What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of primary health care—an art, science, philosophy, and practice of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.  Naturopathic doctors (NDs) consider the fundamental components of biochemistry, anatomy/physiology, and psychology in order to help a person restore homeostasis, or biological balance.

Naturopathic medicine stems from and, to this day, emulates the work of Hippocrates. He held the belief that the body must be treated as a whole and not just a series of parts. In addition, he believed in the natural healing process of rest, a good diet, fresh air, and cleanliness. Furthermore, it is he who developed the Oath of Medical Ethics taken by ALL physicians today. The following are quotes from Hippocrates:

Transient

“Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.”

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”

“Whenever a doctor cannot do good, he must be kept from doing harm.”

Naturopathic physicians follow these principles  (1) First Do No Harm, mirroring the thoughts of Hippocrates (2) Treat the Whole Person (3) Identify and Treat the Cause (4) Utilize the Healing Power of Nature (5) Prevention and (6) Doctor as Teacher in their practice of medicine.

To further explain each principle:

First do no harm
Three fundamental guidelines are followed:

  • Medicinal substances and methods are used which minimize the risk of harmful side effects
  • Avoidance, when possible, of the suppression of symptoms
  • Acknowledgement, respect and working with an individual’s self-healing process

Treat the Whole person
Consideration of one’s physical, mental, emotional, spiritual as well as genetic, social, and environmental factors, or addressing the patient from a holistic perspective. Additionally, it is essential to keep in mind that each organ system of the body functions as a whole, or in other words the wholistic perspective.

Identify and Treat the Cause
Underlying causes of illness and disease must be identified and removed. Symptoms are often expressions of the body’s attempt to defend, adapt and heal itself. It is therefore the doctors role to identify and remove the underlying cause(s) of illness, or disease, rather than to eliminate or suppress the symptoms.

Healing Power of Nature
The body’s inherent self-healing process which is ordered and intelligent; such as when the body generates a fever to fight off a pathogen. It is the naturopathic doctor’s role to support, facilitate and augment this process by identifying and removing obstacles to health and recovery, and by supporting the creation of healthy internal and external environments.

Doctor as Teacher
To educate a patient and encourage self responsibility for one’s health.

Prevention
The assessment of risk factors, hereditary and susceptibility to disease in order to appropriately educate and promote healthy ways of living.

"To find health is the object of the physician; anyone can find disease."

—A. T. Still

The EVOLUTION of Naturopathic Medicine

 

“Many of the therapies used in natural medicine have a long history of use in Europe, Asia, and the United States” ("Sunrise Report on Proposed Licensure of Naturopathic Physicians." Florida House of Representatives.). Aspects of naturopathic philosophy developed as far back as Hippocrates; however it began officially in the late 19th/early 20th century with Dr Benjamin Lust.  Dr. Lust initiated the actual practice of naturopathic medicine in the United States; his initial premise was to utilize the technique of hydrotherapy, which treated illnesses with water. Naturopathy eventually developed into a medical practice to include all natural methods of healing which employ “the beneficent agency of Nature’s forces…” ( "Making The Cut: What Exactly Is Naturopathy?").

Not only did naturopathy come into existence, but it had a tremendous impact on society and actually rivaled what was is today considered conventional medicine. With its increasing popularity, from 1906 to 1950, naturopathic medicine became a licensed medical practice in 26 states; however, by 1955 those numbers were reduced to only eight states (The Encyclopedia of Alternative Health & Natural Remedies).

Transient

The decline in naturopathy came as a culmination of various events including the increase in “sophisticated drugs an advanced medical technology” (" History of Naturopathic Medicine"), as well as the “anti-quackery campaign by the AMA” (The Encyclopedia of Alternative Health & Natural Remedies). This situation remained until the 1960’s when the negative side effects of many of the previously popular drugs became evident.  From this point on, the shift began to swing back in the favor of naturopathic medicine “by a society hungry for relief from the ills of common modernity” (The Encyclopedia of Alternative Health & Natural Remedies).  Even though this resurgence is present today, there are only 16 states the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands as well as 4 provinces that currently offer licensure to naturopathic physicians.

Although many states have yet to catch up to the renewed growth of naturopathy, there are several statistical indications that natural medicine is regaining momentum and will continue to thrive in the future. Some of these statistics include:

  • 74% of the American population desire a more natural approach to health care (Facts/Statistics of Alternative Medicine Online)
  • Of the 1 out of 3 Americans who have used alternative medical techniques, 84% said they would use it again (Facts/Statistics of Alternative Medicine)
  • 10-30% of people in the world use conventional medicine: 70-90% use alternative medicine (Facts/Statistics of Alternative Medicine)
  • Over 1.6 million Americans use alternative medicine for insomnia per National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) (NaturalHealers.com)
  • In 2004 more than 36% of all Americans had used some form of alternative medicine (NaturalHealers.com staff)
  • According to a CDC National Health Statistics report, "Approximately 38% of adults (18years and older) in the US, and nearly 12% of U.S. children (17 years and under), use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)." (NaturalHealers.com)
  • In 2007, the NCCAM and the National Center for Health Statistics reported that more than 45 percent of all Americans have used some form of alternative medicine.  Here are some of the most common used therapies among US adults: Nonvitamin, nonmineral, natural products (17.7 percent);  Deep breathing exercises (12.7 percent); Meditation (9.4 percent) ; Osteopathic manipulation (8.6 percent) ; and Yoga (6.1 percent) . (NaturalHealers.com)
  • The World Health Organization estimates that between 65 -80% of the world's population relies on alternative medicine as their primary form of health care. (Facts/Statistics of Alternative Medicine)
  • Since 1992 roughly $22 million, of U.S. government money, has been spent on alternative medical research at the National Institutes of Health and Public Health Services. (Facts/Statistics of Alternative Medicine)
  • The insurance company Mutual of Omaha says it saves $6.50 per non-standard or alternative treatment (Facts/Statistics of Alternative Medicine)

As one can see from the previously listed statistics, people are seeking solutions which promote the restoration of health, rather than the treatment of disease with drugs.