Naturopathic Medicine is a system of health optimization that uses natural substances to treat the whole person. It’s imperative to recognize that the patient’s mental, emotional, and physical states must all be treated for a lasting effect.
Though the term Naturopathy was coined in 1895, this type of medicine had been practiced for hundreds, if not thousands of years prior. In the mid and late 1800s in the United States, the standard medical schools taught herbal, homeopathic, and nutritional medicine along with surgery and other more heroic type medicines.
Gradually, the pharmaceutical direction to isolate components of the herbs created more potent, but potentially more toxic drugs. Further, with the advent of antibiotics, the long-term adverse consequences of drugs was not understood and the slower, more gradual effects of Naturopathic medicine almost pushed it into disuse in the early 1900s. The current resurgence is due to a recognition of both the accomplishments and the limitations of the current medical system and the efficacy of Naturopathic medicine.
The foundation of Naturopathic medicine is the vitalistic philosophy of the “healing power of nature.” This means that within every human organism there is a healing energy, which includes our immune system in the fuller sense of both the physical and the psyche, which is responsible for our wellness and our ability to heal and maintain health.
Following this first premise is the second, that the therapies used to support and stimulate this healing power of nature must be in “the gentlest, least invasive, most efficient manner possible”.
The third Naturopathic premise is “to diagnose and treat the cause”. Naturopaths do not simply treat the manifestation of the disease but rather search for the cause and treat it.
To accomplish these goals, Naturopathic medicine incorporates many therapeutic modalities: herbal medicine, homeopathy, nutrition, hydrotherapy, food, exercise therapy, physical therapy, manipulation of the bony and soft tissues, lifestyle and counseling. Additionally, some Naturopaths elect to continue their education to receive a license to practice natural childbirth.
Principles and Philosophy of Naturopathic Medicine
These principles form the characteristic foundation and core of Naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic physicians aim to integrate every one of these principles into all aspects of diagnosis and treatment.
The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae):
In every living organism there exists an inherent ability of the body, mind and spirit to heal itself. Naturopathic physicians stimulate this innate healing power by using methods that are in harmony with this natural process.
First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere):
Naturopathic physicians choose the least invasive, most non-toxic treatment that will restore health. This minimizes harmful side effects and avoids the simple suppression of symptoms.
Identify and Treat the Cause of Disease (Tolle Causam):
Whereas conventional medicine focuses on alleviating symptoms, Naturopathic medicine uses these symptoms as a guide to identify the underlying cause of illness. It is only through removal of the cause that complete health can be restored.
Treat the Whole Person (Tolle Totum):
Disease process results from a complex interaction of mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, genetic, social and environmental factors. Naturopathic physicians consider all of these factors in each patient, in order to most optimally individualize treatment of the whole person.
At no other time in history has preventive medicine been so critical to one’s health as it is today. In today’s world, more stressors are impinging upon our lives than ever before, from hectic lifestyles to toxins present in our food, air and water. Naturopathic Physicians teach their patients how to avoid these stressors, thereby helping them maximize health and prevent chronic disease.
Doctor as Teacher (Docere):
Naturopathic Physicians act as guides for their patients, empowering them to take responsibility for their own health. As teachers, they help the patient fully understand their disease process and the rationale for treatments prescribed.