The Principles of Naturopathic Medicine

 

The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)
The healing power of nature is the inherent self-organizing and healing process of living systems which establishes, maintains and restores health. Naturopathic medicine recognizes this healing process to be ordered and intelligent. 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 a healthy internal and external environment.

 

Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle Causam)
Illness does not occur without cause. Causes may originate in many areas. Underlying causes of illness and disease must be identified and removed before complete recovery can occur. Symptoms can be expressions of the body's attempt to defend itself, to adapt and recover, to heal itself, or may be the result of the causes of disease. The naturopathic doctor seeks to treat the causes of disease, rather than to merely eliminate or suppress symptoms.

 

First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere)
Naturopathic doctors follow three precepts to avoid harming the patient:

  • Naturopathic doctors utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful effects, and apply the least possible force or intervention necessary to diagnose illness and restore health.
  • Whenever possible the suppression of symptoms is avoided as suppression generally interferes with the healing process.
  • Naturopathic doctors respect and work with the vis medicatrix naturae in diagnosis, treatment and counseling, for if this self-healing process is not respected the patient may be harmed.

 

Doctor As Teacher (Docere)
The original meaning of the word "doctor" is teacher. A principal objective of naturopathic medicine is to educate the patient and emphasize self-responsibility for health. Naturopathic doctors also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship.

 

Treat the Whole Person
Health and disease result from a complex of physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic doctors encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development. Naturopathic medicine recognizes the harmonious functioning of all aspects of the individual as being essential to health. The multifactorial nature of health and disease requires a personalized and comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment. Naturopathic doctors treat the whole person taking all of these factors into account.

 

Prevention
Naturopathic medical colleges emphasize the study of health as well as disease. The prevention of disease and the attainment of optimal health in patients are primary objectives of naturopathic medicine. In practice, these objectives are accomplished through education and the promotion of healthy ways of living. Naturopathic doctors assess risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease, and make appropriate interventions in partnership with their patients to prevent illness. Naturopathic medicine asserts that one cannot be healthy in an unhealthy environment and is committed to the creation of a world in which humanity may thrive.

 

History of Naturopathic Medicine

 

Naturopathic medicine, sometimes called "naturopathy," is as old as healing itself and as new as the latest discoveries in biochemical sciences. In the United States, the naturopathic medical profession's infrastructure is based on accredited educational institutions, professional licensing by a growing number of states, national standards of practice and care, peer review, and an ongoing commitment to state-of-the-art scientific research. Modern American Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) receive extensive training in therapies that are primarily natural (hence the name naturopathic) and nontoxic, including clinical nutrition, homeopathy, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, physical medicine, and counseling. These contemporary NDs, who have attended naturopathic medical colleges recognized by the US Department of Education, practice medicine as primary health care providers and are increasingly acknowledged as leaders in bringing about progressive changes in the nation's medical system.

 

The word "naturopathy" was first used in the US a little over 100 years ago. But the natural therapies and the philosophy on which naturopathy is based have been effectively used to treat diseases since ancient times. As Rene Dubos noted in The Mirage of Health (1959), the word "physician" is from the Greek root meaning "nature". Hippocrates, a physician who lived 2400 years ago, is often considered the earliest predecessor of naturopathic doctors, particularly in terms of his teaching that "nature is the healer of all diseases" and his formulation of the concept vis medicatrix naturae — "the healing power of nature". This concept has long been at the core of indigenous medicine in many cultures around the world and remains one of the central themes of naturopathic philosophy to this day.

 

The earliest doctors and healers worked with herbs, food, water, fasting, and tissue manipulation — gentle treatments that do not obscure the body's own healing powers. Today's naturopathic doctors continue to use these therapies as their main tools and to advocate a healthy dose of primary prevention. In addition, modern NDs conduct and make practical use of the latest biochemical research involving nutrition, botanicals, homeopathy, and other natural treatments.

 

For many diseases and conditions (a few examples are ulcerative colitis, asthma, menopause, flu, obesity, and chronic fatigue), treatments used by naturopathic doctors can be primary and even curative. Naturopathic doctors also function within an integrated framework, for example referring patients to an appropriate medical specialist such as an oncologist or a surgeon. Naturopathic therapies can be employed within that context to complement the treatments used by conventionally trained medical doctors. The result is a team-care approach that recognizes the needs of the patient to receive the best overall treatment most appropriate to his or her specific medical condition.

 

Recent History
Naturopathic medicine was popular and widely available throughout the US well into the early part of the 20th century. Around 1920, from coast to coast, there were a number of naturopathic medical schools, thousands of naturopathic doctors, and scores of thousands of patients using naturopathic therapies. But the rise of "scientific medicine", the discovery and increasing use of "miracle drugs" like antibiotics, the institutionalization of a large medical system primarily based (both clinically and economically) on high-tech and pharmaceutical treatments — all of these were associated by mid-century with the temporary decline of naturopathic medicine and most other methods of natural healing.

 

By the 1970s, however, the American public was becoming increasingly disenchanted with certain aspects of conventional medicine. The profound clinical limitations of conventional medicine and its out-of-control costs were becoming obvious, and millions of Americans were inspired to look for "new" options and alternatives. Naturopathy and all of complementary alternative medicine began to enter a new era of rejuvenation.

 

Looking to the Future
Today, licensed naturopathic doctors are experiencing noteworthy clinical successes, providing leadership in innovative natural medical research, enjoying increasing political influence, and looking forward to an unlimited future potential. Both the American public and policy makers are recognizing and contributing to the resurgence of the comprehensive system of health care practiced by NDs. In 1992, the NIH's Office of Alternative Medicine, created by an act of Congress, invited leading naturopathic doctors (educators, researchers, and clinical practitioners) to serve on key federal advisory panels and to help define priorities and design protocols for state-of-the-art alternative medical research. In 1994, the NIH selected Bastyr University as the national center for research on alternative treatments for HIV/AIDS. At the one-million-dollar level of funding, this action represented the formal recognition by the federal government of the legitimacy and significance of naturopathic medicine.

 

Meanwhile, the number of new NDs is steadily increasing, and licensure of naturopathic doctors is expanding into new states. By September of 2013, 17 of fifty states had naturopathic licensing laws. Recently, the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands also adopted naturopathic licensing laws. A number of other states are likely to enact naturopathic licensing in the near future. Because New York is not currently licensed, Dr. Egginton maintains her license in the state of Washington. Because NDs are not licensed in the state of New York, they are unable to diagnose disease, order labs, or prescribe drugs The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians is currently working towards licensure in New York by passing New York State Bill A01937 which would allow NDs to practice as primary care doctors.

 

In the late 19th and early 20th century, 100 years after it was founded in North America, naturopathic medicine is experiencing a renaissance and licensure efforts are active in unlicensed states so that all people may have access to naturopathic healthcare.