Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care system that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. The naturopathic philosophy is to stimulate the healing power of the body and treat the underlying cause of disease. Symptoms of disease are seen as warning signals of improper functioning of the body, and unfavourable lifestyle habits. Naturopathic Medicine emphasizes disease as a process rather than as an entity.
In addition to dietary and lifestyle changes, natural therapies including botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, naturopathic manipulation and traditional Chinese medicine/acupuncture, may also be used during treatments.
History of Naturopathy
Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived 2400 years ago, first formulated the concept of “the healing power of nature”. This concept has long been at the core of medicine around the world and remains one of the central principles of naturopathic medicine.
Many of the principles and philosophies of naturopathy originated in Germany and Europe in the 16th and 17th century. The original naturopaths – prior to the 1900s – from around the world, were trained by European doctors using hydrotherapy, herbal medicine and other traditional forms of healing.
Currently, European countries consider their practice of naturopathy as a system of healthcare that has evolved by incorporating the traditional medicine of each country with the naturopathic principles, theories, modalities and traditions that have been codified in North America. Traditional forms of naturopathic teaching and practice are still common in Europe.
Dr. Benedict Lust founded the American School of Naturopathy in New York and graduated its first class in 1902. Naturopathic practitioners formed the Naturopathic Society of America and established naturopathic colleges and large health centers throughout North America. By 1920, naturopathic practice was also well established in Canada.
After the Second World War the trust of health care was placed on the advances in surgical techniques, the introduction of antibiotics and growth of the pharmaceutical industries. The more traditional healing practices lost ground. This was an era of scientific reductionism and an almost blind faith in the medical ‘miracle’. This approach continued through the 1950s.
Although there has been historically broad discussions on the principles and practice of naturopathic medicine, there was no formal codification process until 1986, when the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) formed a committee that consisted of naturopathic doctors Pamela Snider, Jared Zeff and others. These practitioners spent over three years reviewing the historic data and documents and interviewing over 1,000 people.
In 1989, a definition of naturopathic medicine and the description of the six naturopathic principles was formally codified and accepted by the two North American national naturopathic associations (American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND)).Based on the 2014/2015 global naturopathic workforce survey these principles appear to have international recognition and acceptance.
In the last twenty years, public desire for greater control in their health care process and a growing dissatisfaction with high tech solutions to health problems has resulted in a resurgent interest in the natural methods of preventive health care. This trend has increased demand for naturopathic services as people seek ways to improve their health, cope with day-to-day stresses and avoid illness.
Principles of Naturopathy
The following principles are the foundation of naturopathic medical practice and are taught in most countries:
The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae) Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing process in people that is ordered and intelligent. Naturopathic physicians act to identify and remove obstacles to healing and recovery, and to facilitate and augment this inherent self-healing process.
Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle Causam) The naturopathic physician seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness rather than to merely eliminate or suppress symptoms.
First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere)
Naturopathic physicians follow three guidelines to avoid harming the patient:
Utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat;
Avoid when possible the harmful suppression of symptoms; and
Acknowledge, respect, and work with individuals’ self-healing process.
Doctor as Teacher (Docere) Naturopathic physicians educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship.
Treat the Whole Person Naturopathic physicians treat each patient by taking into account individual physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development.
Prevention Naturopathic physicians emphasize the prevention of disease by assessing risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease, and by making appropriate interventions in partnership with their patients to prevent illness.