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Origin, Benefits, Efficacy, And Methodology
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a varied group comprising of health care practices and products which do not form a part of conventional medicine. Naturopathy is a part of CAM.1 The popularity of CAM has been widely documented, and it is found that patients are increasingly requesting their primary care physicians for referrals to CAM practitioners. However, the integrated role of naturopathy has not yet been validated.2

What Is Naturopathy? Where Did It Originate?
Naturopathic medicine does not consist of therapies, practices, or substances. It is defined by the principles underlying the practice, as follow:

  • Vis Medicatrix Naturae (The Healing Power of Nature)
  • Tolle Causum (Identify and Treat the Causes)
  • Primum Non Nocere (First Do No Harm)
  • Docere (Doctor as Teacher)
  • Treat the Whole Person
  • Prevention

The definition of naturopathy, according to a position paper by the House of Delegates from the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians is “a distinct method of primary health care – an art, science, philosophy, and practice of diagnosis, prevention and treatment of illness.”2

  • In comparison to the conventional system of medicine, wherein pharmaceuticals are given for curing a disease, the institute says that “Naturopathic physicians seek to restore and maintain optimum health in their patients by emphasizing nature’s inherent self-healing tendency. This is achieved through education and the rational use of natural therapeutics.”2
  • Thus, a naturopathic physician approaches disease in a holistic manner, heightens and reinstates the body’s ability to heal itself.
  • In order to become a naturopathic practitioner, one undergoes a 4-year graduate-level course but does not get residency training.2
  • Naturopathy should be correctly viewed as a “whole system” medical practice. It does not represent a distinct set of techniques, rather a guiding principle that helps the practitioner choose and prescribe relatively complex, customized, multimodality treatment regimes.2

The origins of naturopathy can be traced back to “nature cure” practiced in Europe in the 19th century. This was a system for treating diseases by natural approaches such as diet, herbs, fresh air, and water. Naturopathy was developed in the United States and Canada in the early 20th century. It combined modalities such as spinal manipulation, homeopathy, nature cure, and other therapies.3

  • Vincent Priessnitz is known as the founder of “nature cure.” He is well-known for his hydrotherapeutic institution located in Grafenberg of Germany.
  • The “Father of Naturopathy,” Benedict Lust, was recognized for his combination of nature cure along with therapeutic electricity, spinal manipulation, homeopathy and basic massage.
  • John Bastyr is known as the “Father of Modern Naturopathic Medicine.” The renowned therapist also established the Bastyr University in Seattle, WA.3

How Is Naturopathy Beneficial?
Naturopathic practitioners, usually, spend more time with the patients than conventional medicine therapists.2

  • The medical offices of naturopathic practitioners provide a more pleasing environment for patients, which is more conducive to healing.2

Studies/Research On Its Efficacy
Since naturopathy cannot be reduced to a single modality, it had been difficult to study the technique in randomized controlled trials and incorporate the same into conventional medicine.2

  • Some kinds of supplements commonly prescribed by naturopaths have been validated in rigorous clinical trials.2
  • A naturopathic research study called The Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda involving 1200 participants is under way.3

How Is Naturopathy Performed?
A naturopathic practitioner attempts fully to understand the condition of his or her patient, and consider the symptoms as an indication of an underlying imbalance in the body.

Naturopathic treatment thus addresses this underlying imbalance, rather than the symptoms themselves. The modalities that naturopathic practitioners generally use are:

  • Minor surgery
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Behavioral change
  • Homeopathy
  • Botanical medicine
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Physical medicine
  • Diet and clinical nutrition3

How Can You Get Started With Naturopathy?
The naturopathic therapeutic order is as follows:

  • Determine the conditions for health
  • Identify and eliminate disturbing factors
  • Set up a more healthy regimen
  • Activate the healing power of nature – the self-healing process
  • Treat damaged or weakened organs or systems
  • Fortify the immune system
  • Reduce toxicity
  • Bring inflammatory function to a normal level
  • Bring metabolic function to an optimum level
  • Ensure that regulatory systems are balanced
  • Promote regeneration
  • Harmonize life force
  • Structural integrity should be corrected
  • Pathology should be addressed by using particular substances or interventions
  • Pathology should be addressed by using pharmacologic or synthetic substances
  • Surgically remove pathology or suppress it3

Any Precautions, Contraindications, Interactions
A Cochrane review conducted on the use of St. John’s wort or Hypericum perforatum as part of naturopathic treatment for depression concluded that this modality had fewer side effects as compared to treatment with standard antidepressants.3

1. Wardle JL, Sibbritt DW, Adams J. The interface with naturopathy in rural primary health care: a survey of referral practices of general practitioners in rural and regional New South Wales, Australia. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Jul 11;14:238. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-14-238. PubMed PMID: 25015794.

2. Elder CR. Integrating naturopathy: can we move forward? Perm J. 2013 Fall;17(4):80-3. doi: 10.7812/TPP/13-034. PubMed PMID: 24361025; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3854814.

3. Fleming SA, Gutknecht NC. Naturopathy and the primary care practice. Prim Care. 2010 Mar;37(1):119-36. doi: 10.1016/j.pop.2009.09.002. Review. PubMed PMID: 20189002; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2883816.

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