Naturopathic Medicine: A Guide

Many of us have heard of the various different aspects of the natural medicine world. Osteopathy being the study of bones and joints, chiropractics working with tissue manipulation, Indian Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicines surrounding the spiritual world of organic healing techniques, and homeopathy using a “like cures like” mentality of helping afflictions by using the root of the cause as part of its cure. Another longstanding alternative practice, naturopathy, is worthy of investigation and consideration.

Naturopathy uses non-invasive formulas to provide natural remedies for common ailments. For this reason, there is no set number of cures that can be categorized as “naturopathy.” With a broad range of homemade remedies, from simple approaches like focusing on nutrition or stress reduction to more complex ways of solving problems like water therapy (also called hydrotherapy), or using homeopathy, naturopathy pulls from different complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies.

Naturopathy practitioners may not have a specific set of rules to follow, but they all share one common goal: to stimulate and support the body’s own healing ability through simple non-invasive techniques. Founded in the early twentieth century by Benedict Lust, naturopathy was primarily used in the 1920s and 1930s before what is now known as conventional medicine replaced it. The popularity of drug culture became apparent and took over natural ways as the leader in health care and has not been able to gain the majority again because pharmaceuticals have a strong foothold and account for a huge percentage of all health care.

Lust was a German physician who started out as a writer before he was struck ill by what he assumed was tuberculosis and sought out a “water cure” from his homeland of Germany. After he was feeling better, he moved to the United States. Lust became obsessed with the type of healing that he claimed had a great role in helping improve his condition and started writing about natural cures which developed into the American School of Naturopathy in New York City.

There are six basic principles that naturopathy follows which are similar to other practices in the same category: using nature to help the body, always use prevention, the “do no harm” part of the Hippocratic oath all physicians take, treat the whole body including mental and spiritual properties, look past the individual symptoms in order to identify the root cause of the problem, and always remember the physician is also a teacher.

Even though naturopathy does not bring in any of the practices of conventional medicine in regards to diagnoses, radiation treatments, or drugs of any kind, physicians specializing in the practice are always willing to be consulted along with a traditional health care practitioner regarded as “complementary.” Many acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and yoga instructors, among others, are never resistant to helping out a patient even if they are also exploring surgical or experimental treatments, another reason why CAM seems to be more popular than just simply using alternative medicine.

So for which conditions should you turn to alternative treatments and which should you consult your conventional healthcare professional? Depending on the severity of the disease or affliction, most mild or chronic conditions can be helped naturally. For example arthritis, colds, stress, sleep disorders, bronchitis, skin disorders, allergies, fatigue and digestive problems can often be calmed by CAM treatments. However, serious diseases or terminal illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and major infections should be treated with extreme caution, urgency, and conventional remedies in an accredited hospital. If you are looking for relief from pain symptoms or just pain management, naturopathy can help. If you are unsure which category a certain condition fits, the nature of CAM treatments in general, or where you should turn for relief, ask your doctor before treating anything on your own by adding supplements, herbs, or extreme natural remedies to your diet or treatment plan.