The roots of Naturopathic Medicine are seen in the healing traditions of Egypt, India, China, Greece, Germany, South and Central America, Africa, and native North America.
Naturopathic Medicine grew and flourished from the early 1900s until the mid-1930s. At that point in history, the conventional medical profession began to influence the health care system in several ways. By abandoning some of its barbaric bloodletting therapies and toxic mercury dosing, Naturopathy was able to replace them with more effective and less toxic treatments.
Alternative Medicine and Naturopathic Medicine have seen a rebirth in the last fifteen to twenty years, and especially in the last five. A public hungry for choices in their health care, and increased awareness about the role of diet and lifestyle in cancer and chronic disease, the aging of the baby boomer generation, and the failures of certain aspects of modern conventional medicine and the health insurance industry to deal with people and their health problems respectfully, carefully, fairly, and effectively have been responsible for this resurgence. Conventional Medicine has brought great insight, success, and miracles of what human intelligence can accomplish. Natural Medicine has matured, particularly in the areas of scientific research, educational institutions, virtual numbers of licensed practitioners, and professionalism, and is now poised to serve those who seek its gentle ways.
Naturopathic Medicine is its own distinct healing art and is best defined by its principles and its therapies.
The following seven principles are the foundation for Naturopathic Medicine:
- The Healing Power of Nature (vis medicatix naturae)
The body has the inherent ability to establish, maintain, and restore
health. The Naturopath’s role is to facilitate and augment this process
with the aid of natural, nontoxic therapies; to act to identify and
remove obstacles to health and recovery; and to support the creation
of a healthy internal and external environment.
- First, Do No Harm (primum no nocere)
Naturopaths seek to do no harm with medical treatment by employing safe,
effective, less invasive, and natural therapies.
- Identify and Treat the Cause (tolle causam)
Naturopaths are not only trained to investigate and diagnose diseases,
they are also trained to view things more holistically and look for
an underlying cause, be it physical, mental, or emotional. Symptoms
are viewed as expressions of the body’s attempt to heal but are not
the cause of disease. The Naturopath must evaluate fundamental underlying
causes on all levels, using treatment that includes addressing the
root cause rather than just suppressing symptoms.
- Treat the Whole Person
Health and disease are conditions of the whole organism, involving a
complex interaction of physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, genetic,
environmental, and social/cultural/economic factors. The Naturopath
must treat the whole person by taking all of these factors into account.
Homeostasis and harmony of functions of all aspects of the individual
are essential to recovery from disease, prevention of future health
problems, and maintenance of wellness.
- Naturopath as Teacher
The Naturopath role is to educate, empower, and motivate the patient
to take responsibility for health He educates about risk factors, hereditary
susceptibility, lifestyle habits, and preventive measures, and makes
recommendations on how to avoid or minimize future chronic health problems.
A healthy attitude, diet, exercise, and other lifestyle habits would
serve as the cornerstone of these recommendations.
- Prevention Is the Best Cure
The ultimate goal of Naturopathic Medicine is prevention. This is accomplished
through education and promotion of lifestyle habits and through natural
therapeutic recommendations. This emphasis is on building health rather
than on fighting disease.
- Establishing Health and Wellness
The primary goals of Naturopathic Medicine are to establish and maintain
optimum health and to promote wellness. They strive to increase the
patient’s level of wellness, characterized by a positive emotional
state, regardless of the level of health or disease.
In addition to these seven principles, there are other two other principles that I believe are fundamental not only to natural medicine, but fundamental to good medicine: the principle of resonance and the principle of choice. Let me explain. Resonance is basically an issue of compatibility. What approach, what therapy, what herb, or what of any substance is compatible with this particular patient in this particular moment and set of life circumstances? The selection of the therapeutic approach that is resonant with the individual is the therapy that will create the most healing momentum.
In addition to recommendations on lifestyle, diet, and exercise, Naturopaths utilize a vast array of therapeutic tools to promote health and treat illnesses. We are trained in what is called the ìeclecticî tradition. We have a broad range of therapies and tend to use a selected mixture of these therapies when treating our patients. Naturopathic Therapies include dietary and lifestyle changes, clinical nutrition (nutritional Supplementation), botanical medicine (herbs), homeopathy, manipulation, physical therapies, hydrotherapy, Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, Bachflowers, Moxibution and psychotherapy.
Natural Medicine offers safe and effective self-care options for many common conditions such as vaginitis, PMS, fibrocystic breasts, menopause, bladder infections, and more, further expanding women’s health care autonomy. I support the self-care approach to healing. Much of the practice of medicine is not particularly difficult or complex. Education and resources can provide a lot of very practical information.
Last, alternative medicine must recognize that conventional medicine, while inadequate alone, is here to stay and offer important options and lifesaving measures. Likewise, conventional medicine must recognize that natural therapies are fundamental healing traditions of all cultures.
A combined and well-thought-out cooperative and integrative approach is often the best that medicine has to offer.