Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic medicine (also known as Naturopathy) is a school of medical philosophy and practice that seeks to improve health and treat disease chiefly by assisting the body’s innate capacity to recover from illness and injury. Naturopathic practice may include a broad array of different modalities, including manual therapy, hydrotherapy, botanical medicine, acupuncture, counseling, environmental medicine, nutrition, and so on. Practitioners tend to emphasize a holistic approach to patient care. Naturopathy has its origins in the United States, but is today practiced in many countries around the world in one form or another, where it is subject to different standards of regulation and levels of acceptance.

Naturopathic practitioners prefer not to use invasive surgery, or most synthetic drugs, preferring “natural” remedies; i.e., relatively unprocessed or whole medications, such as herbs and foods. Licensed physicians from accredited schools are trained to use diagnostic tests such as imaging and blood tests before deciding upon the full course of treatment. Naturopathic Practitioners also employ the use of prescription medications and surgery when necessary and refer out to other medical practitioners.

Principles of Naturopathic Medicine

Vis Medicatrix Naturae  (The Healing Power of Nature)
The body has the inherent ability to establish, maintain, and restore health. The healing process is ordered and intelligent; nature heals through the response of the life force. The physician’s role is to facilitate and augment this process, to identify and remove obstacles to health and recovery, and to support the creation of a healthy internal and external environment.

Tolle Causam  (Identify and Treat the Cause)
Illness does not occur without cause. Underlying causes of disease must be discovered and removed or treated before a person can recover completely from illness. Symptoms are expressions of the body’s attempt to heal, but are not the cause of disease; therefore, naturopathic medicine addresses itself primarily to the underlying causes of disease, rather than to the symptoms. Causes may occur on many levels, including physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. The physician must evaluate fundamental underlying causes on all levels, directing treatment at root causes as well as seeking relief of symptoms.

Primum Non Nocere  (First Do No Harm)
Therapeutic actions that are complementary to and synergistic with the body’s innate healing process prevent harm to patients. Naturopathic physicians follow three precepts to avoid harming the patient:

  • Use methods and medicinal substances that minimize the risk of harmful effects, and apply the least possible force or intervention necessary to diagnose illness and restore health.
  • Whenever possible, avoid symptom suppression as it can interfere with the healing process.
  • Respect and cooperate with the vis medicatrix naturae in diagnosis, treatment, and counseling.

Tolle Totum (Treat the Whole Person)
Health and disease are conditions of the whole organism, involving a complex interaction of physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social factors. The physician must treat the whole person by taking all of these factors into account. The harmonious functioning of all aspects of the individual is essential to recovery from and prevention of disease, and requires a personalized and comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment. In Perturbato Animo Sicut In Corpore Samitas Esse Non Potest.

Docere (The Physician as Teacher)
Beyond an accurate diagnosis and appropriate prescription, the physician must work to create a healthy, sensitive interpersonal relationship with the patient. A cooperative doctor-patient relationship has inherent therapeutic value. The physician’s major role is to educate and encourage the patient to take responsibility for his or her own health. The physician is a catalyst for healthful change, empowering and motivating the patient to assume responsibility. It is the patient, not the doctor, who ultimately creates or accomplishes healing. The physician must strive to inspire hope as well as understanding. The physician must also make a commitment to her/his personal and spiritual development in order to be a good teacher.

Principiis obsta: Sero medicina curator  (Prevention)
The ultimate goal of naturopathic medicine is prevention. This is accomplished through education and promotion of lifestyle habits that foster good health. The physician assesses risk factors and hereditary susceptibility to disease and makes appropriate interventions to avoid further harm and risk to the patient. The emphasis is on building health rather than on fighting disease. Because it is difficult to be healthy in an unhealthy world, it is the responsibility of both physician and patient to create a healthier environment in which to live.