Naturopathic medicine is a vital, growing branch of health care that blends time-honored traditions with modern medical science.
The term “Naturopathy” was coined in the late 1800’s to describe the American and European health movements that emphasized natural methods in the treatment of disease.
The guiding principle of naturopathic medicine is the Latin phrase Vis medicatrix naturae… “Let nature be the force of your medicine.” These medicines include general diet, vitamins, minerals, botanical preparations, homeopathic remedies and natural prescription medicines such as antibiotics and hormones.
The 6 Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
The practice of naturopathic medicine emerges from six principles of healing. These principles are based on the objective observation of the nature of health and disease and are examined continually in light of scientific analysis.
These principles stand as the distinguishing marks of our profession:
The healing power of nature — vis medicatrix naturae
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.
Identify and treat the cause — tolle causam
Illness does not occur without cause. We must discover and treat the underlying causes of disease 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, mental-emotional, and spiritual. The physician must evaluate fundamental underlying causes on all levels, directing treatment at root causes as well as seeking relief of symptoms.
First, do no harm — primum no nocere
The process of healing includes the generation of symptoms, which are, in fact, expressions of the life force attempting to heal itself. Therapeutic actions should be complementary to and synergistic with this healing process. The physician’s actions can support or antagonize the actions of vis medicatrix naturae; therefore, methods designed to suppress symptoms without removing underlying causes are considered harmful and are avoided or minimized.
Treat the whole person — in perturbato animo sicut in corpore sanitas esse non potest
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. It is essential that all aspects of the individual are functioning harmoniously, in order to recover from and prevent disease. This requires a personalized and comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment.
The physician as teacher — docere
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.
Prevention — principiis obsta: sero medicina curatur
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.
What type of education do Naturopathic doctors receive?
The Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine is a four-year graduate program. To become a naturopathic doctor you must graduate from one of the 5 accredited Naturopathic medical schools. These schools train holistic primary care physicians and prepare them to sit for examination in states and provinces that license N.D.s (naturopathic physicians).