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What is Naturopathy?


Naturopathy, or naturopathic medicine, is a system of medicine based on the healing power of nature. Naturopathy is a holistic system, meaning that naturopathic doctors (N.D.s) or naturopathic medical doctors (N.M.D.s) strive to find the cause of disease by understanding the body, mind, and spirit of the person. Most naturopathic doctors use a variety of therapies and techniques (such as nutrition, herbal medicine, homeopathy, and acupuncture).

There are two areas of focus in naturopathy: one is supporting the body's own healing abilities, and the other is empowering people to make lifestyle changes necessary for the best possible health. While naturopathic doctors treat both short bouts of illness and chronic conditions, their emphasis is on preventing disease and educating patients.


The term naturopathy came into use early in the 20th century. It provides a distinct system of healing that aims to promote health by stimulating and supporting the body's inherent ability to restore harmony and balance. Naturopaths consider the symptoms of ill health to be the body's way of trying to heal itself so if you suppress the symptoms you inhibit the body's healing ability and ignore Nature's warning signals. Instead of suppressing symptoms, Naturopaths will use appropriate therapy to support the body's inherent healing powers.

The fundamental principle of Naturopathy is the healing power of nature. Naturopathy is a system of healing that places emphasis on health and how to promote it, rather than concentrating on disease states and how to suppress them. The vital force is the foundation of naturopathic philosophy and the naturopathic therapist seeks to create the most favourable conditions to stimulate and enhance this healing power. The vital force, the energy of life, is known by different names - in China it is Ch'i or Qi; it is Ki in Japan and Prana in India.

In today's society there is almost an acceptance that feeling generally unwell and sluggish is normal - you may not be seriously ill but neither are you full of the joys of spring! People who are chronically unwell may lose their awareness of true health. Naturopaths understand that health is not merely an absence of symptoms but also the feeling of fulfilment and vitality.

Naturopathy or naturopathic medicine is a form of alternative medicine employing a wide array of "natural" treatments, including homeopathy,herbalism, and acupuncture, as well as diet and lifestyle counseling. Naturopaths favor a holistic approach with non-invasive treatment and generally avoid the use of surgery and drugs. Naturopathic philosophy is based on a belief in vitalism and self-healing, and practitioners often prefer methods of treatment that are not compatible with evidence-based medicine. Naturopathic medicine is replete with pseudoscientific, ineffective, unethical, and possibly dangerous practices.[1]

The term "naturopathy" was created from "natura" (Latin root for birth) and "pathos" (the Greek root for suffering) to suggest "natural healing". Modern naturopathy grew out of the Natural Cure movement of Europe. The term was coined in 1895 by John Scheel and popularized by Benedict Lust, the "father of U.S. naturopathy". Beginning in the 1970s, there was a revival of interest in the United States and Canada, in conjunction with the holistic health movement.

Naturopathic practitioners in the United States can be divided into three categories: traditional naturopaths; naturopathic physicians; and other health care providers that provide naturopathic services. The scope of practice varies widely between jurisdictions, and naturopaths in unregulated jurisdictions may use the Naturopathic Doctor designation or other titles regardless of level of education. Naturopathic physicians employ the principles of naturopathy within the context of conventional medical practices.

Much of the ideology and methodological underpinnings of naturopathy are in conflict with the paradigm of evidence-based medicine.[2] Their training adds up to a very small amount of that of primary care doctors.[1] Many naturopaths oppose vaccination based in part on the early views that shaped the profession. According to the American Cancer Society, "scientific evidence does not support claims that naturopathic medicine can cure canceror any other disease, since virtually no studies on naturopathy as a whole have been published.

Disease is a manifestation of the vital force, applying itself to the removal of obstructions to the normal functioning of organs and tissues. The Naturopath seeks to discover and remove the basic causes of disease, whether they are:

§   Chemical - an imbalance in the chemistry of the body's fluids due to dietary deficiency or dietary excesses, retention of waste products due to inefficient functioning of the bowels, liver, lungs, skin or kidneys, or poor circulation of body fluids

§   Mechanical - i.e. muscular tensions, strained ligaments, stiff joints, poor posture, or spinal misalignments, leading to an interference in the functioning of the nervous and the muscular-skeletal systems

§   Psychological - i.e. impaired function induced by stress, which may be due to worries and upsets in personal and domestic life and/or anxieties and pressures at work

Naturopathic medicine is a therapeutic system with specific principles:

§   It recognises the uniqueness of each person. Each person responds in a unique way to his or her environment. Each of us has individual strengths, weaknesses and needs.

§   It attempts to establish and treat the highly individualised causes of symptoms, rather than solely the symptoms themselves. A Naturopath searches for causes at many levels and attempts to remove the fundamental causes of illness, not simply relieve symptoms.

§   It uses a holistic approach to healing, treating the whole person and not just the affected, local area i.e. disease affects the whole person - the mind, body and spirit - and not just an isolated organ or system of the body. An individual has the power to heal him or herself through internal vitality.

A Naturopath has two main roles:

§   Firstly, to educate clients to take responsibility for their health and to help them understand the fundamental laws of health. In naturopathic philosophy it is important to explain to the client why disease occurs and what the client can do for him or herself to maintain the new, improved level of health given to them by naturopathic treatment. In this way the client is given the responsibility for his or her health

§   Secondly, to use appropriate natural therapies to increase vitality and restore internal harmony.

What is the history of naturopathy?

The modern form of naturopathy can be traced to 18th- and 19th-century natural healing systems. Such systems include hydrotherapy (water therapy), which was popular in Germany and nature cure, developed in Austria, based on the use of food, air, light, water, and herbs to treat illness.

Benjamin Lust, a German immigrant, first introduced naturopathy to the United States in 1902 when he founded the AmericanSchool of Naturopathy. The school emphasized the use of natural cures, proper bowel habits, and good hygiene as the tools for health. This was the first time that principles of a healthy diet, like increasing fiber intake and reducing saturated fats, became popular.

In the mid-1920s to 1940, the use of naturopathic medicine declined. It was not until the 1960s that naturopathic-style holistic medicine became popular again. Today, naturopaths are licensed care providers in many states. They offer a variety of natural therapies, including homeopathy, vitamin and mineral supplements, Traditional Chinese Medicine, relaxation techniques, and herbal remedies.

Naturopathic treatments

Effective diagnostic techniques used by a Naturopath may include iris-, facial-, tongue-, nail- or pulse-analysis, kinesiology, blood microscopy. After appropriate diagnostic evaluation, a Naturopath may employ any of the various therapeutic modalities in which he or she has been appropriately trained, and can demonstrate competence in them. Homeopathy, phytotherapy (herbal medicine), nutritional therapy, osteopathy, chiropractic and reflexology are among the various modalities that may be used. Where appropriate for the client, naturopathic therapies will be used to complement orthodox medicine. The following are considered to be of primary importance in the naturopathic treatment of disease.

§   Nutrition and dietetics. This includes advice on a balanced, natural diet while emphasising the importance of ensuring digestive system efficiency in the actual metabolism of food and/or supplements.

§   Structural adjustment. By such methods as osteopathy, chiropractic, neuromuscular techniques, postural re-education and remedial exercise, the Naturopath seeks to restore balance and integrate the spine, muscles, ligaments and joints of the whole person, thus re-establishing the efficient flow of the neural and vascular systems.

§   Hydrotherapy. This is the use of water, both internally and externally in the form of baths, packs, compresses, sprays and douches. Hydrotherapy is of value in most conditions and rightly applied can give remarkable results in the treatment of both acute and long-standing conditions.

§   Healthy life-style. This includes the general care of one's mind and body, the use of appropriate physical exercise, the cultivation of a positive approach to life enhancement etc.


What should I expect from a visit to a naturopath?

A visit to a naturopathic doctor, or N.D., will be similar to a visit to your family doctor. Your first visit may take more than an hour. The doctor will take a very thorough history, asking about your diet, lifestyle, stress, and environmental exposures. Next, the N.D. will do a physical examination, which may require laboratory tests. In addition to conventional tests, N.D.s may use unique laboratory techniques such as the Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA). This test allows naturopaths to examine your digestive process as well as to see which nutrients your body is absorbing, among other things.

Naturopathic doctors treat the whole person, which means they consider a variety of factors before they diagnose an illness. An N.D. might look at your mental, emotional, and spiritual state; your diet; your family history; your environment; and your lifestyle before making a diagnosis.

Some of the more common treatments used by a naturopath include:

  • Nutritional counseling

  • Herbal medicine

  • Homeopathic medicine

  • Acupuncture

  • Hydrotherapy (water therapy) – These therapies include drinking natural spring water, taking baths, alternating hot and cold applications, and water exercise, all of which are thought to stimulate healing and strengthen the immune system.

  • Physical medicine -- This natural approach to healing involves using touch, hot and cold compresses, electric currents, and sound waves to manipulate the muscles, bones, and spine.

  • Detoxification -- This therapy removes toxins from the body by fasting, using enemas, and drinking lots of water.

  • Spirituality -- Personal spiritual development is encouraged as part of an overall health program.

  • Lifestyle and psychological counseling -- An N.D. may use hypnosis, guided imagery, or other counseling methods as part of a treatment plan.

Naturopaths consider patients to be participants in their health care, so you may be asked to make lifestyle changes (such as changing your sleeping, eating, and exercise habits).