Naturopathic Medicine

The Healing Power of Nature

Naturopathy was founded in the United States by Benedict Lust, MD. He used the term to describe the eclectic practices of “nature doctors” and established the first naturopathic college in 1900. In the early years, Dr. Henry Lindlahr, MD became a leader in the Nature Cure movement and published a series of books titled, The Philosophy of Natural Therapeutics which greatly influenced the profession.

The philosophy of naturopathic medicine was also shaped by the Hippocratic teaching, Vis Medicatrix Naturae, meaning nature is the healer of all diseases. It is a distinct system of primary health care—an art, science, philosophy, and practice of diagnosing, treating, and preventing disease.

Naturopathic doctors are clinically trained in natural therapeutics and can help address the needs of their patients through a variety of modalities and therapy options. Naturopathic diagnosis focuses on identifying the underlying cause of disease which has also become the foundation for today’s functional medicine. Naturopathic therapies are supported by research from peer-reviewed journals from several disciplines including naturopathic medicine, conventional medicine, European complimentary medicine, clinical nutrition, phytotherapy, pharmacognosy, homeopathy, psychology, and spirituality. They spend time getting to know and understand their patients to help curate a treatment plan based on their individualized needs – and not based on a set of general symptoms.

Many naturopathic doctors have the licensure to prescribe most medications and make a full range of treatment decisions, but focus on developing a collaborative relationship with the patient, with the goal of empowering them to manage and improve their own health and wellness and maintain it with greater independence from professional treatment.

The following principles are the foundation of naturopathic medical practice, via the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians:

  • The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae): Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing process in people that is ordered and intelligent. Naturopathic physicians act to identify and remove obstacles to healing and recovery, and to facilitate and augment this inherent self-healing process.
  • Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle Causam): The naturopathic physician seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness rather than to merely eliminate or suppress symptoms. 
  • First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere): Naturopathic physicians follow three guidelines to avoid harming the patient:
    • Utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat; 
    • Avoid when possible the harmful suppression of symptoms; and
    • Acknowledge, respect, and work with individuals’ self-healing process. 
  • Doctor as Teacher (Docere): Naturopathic physicians educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship. 
  • Treat the Whole Person (Tolle Totum): Naturopathic physicians treat each patient by taking into account individual physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development. 
  • Prevention (Praevenire): Naturopathic physicians emphasize the prevention of disease by assessing risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease, and by making appropriate interventions in partnership with their patients to prevent illness.
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