Naturopaths and Naturopathy: Important Facts You Need to Know

Naturopaths Naturopathy

A naturopathic physician is someone who heals diseases using natural treatments. He or she sometimes combines this with modern medicine.

Naturopathy is a system of healing using natural and mostly non-invasive method of treatments. It has a deep history of traditional practices and philosophies.

Naturopathy focuses on treating the whole body of an individual and not just the symptoms of the disease. It does this by bringing the mind, spirit, and body into alignment which results in the general healing of the whole body.

Other terms used for naturopathy are “holistic medicine”, “natural healing”, “alternative medicine”, “naturopathic medicine”, “integrative medicine”, and “complementary medicine”. Naturopathy tends to involve anything outside conventional medicine.

Naturopathy is practiced in every region of the world and there are growing numbers of people seeking natural alternatives than before.

Naturopaths believe that people are made up of different parts of which are the physical, spiritual, emotional, and environmental parts and in treatment, all these parts must be addressed, aligned, and brought back to balance before an individual can be completely healed and whole.

Naturopaths’ Views on Conventional Medicine

Naturopaths don’t discredit conventional or modern medicine, rather they use it in combination with their methods of healing.

But there is a main believe guiding naturopathy and it is that an individual can and should take charge of his/her own health and well-being.

Also, naturopaths don’t believe that being on lifetime drug is healthcare, healthy people shouldn’t depend on daily drugs to survive. They work hand-in-hand with the patients to take them off drugs and restore the effectiveness of the immune system.

In naturopathy, it is believed that the body can heal itself. Just give it the right support and care and studies are now proving this to be true. Scientists have now discovered that even in stroke, the brain tries to repair itself and this is true of other parts and vital organs of the body.

The Ancient Roots of Naturopathy

Naturopathy was the first and original medicine of man but today it is called “alternative medicine” and it is not supposed to be so. Well despite that, even modern day medicine has a naturopathic/holistic root.

Hippocrates, the father of modern day medicine used herbs and other natural therapies and in his school of medicine, he emphasized a lot on the healing power of nature.

He was a strong advocate of self-healing and he believed strongly that the body can heal itself of most diseases if properly supported and taken care of.

Socrates also, the Greek philosopher who is known and celebrated as the father of western philosophy, knew and valued the importance of holistic thinking.

He recognized and understood that health was an individual responsibility. One of his famous quotes which says “an unexamined life is not worth living” was his final believe to the value of self-knowledge.

Another famous quote of Socrates says “… the part can never be well unless the whole is well”.

All ancient medicines were based on holistic healing and principles before western medicine took over. Before the coming of western medicine, there were three ancient popular healing systems all based on naturopathic medicine.

They were Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ayurveda medicine, and Western herbalism (also known as Traditional European Medicine).

Principles of Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathy is guided by certain principles and some of them are:

Do no harm

This is the first principle of naturopathic medicine. Naturopaths are taught to treat and heal diseases without harming the patients or using methods or substances that would give side effects.

This is the reason why most methods in naturopathy are non-invasive and free of side effects. They also make conscious efforts not to suppress symptoms but to treat the whole body.

Team approach

The patient and health care provider work as a team to look for the root cause of the health problem and look for natural and non-invasive ways to solve the problem and heal all aspect of the person’s life.

Treat the root cause

Naturopathic medicine is targeted at the root cause of the disease and not the symptoms only. Symptoms are just external manifestation of the internal imbalance in the body.

It is important to treat the symptoms but it is more important to treat the underlying cause. These underlying causes might have a combination of physical, emotional, or mental triggers.

When the root cause is diagnosed and treated, the symptoms clear away but when the root cause is not attended to and only the symptoms are treated, the treatment will be ineffective.

The symptoms will just be suppressed and resurface after a while. This is a futile cycle and it also leads to more problems and complications in the body.

Self-healing

In naturopathy, we believe the body can heal itself, it knows the right thing to do. What the body needs is the right support nutritionally, emotionally, spiritually, and even environmentally.

Everyone has the ability and potential to heal themselves, naturopathy believe and teach that everybody has an innate healing power.

Prevention

It is far better, cheaper, and easier to prevent a disease than to cure it. Naturopaths discuss lifestyle changes and strategies with their patients and even nutritional supplementation as a means for disease prevention.

Heal through teaching

Naturopaths are doctors but they act more as teachers. They heal and treat by teaching because it is believed in this field that doctors are teachers.

In fact, the root word for doctors in Latin is docere and it means “to teach”. Most health experts are of the view that naturopaths are educational health facilitators.

The main role of naturopaths is to educate, empower, and motivate patients to take more personal responsibility for their health by engaging in healthy attitude, lifestyle, and nutrition.

This has been the practice of naturopathy from the beginning and a famous quote of Thomas Edison says “the doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest patients in the maintenance of the human frame in diet and in the prevention of diseases.”

In naturopathy, it is believed that it is more effective to teach than to treat patients.

This puts you in control of the whole healing process and you get to know what’s happening and why it is happening. They don’t put you in the dark by only telling you what to take and how to take it.

They let you know what caused the disease in the first place, how to treat it, and prevent it from re-occurring.

Each Patient should be treated as a person

In naturopathic medicine, each patient is treated as a person and not as their disease or disorder. The patient is a person and not the disease.

Naturopaths are also trained to treat the whole person, the patient is the one in need of the treatment and not the disease or the symptoms. A doctor William Osler once said “it is more important to know what sort of patient has a disease rather than what sort of disease a patient has”.

Naturopathic doctors are more interested in finding and treating the characteristic symptoms that define the patient instead of common symptoms that define the disease.

These principles were first used by Hippocrates and they were also taught in the Hippocratic School of medicine around 400 BC.

Methods or Types of Naturopathy

There are a lot of methods used in naturopathic medicine and they are highly effective in treating every disorder and sometimes they are combined with medications.

Natural therapies or the use of herbs (herbalism)

Natural therapies treat diseases and correct disorder with your diet. You will be told the kind of foods/herbs to ingest always, the natural supplement to use, the herbal teas to drink and so on.

This is highly effective for diseases including chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and so on. You would also be told the kind of foods to avoid and this is mostly processed and sugary foods.

Herbal remedies are becoming popular these day, we can see this in the recent trend of taking smoothies, vegetables juices, and fresh fruits in the morning.

You might have heard of the liquid chlorophyll and how to make yours at home, you must have heard of other herbal or home remedies for increased energy, improved vision, or to solve one problem or the other.

Other widely practiced herbal therapies are drinking green tea daily to boost immune system and solve other health problems, eliminating dairy and sugar from food to treat health problems like acne, sticking to an anti-inflammatory or anti-fungi diet to treat and manage chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.

Aromatherapy

This is the art of inhaling the scents of essential oils to treat disease, relieve symptoms, and improve your overall health. Essential oils are oils gotten from medicinal plants (herbs).

Your health can be positively affected when you inhale them, they work by controlling certain neurochemicals in your brain.

They are used to relieve stress, pains, menstrual pains, insomnia, and it is also used to relieve the side effects of chemotherapy like vomiting, dry mouth, and nausea.

Studies have backed the effectiveness of essential oils in treating diseases, and widely used essential oils that have been widely studied and commonly used in aromatherapy are chamomile, vanilla, sandalwood, bergamot, rosemary, lemon, peppermint, ginger, lavender, and eucalyptus essential oils.

It’s easy to perform aromatherapy at home, just diffuse any essential oil of your choice in your home or you inhale it directly from the bottle.

Body-mind techniques

This naturopathic practice involves therapies like meditation, tai chi, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery. These help to heal a lot of chronic conditions like depression, chronic stress and fatigue, and even chronic diseases.

They bestow a broad range of amazing health benefits and they are also of great benefits to people going through pains or having pain-causing conditions. Even studies have shown that there is a link between pain and stress.

Acupuncture

This is a widely practiced method of healing in Chinese Traditional Medicine. It has been used for thousands of years to treat a lot of illnesses and chronic diseases.

Acupuncture is done by inserting very thin needles into specific parts of the body. You have to be trained to do this and it heals the body by stimulating the flow of vital energy in the body. This energy is called “Chi”.

The principles of Chinese medicine states that, these specific points are pathways or meridians on the body through which vital energy flow in the body, the meridians or acupoints are termed “visible line of energy flow” for the distribution of energy and they connect your organs to other body parts.

Acupuncture is now one of the most widely studied alternative medicine and it is highly effective in treating a wide range of pain-causing conditions such as low-back pain, neck pain, and arthritis-related pains.

There are even scientific evidence that acupuncture can reduce the severity and frequency of tension headaches and migraines.

Massage therapy

This has been a popular practice for thousands of years, it didn’t start now and neither will it stop anytime soon, instead more methods of massages are coming out now than ever.

Massage has a powerful effect on the mental and physical health of people and it is of many types. It is used in treating a lot of health conditions like chronic pain, carpel tunnel syndrome, depression, tension headaches, arthritis, and anxiety.

Massage is so relaxing that even people who are not sick just get massages to improve their health and overall wellness. Massages are of many types and some of the most common ones are Swedish massage, Shiatsu massage, and deep tissue massage.

Earthing

This is a movement that taps into the electrical energy of the earth, it is form of grounding that aids the transfer of electrical energy from the earth into the body. This happens when a part of the body touches the earth or touches an object that can conduct electrical energy from the earth.

The electrons the body gets from the earth are powerful antioxidants, they fight free radicals and oxidation which can cause harm to the body.

Going barefoot is the easiest way to connect to the earth. Some powerful benefits of earthing are reduction of toxins, promotion of healing, reduction of stress, improving blood circulation, and reducing pain and inflammation.

Dietary supplements

This is the most commonly used form of naturopathy. It is almost the same as herbology but in this case, the herbal products are standardized and sold as supplements.

These include a wide range of natural products like fish oil, antioxidant, herbs, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics.

Make sure you check with your doctor before taking any supplement especially if you are on medication and also make sure that the supplement you are taking is certified by a governing body.

Hydrotherapy

Also known as “water cure”, this heals the body using water of various temperatures and in different ways. One common form of hydrotherapy is alternating hot and cold water on the body, this treats pains, inflammation, and it’s invigorating.

Hydrotherapy treats a lot of conditions. Cold water therapy is used mostly because of its invigorating properties.

Chiropractic

In this method of naturopathic medicine, the spinal column and other structures of the body are manipulated and re-aligned to alleviate and treat neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction.

The spine and other parts of the body focused on in this method of alternative medicine are called “adjustments”. This method of healing is mostly used painful conditions like back pain, headaches, and fibromyalgia.

It also regulates other health conditions like asthma and insomnia. A trained and qualified chiropractor manipulates these adjustments and aligns them correctly to enhance recovery from diseases and treat disorders.

Heliotherapy

This is the act of healing with sunlight, it is also known as light therapy or phototherapy. It is used in treating a lot of condition and to fight vitamin D deficiency.

It also boosts the immune system because the body produces more white blood cells when exposed to sunlight. Heliotherapy boosts one’s overall health and nowadays it can be done artificially but getting your sunlight naturally is still the best.

The best ways to benefit from sunlight is through sun gazing and sun bathing. The sun won’t induce cancer in your body if you are free of toxins and don’t apply harsh chemicals on your skin.

It is what you apply on your skin that causes those cancers and not the sun.

Ayurvedic healing

This is the traditional system of healing of the Indians and it is based on the belief that the human body is made up 5 elements which are earth, air, space, fire, and water.

All these elements come together to form the three doshas that make up the primal energy of a person. In Ayurveda medicine, it is believed that a person’s dosha can affect his or her health and

An imbalanced dosha raises the risk of susceptibility to sicknesses and it can also interrupt the natural flow of vital energy in your body. This, in turn, can interrupt normal biological processes in the body such as digestion and lead to the buildup of ama (toxins or body waste) in the body.

This would further impair your digestion and reduce the levels of your energy. Practices in Ayurveda include yoga, meditation, herbal medicine, cleansing, detoxification, fasting, massage, exercise, body treatments, and diet.

A well-trained Ayurvedic practitioner can combine all these elements into one treatment plan.

Energy medicine

This art of healing dives deep into your body’s natural energy system and it is used in healing a broad range of health problems including mental and emotional problems.

It is of many forms and it can be learnt so you can do it yourself and even teach others.

Humoral Therapy

Also known as humoralism or humorism, it origin dates back further than ancient Greece and it was central to the teachings of Galen and Hippocrates.

In this form of healing, it is believed that humors exist as liquids in the body and they were identified as blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm.

It was proposed that each humor was associated with a specific season of the year. During this time, an excess of the corresponding humor can exist in the body.

It was important to maintain a good balance between these four humors, this, in turn, would retain a healthy body and mind and prevent imbalances which can lead to diseases.

Emunctories

This is simply eliminating toxins from the body. Accumulation of toxins in the body is responsible for a lot of diseases.

Homeopathic medicine

This alternative medicine is based on the belief that “like treats like”, it isn’t clear how this method works but there are no risks in using them.

It is similar to Chinese traditional medicine, substances that cause similar symptoms of a diseases are diluted to the point where no molecule of the active ingredient is left and it is given to the patient to reduce the likelihood of harm.

This is practiced by professional homeopaths.

Prevention and lifestyle counseling

In naturopathy, prevention is more important than cure. In this method of healing, healthy people are taught how to maintain a healthy life and prevent diseases.

Bio-resonance

This is a non-invasive method of treatment in which electrodes are placed on your skin to diagnose and treat diseases.

The electrodes are connected to a Bicom machine, this will check the wavelengths of energy coming from your body and cancel negative frequencies by restoring the ideal balance.

Colon hydrotherapy

This is done to help the body detoxify itself and bring your body back on track if you are having serious digestive problems like diarrhea, constipation, or gas.

Most health experts believe that death starts in the colon, so one of the ways to keep your colon clean and healthy is to go for colon hydrotherapy.

Ozone therapy

This is the process of administering ozone into your body to treat a wound or disease. Ozone, a colorless gas consisting of three atoms of oxygen treats a lot of medical condition by stimulating the immune system.

Reflexology

Also known as zone therapy, it is the application of pressure to the feet and hands without oil or lotion to treat disease or effect a physical change in your body.

Exercise (physiotherapy)

This helps to restore the movement and functions of your body affected by disease like stroke, injury, or disabilities. Exercises and massages are involved.

Fasting

This is one of the oldest cures used in traditional Chinese medicine. In fact, there is a Chinese adage that says “if fasting cannot cure it, nothing else can”.

However, you have to be guided by a well-trained and experienced naturopath on how to go about. Fasting has been used to cure a lot of health problems.

It also boosts longevity, it slows down aging, and improves your overall health. It prevents chronic conditions and diseases and it prevents and treats cancers.

Acupressure

This is quite similar to acupuncture but in this case, needles are not used. It involves the manual application of pressure using the finger tips to specific points on the body.

It uses the same principles as acupuncture and it is used in treating a wide range of illnesses.

Biofeedback and neurofeedback

Biofeedback is a non-invasive method of healing used to teach people how to control the functions of their bodies. Electrodes (sensors) are attached to the body to measure physical changes like body temperature, muscle tension, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Neurofeedback is also known as EEG biofeedback and it relates specifically to the brain. In this method, electrodes are attached to the scalp to monitor changes in brainwave activity.

These methods are used to treat brain injury, chronic pain, insomnia, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, memory problems, stress, ADHD, PTSD, migraines, seizures, high blood pressure, and autistic spectrum disorder.

Hypnotherapy

Also known as hypnosis, it makes use of intense concentration, guided relaxation, and focused attention to get to into trance or a high state of awareness.

A trained therapist helps a person to focus on specific tasks or thoughts. This helps people to focus on painful feelings, thoughts, and memories that are trapped in their unconscious mind.

This leads to healing as most health experts believe that all diseases originate in the thought/mind. Hypnotherapy can be used in two ways namely analysis and suggestion therapy.

Hypnosis is used in treating health conditions such as depression, phobias, anxiety, post-trauma anxiety, stress, sleep disorders, and grief and loss.

Some of these methods can be learnt independently, this include meditation and body-mind practices while others are only administered by a professional, example chiropractor, herbalist, and acupuncturist.

Benefits of Naturopathic Medicine

There are many benefits of naturopathic medicine, even health experts are aware of this and now plan are being made on how to integrate naturopathy into conventional medicine.

Some of the wonderful benefits of naturopathy are:

  • Naturopathy treats your whole body and not just the symptoms only. If the whole body is healed, no part of the body would malfunction.
  • Naturopathy is not a quick fix but it is highly effective. It involves whole lifestyle change and requires commitment and patience from the patient. It is not fast-acting but it will definitely heal the disease and improve your overall wellbeing.
  • Naturopathy puts you in the driver’s seat of your life. You are in charge, you are full control and the major decision maker of your life.
  • Naturopathic methods of treatments are non-invasive and non-harmful. They also don’t give side effects unless you go against the instruction, example is taking certain herbs and drugs together that do not go, this can lead to drug-herb interaction and you can find yourself in serious pain or even in a medical emergency.

Apart from this, naturopathy is completely safe and natural.

  • It is cheaper and more cost-effective. You don’t spend much to get well. All the necessary things are gotten from nature and your environment and other therapies can be done by self, such as meditation and other body-mind techniques.
  • You have total control over the healing process and your body when you are being treated by a naturopathic physician.
  • Naturopathic doctors have a high success rate of treating chronic conditions that don’t respond well to conventional medicine. This includes cancer, chronic insomnia, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, digestive disorder, fatigue, and pain.

Are There Scientific Evidence Supporting Naturopathic Medicine?

Yes, there are many studies and clinical trials showing that naturopathic methods such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, and others are highly effective in treating a lot of medical conditions but most of them are being suppressed.

Also, naturopathic medicine is personalized medicine and it does not always give itself only to a strict adherence to treatments based on randomized controlled trials.

It is important to test the value of individual treatments but the authentic clinical application is much more difficult. Even the clinical application of conventional healthcare follows a similar pattern.

A recent study in the British Medical Journal states that only 13% of standard treatments and tests are supported by strong evidence.

Then a worrisome truth about these clinical trials and studies is that most of them are sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, this is a well-documented fact and they do these to have the last say on whether the study gets published or not.

You should know what will happen by now, if the study ends in their favor, it gets published and if it doesn’t, no one gets to hear about it.

Another problem about peer-reviewed medical journal and conventional medicine is that most of them focus mainly on large and expensive pharmaceutically-sponsored trials while the careful and thoughtful observation of naturopaths with positive clinical outcomes with their patients are discarded as “anecdotal evidence”.

While it would be nice to remind them that it was anecdotal evidence that led to the discovery of rabies vaccine by Louis Pasteur. It was also anecdotal evidence that made Dr. James Lind discovered that scurvy can be cured by citrus fruits.

Yet, his idea wasn’t implemented for decades and this led to the unfortunate deaths of thousands of people. There are many draw-backs to this evidence-based medicine, a private practitioner cannot afford to sponsor a large scale, double blind and placebo-controlled trial.

The only ones that can do this are large pharmaceutical companies and they don’t pay for studies on natural treatments because they can’t patent herbs and supplements and therefore won’t gain from it.

Another problem with evidence-based medicine is that it focuses on large group of people instead of an individual. One size cannot fit all. Everyone has unique biochemical differences and cannot react the same way to the same treatment.

The last disadvantage about evidence-based medicine is that it ignores a potential powerful healing force by insisting on double-blind trials.

In double-blind trials, both the patients and practitioners are blind (don’t know) whether the study subjects or the patients are getting fake (placebo) or real treatments.

This is done to eliminate the effects that patients and practitioners expectations and beliefs might have on the result of the study. However, looking back at the greatest healers of the past, we know they were great because they had the ability to influence their patients’ expectations and beliefs.

Your belief and expectation is a great healer on its own and don’t let anyone take that from you.

Where Does a Naturopath Works?

Naturopaths commonly practice in a freelance environment but they can be found in hospitals, health care centers, research, spas, management in retail industries, administration, and in the media.

Naturopaths can also be found in beauty clinics, family and nutritional consultancy. There is a fast growing acceptance of naturopathy worldwide and the main topic on ground in the health sector is how to integrate naturopathy into conventional medicine hence the name “integrative medicine”.

Challenges of Modern Day Naturopathy

Even though the acceptance of naturopathy is growing worldwide, it still faces a big opposition from modern medicine which does not subscribe to the importance of prevention or to the idea of wholism.

These two factors have been the bedrock of ancient medicine, in ancient China, physicians were paid to keep their patients fit and healthy and they were not paid or dismissed if the patient fell ill.

This helped to promote a health system and not an ill health system as we have it today. In the classic of internal medicine, it was stated that the yellow emperor (2nd century BC) said “a doctor who treats a disease after it has happened is a mediocre doctor…a doctor who treats a disease before it happens is a superior doctor.”

Unfortunately, this is not the case in this modern era, medicine has now changed to new believe “wait until it is broken and then fix it”. Naturopaths are not in support of this and they don’t consider it as intelligent medicine.

Naturopathy empowers the patient to take charge of his or her own health and this is far from what modern medicine believes. This has been one of the major challenges of naturopaths in this era.

Another challenge faced by naturopaths in this era is that humans now are exposed to a lot of electromagnetic pollution and millions of chemicals in our food and body care products which were completely strange to man about 50 years ago.

These combined with unnatural foods and high use of both prescription and non-prescription medications which have their own side effects have created a lot of health problems and even many more waiting to happen.

The main problem facing humanity today is that people have too little of what they should have in their bodies and too much of what they shouldn’t have in their bodies.

Today’s naturopaths need a very heterogeneous approach in order to solve these problems and guide their patients back to vibrant health.

The future of Naturopathy

Naturopathy is now being involved in conventional medicine, and over the past decades, we’ve seen it evolve into its own different form of medicine. This is due to increased globalization and aggressive awareness about eastern-style and alternative medicine.

Although the acceptance of naturopathy is growing as a fast pace, there is still resistance from some members of modern medicine but this is not affecting the spread and evolvement of naturopathy.

The first college of naturopathic medicine in Africa has opened in Ghana. In Nigeria, they have already integrated traditional medicine into the healthcare systems and there are plans on ground to teach naturopathy in universities.

Right now, evidence-based research is being carried out to validate herbal remedies and alternative medicine. This will enhance the credibility of naturopathy.

Now, many are choosing natural remedies over pharmaceuticals and more doctors are now advocates of conventional treatments alongside holistic ones. Naturopaths also refer patients to other practitioners if the treatment is outside their scope of practice.

The future has great things in store for naturopathy as they would be wider acceptance and more doctors embracing it and working alongside naturopaths.

This is a great time for naturopaths unlike in the past when they were viewed as dangerous quacks and naturopathic treatments were viewed with suspicion. In fact, in some parts of the world, laws were passed to prevent their practices.

Ebiojo David
I am a Biochemist and Naturopath, I love writing and educating people on health and wellness matters.