degeneration and disease.

The germ theory, which is still the paradigm upon which contemporary medicine is based, was established by Louis Pasteur who maintained that the human body had an inherent susceptibility to disease; in 1865 Pasteur’s theory provided the understanding that significant diseases were provoked by infection of ‘air germs’, or the modern interpretation, micro-organisms. He believed that the body was a sterile environment and the only way to keep the body sterile to maintain health, was to sterilise one’s environment; vaccinations being one of his recommended methods.

At the same time, Antoine Béchamp, a French scientist and rival of Pasteur, rejected the idea that bacteria could invade a healthy body and cause disease, claiming instead that unfavourable conditions of the body and environment destabilise the body’s innate ability to combat disease. He believed that environmental conditions and other contaminating influences disturb the balance of the body (the terrain) making it more susceptible to disease. This theory was ignored by the medical profession at the time, as it appears they didn’t have the level of inquiry to ask: “What allows bacterial and viral infections to proliferate in some and not in others; why do some people succumb to diseases like flus and colds and others don’t?

In 1946 Dr Menetrier, a French physician and a leading pioneer of Oligotherapy, whilst treating patients with the same trace element prescription for TB, observed that although many recovered, some patients were not so responsive. This disparity prompted further research when he discovered that individuals have different terrains which need specific trace elements to assist in the recovery of the same disease. His research identified four terrains (subsequently research increased this to five) and their associated trace elements which are required to balance, support, and strengthen each terrain.

Menetrier, like Béchamp and many French doctors, recognised that treating only the symptoms or disease is just a minor part of a larger health picture that needs to be addressed to ensure long term health.

The cost of fighting disease with pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical protocols is increasing at an alarming rate. It is estimated that the NHS spends around £16 billion a year on drugs, of which about £9 billion arises from GP prescribing and £7 billion from hospital treatment.

One way of mitigating that cost would be to consider health in a more complex, and thorough way by incorporating the terrain theory. Prevention is a word that is often used today in the context of health and wellbeing, but for preventative health measures to be successful the status of the individual’s terrain must be identified and incorporated into any protocol. The question must always be asked:

“Why has that person succumbed to that specific disease or health condition?”

It is not down to bad luck, or a mystery; there is always a reason, a logical pathway that degeneration has followed.

Natural therapies such as Oligotherapy, Homeopathy, Chinese, Tibetan and Ayuvedic medicine, all integrate a system to identify the terrain of their patients. However, with the expansion of today’s health and wellness industry, prompted by Covid, some practitioners are administering natural remedies but employing the same protocol as pharmaceutical medications.

Natural remedies, especially plant and mineral remedies, work on a more subtle and complex level; the tradition of using natural remedies is based on hundreds of years of experience and knowledge and it is not appropriate for them to be applied in such a basic, symptom-based protocol. Unless the terrain is integrated into the consultation, the results cannot be guaranteed.

The answer to our original question: Which system is better – Germ theory or Terrain theory? I think they are both applicable with an emphasis on the influence of the terrain. We cannot forget disease. We cannot ignore the fact that we are surrounded by bacteria and viruses that are mutating at a faster rate than science can respond. But, if we identify and strengthen the terrain, we will be in a stronger position to fight disease or, if we do succumb to a disease, the symptoms will not be so severe, and recovery will be faster and complete.

In conclusion, it might take many years for the medical profession in the UK and other English-speaking countries to incorporate the ‘terrain’ into their many pharmaceutical protocols, but professional and authentically trained practitioners of natural and traditional medicine can provide a more comprehensive remedy to strengthen the ‘terrain’ of the nation.

For further information about the ‘Terrain’ theory please contact me by email:

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