Published on December 18th, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans2
Naturopathy, Natural Medicine for Holistic Healing
The unsolved problems of modern medicine—particularly those of chronic degenerative disease and rising healthcare costs—call for a return to natural, less expensive forms of medicine and an emphasis on patients taking responsibility for their own health by becoming active participants in their healing process.
Naturopathic Medicine: Where Science Meets Nature
With a greater reliance on high-technology medicine, less importance has been placed on the fundamentals of natural living. Naturopathic medicine, or naturopathy, is a system of medicine that aims to reconnect the patient with his or her natural environment. It is founded on the principle, vis medicatrix naturae, the healing power of nature. The naturopathic system of curing disease is based on using nutrition, breath, water, sunlight, plants, vitamins, minerals, homeopathy, hands on techniques and mental/emotional therapy to support the body’s inherent healing mechanism in overcoming physical and psychological illness.
The foundations of good health include a healthy diet, proper rest, exercise, adequate sleep, and water. Nature provides the living example—all of nature follows a rhythm in accordance with night, day, seasons and weather patterns. Human beings too have internal rhythms which regulate sleep, energy, digestion, and hormone production. When we listen to our bodies and follow the physical signs, our bodies function best. It is when we ignore the messages our bodies present such as pain, fatigue, emotional discomfort, satiety and hunger, that we become disconnected from our natural rhythms. Many common health conditions such as obesity and chronic fatigue stem from ignoring or ignorance of basic natural needs.
Choosing naturopathic medicine for your health care is a commitment to honor yourself . . . . In the pursuit of longevity and vitality, there are no magic bullet approaches. One must choose healthy living as a daily practice . . .
The 5 Principles of Naturopathic Philosophy
Naturopathic Medicine practice follows the 5 principles of Naturopathic Philosophy.
- The Healing Power of Nature: Vis Medicatrix Naturae
The body has an inherent ability to establish, maintain, and restore health. The healing process is ordered and intelligent; nature heals through the response of the life force. Natural medicines and therapies, when used properly and in appropriate circumstances, support the organism and encourage the intrinsic healing process
- First Do No Harm: Primum No Nocere
The process of healing includes the generation of symptoms which are, in fact, an expression of the life force attempting to heal itself. Therapeutic actions should be complimentary to and synergistic with this healing process. Natural medicines and therapies are the preferred therapy since they are the least harmful, least invasive, and support, rather than suppress, the innate healing process.
- Identify and Treat the Root Cause: Tolle Causam
The application of this principle in practice is dependant on the unique makeup of each patient. It looks at the person as an individual rather than as a disorder. The root cause of hypertension or depression will vary from person to person. Physical symptoms are considered instructive and not simply something to eliminate. Suppressing symptoms often masks the root cause of illness, and therefore, underlying causes of disease must be discovered and removed before healing can occur.
- Treat the Whole Person: Tolle Totum
Health is a complex interplay of many factors including physical, mental, emotional, dietary, genetic, environmental, and lifestyle. Naturopathic medicine emphasizes the importance of taking all aspects into consideration for diagnosis and treatment. A naturopathic doctor may treat anxiety with stress reduction, dietary changes, calming herbs and meditation.
- Physician as Teacher: Docere
Patient education is fundamental to naturopathic medicine. It is the patient, not the doctor, who ultimately brings about healing. The physician’s major role is to educate, encourage and motivate the patient to take responsibility for their own health and to make appropriate changes.
- Prevention: Prevention is the Best Cure
Natural treatments inherently strengthen the body systems therefore naturopathic medicine is preventative medicine. Disease prevention requires the adoption of healthy habits such as stress reduction and healthy diet. Many chronic diseases could be avoided entirely if health habits are adopted early on. From its inception 100 years ago, naturopathic medicine has been an eclectic system of health care.
Naturopathic physicians (N.D.s) have a long-standing tradition of integrating the best aspects of traditional, time-honored natural therapies from the past, with alternative and current advances in conventional medicine to provide safe, effective, and non-invasive treatment.
Naturopathic Doctor’s Treatments
Naturopathic medicine is appropriate for the treatment of a broad range of health conditions, acute and chronic, such as flu, diabetes, gallstones, or depression. Like any conventional doctor, a naturopathic physician takes medical histories, performs physical exams, orders lab tests, and makes diagnoses. However, an N.D.’s treatment would integrate the following specialties:
Clinical Nutrition – Food as medicine is a cornerstone of naturopathic practice. Naturopathic physicians use nutrition, fasting, and nutritional supplementation in practice. Many medical conditions can be treated more effectively with foods and nutritional supplements than they can by other means, with fewer complications and side effects. Nutritionally-dense foods are probably our greatest preventive medicine. F oods to reduce cholesterol include oatmeal, beans, garlic and polycosanol, a substance derived from rice or sugarcane which has been clinically shown to reduce cholesterol by 17–21% and has no long-term side effects.
Botanical Medicine – Many plants are powerful medicines. Their organic chemical makeup is compatible with the body’s own chemistry; hence, they can be gentle with few toxic side effects. Whereas prescription drugs address only one problem, plant medicines are able to address a variety of problems. For example, black cohosh, known for its use in menopausal hot flashes, is also an anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic for menstrual and pelvic pain, and is also used for preventing miscarriage.
Physical Medicine – Naturopathic doctors may use manipulation, ultrasound, diathermy, exercise, massage, water, heat and cold, air, and gentle electrical pulses. Using alternating hot and cold water at home is extremely affective for many chronic structural complaints.
Oriental Medicine – Oriental medicine focuses on the flow of energy through the body in pathways called meridians. Disease occurs when there is a blockage or imbalance in this flow. Chinese medical theory provides a valuable and complimentary perspective to naturopathic medicine.
Homeopathy – Homeopathy is created from hundreds of natural compounds from sea salt to squid ink. Based on the principle of “like cures like,” it works on a subtle yet powerful electromagnetic level. Examples are homeopathic belladonna, a remedy for childhood fever, or apis for the relief of burning and stinging from bee stings.
Counseling – Mental and emotional states may influence, or even cause, physical illness. Stress management, lifestyle counseling, hypnotherapy, biofeedback, and other therapies are used to help patients heal on the psychological level.
Minor Surgery – As general practitioners, N.D.’s may opt to do in-office minor surgery, including repair of superficial wounds and removal of foreign bodies, cysts, and other superficial masses.
Modern, natural therapies include intravenous use of vitamins and nutrients, chelation of heavy metals, sauna, bio-identical hormones prescription, colonics, and hyperbaric oxygen chambers.
Fourteen states currently license naturopathic doctors. A licensed naturopathic doctor (N.D.) is a primary health care professional who attends a four-year graduate level accredited medical school. ND’s are trained and educated in mainstream medical sciences following a science curriculum similar to an M.D. but focusing on natural, non-toxic therapies rather than pharmaceutical medicine. ND’s practicing in licensed states have drug prescription privileges to use when necessary, such as in cases requiring antibiotics or thyroid medication. Naturopathic doctors must pass both a national licensing board exam as well as a state level board examination before being licensed to practice medicine.
Choosing naturopathic medicine for your health care is a commitment to honor yourself. It involves engaging in healthy rituals such as yoga or social gatherings that nurture your body as well as your spirit. In the pursuit of longevity and vitality, there are no magic bullet approaches. One must choose healthy living as a daily practice and the holistic perspective facilitates this by recognizing the interconnection of all living things. What’s good for us also benefits our community and the earth, so in making good choices for our health, we contribute to the health of the planet.
Article Contributors: Elizabeth Large