Naturopathy is a whole medical system, meaning it considers all aspects of an individual including the body, mind, emotions, and spirit. The naturopathic approach to healthcare aims to support and enhance the body’s inherent capacity for self-healing in the most natural way possible to restore and maintain health and to prevent disease and illness. Naturopathy integrates a number of modalities including nutritional medicine, herbal medicine, dietary and lifestyle counselling, homeopathy, iridology and flower essences. It combines traditional healing wisdom with scientific evidence to treat each patient individually, rather than applying a “one size fits all” approach. It utilises functional pathology testing where necessary to help to identify imbalances and to assist the formulation of a targeted treatment plan.
Naturopathy is a distinct method of healing which recognises the inherent nature of living organisms to heal. It is a system which originated mostly in Germany and Western Europe and contains both philosophy and practice which are centuries old. However, some of its practices are built upon traditional wisdom which extend back far beyond this time. Modern-day naturopathy was highly influenced by eclectic physicians in North America and underwent a strong development in the early 20th century. It is now practiced in over 80 countries in the world. Naturopathy is widely known and accepted in Australia, Germany and other European countries, and large parts of North America, where it plays a vital role in preventative medicine and in treating chronic health conditions.
Naturopathy is underpinned by its philosophy which has six main principles:
- Vis medicatrix naturae – the healing power of nature is the cornerstone of naturopathic practice. It is recognised as the inherent, self-organising, and intelligent healing process within living organisms. A naturopath aims to support and facilitate this natural healing process. Physiology refers to this process as the tendency of the living organism to move toward homeostasis (a balanced state).
- Primum non nocere – first do no harm. This means to employ the least possible intervention necessary so as to avoid further disruption of a system which is attempting to regain balance. The naturopath seeks to use medicines that are natural and as close to the body’s natural state as possible to promote optimum health and wellbeing, avoid harmful side effects, and avoid the suppression of signs and symptoms of disease and illness.
- Tolle totum – treat the whole person. Health and disease are complex and result from a combination of physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors. Naturopathic practitioners treat the whole person by taking all of these factors into consideration. A holistic understanding recognises that each person is unique and needs to be treated as an individual with their own specific healthcare needs.
- Tolle causam – treat the cause. This aims to identify and treat the cause of disease and illness rather than to supress the signs and symptoms. Time is taken to take a thorough case history of the patient in order to identify and understand the various contributing factors to the health condition to ensure an individualised treatment plan can be made.
- Docere – naturopath as teacher. A key objective in naturopathic medicine is to educate and to empower, so the patient can take responsibility for their health. This allows the naturopath and patient to work together towards health goals.
- Preventare – prevention. It is far wiser and easier to focus on the prevention of disease and illness than to treat it once it has manifested. Naturopathy places a strong emphasis on prevention of disease and illness through identifying and removing the disturbing factors to health, and subsequently implementing appropriate and healthy self-care practices which promote optimum health and wellbeing.
Naturopathic care is appropriate for all age groups including children and the elderly. Its real strength lies in preventative healthcare and chronic health conditions. Naturopathy however, does not offer emergency health care and should not be sought out for this reason.
Scientific evidence is growing for the many benefits of naturopathy, including nutritional medicine and western herbal medicine, as an increasing number of scientific studies into natural medicines are being completed. Examples of conditions naturopathy may help includes but is not limited to digestive conditions, cardiovascular disease, thyroid disorders, nervous system conditions, auto-immune conditions, type 2 diabetes, fatigue, anxiety, depression, hormonal imbalances, musculoskeletal conditions, skin issues and fertility.
In a modern world with an ever-increasing number of stress-related and chronic health conditions naturopathy can provide health care which is patient-centred, individualised, balanced, supportive and empowering.