Naturopathic Medicine

History of Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathy has been around since ancient times. Hippocrates, a physician who lived about 2400 years ago, formulated one of the main principles of naturopathic medicine, vis medicatrix naturae – the healing power of nature.

For thousands of years, healers have been utilizing herbs, food, water, touch, and fasting to spur the innate ability of the body to heal itself. Naturopathy was still popular in the United States well into the early part of the 20th century. However, the discovery of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals and the popularity of more institutionalized large scale “scientific medicine” contributed to the decline of naturopathic medicine by mid-century and the emergence of today’s mainstream medicine, termed allopathic medicine.

Critics of this more conventional medical model soon began to see prominent downsides. Sky rocketing costs, clinical limitations, and side effects of drugs all contributed to Americans once again beginning to turn to more “alternative and complimentary” options in the later part of the 20th century. Today, licensed naturopathic physicians serve as primary care physicians in states that have licensing laws for naturopathic medicine.

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is based on a holistic approach combining safe and effective traditional therapies along with modern scientific approaches in medicine. One of the key differences between traditional (allopathic) medicine and naturopathic medicine is that naturopathy focuses on the individual rather than treating based on the generality of symptoms.

Naturopathic physicians try to discover the underlying cause of pathology and then use natural therapies to promote the body’s natural healing process. Naturopaths may utilize a variety of modalities including clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, physical manipulation, acupuncture and Chinese herbs, counseling, and hydrotherapy among others. These approaches have proven successful in safely treating a variety of both acute and chronic conditions.

Naturopathic medicine is based on six philosophical principles:

  1. First Do No Harm – primum non nocere: Safe and effective therapies are utilized to promote health.
  2. The Healing Power of Nature – vis medicatrix naturae: The body has an inherent ability to restore health through nature’s healing properties.
  3. Discover and Treat the Cause, Not Just the Effect – tolle causam: Naturopathic physicians seek to discover and address the underlying cause of a disease.
  4. Treat the Whole Person – tolle totum: A holistic approach is utilized by considering multiple factors of health and disease, and then formulating a treatment plan specific to the individual’s needs.
  5. The Physician is a Teacher – docere: The naturopathic doctor’s role is to educate and empower patients to take responsibility for their own health.
  6. Prevention –praevenire: is the best “cure”: Assessing risk factors and then appropriately modifying lifestyle along with education is one of the best methods to reduce susceptibility to disease.