What is naturopathy?
Naturopathy, or natural medicine, is a form of alternative medicine with a deep history of traditional philosophies and practices and natural treatment options for patients. It aims at stimulating the body’s self-healing capacity and promotes a concept of going back to an innate balance, and involves the treatment and prevention of health disorders through the use of natural therapies, methods and materials, which may include clinical nutrition, herbal medicine, acupuncture, and ancient medical systems, such as traditional Chinese medicine.
Natural medicine should be considered complementary medicine rather than an alternative to standard medical care. You should inform your doctor if you are also using alternative therapies.
What types of treatment do naturopathic doctors offer?
There are 6 core principles that a naturopath follows for the treatment of patients, which include:
- Identify and treat the cause
- Use the healing power of nature
- Do no harm
- Treat the entire person
- Prevention of disease and health promotion
- Be a teacher first
Naturopaths may perform physical examinations, laboratory tests, gynaecological examinations, nutritional and dietary assessments, allergy tests and other diagnostic tests. Through these tests and examinations, they combine and adapt treatments to the needs of the individual.
The treatments that naturopathy uses to improve the body are determined by the individual’s needs and include the following:
- A natural diet: naturopaths usually recommend what, how and when to eat rather than a diet per se
- Herbal medicine: this practice is based on using natural remedies and herbs according to the individual’s needs in order to preserve their well-being
- Oligotherapy: trace minerals are used to keep the body functions balanced and going
- Reflexology: some specific areas of the foot are stimulated to get a beneficial effect on other organs and tissues of the body
- Ozone therapy
- Psychological counselling
- Traditional Chinese medicine
What conditions does naturopathic medicine treat?
There is a wide range of conditions that naturopathic doctors claim to be able treat, either alone or alongside conventional medical treatments. These include:
- Acute conditions – headaches, sore throats, ear infections, colds and cases of flu
- Chronic illnesses – migraines, musculoskeletal pain, gastrointestinal, gynaecological and fertility issues, arthritis and heart disease
- Mental and emotional problems – stress, anger, depression or anxiety
- Physical injury and trauma
When can I expect results from natural medicine?
Some have reported rapid results following the use of natural medicines and naturopathy and those who practise it often suggest that the best results come from positive behavioural patterns and the persistence and patience required long enough for the body to respond.
However, it is worth bearing in mind that alternative medicine, by definition, has not been proven to work by any studies, apart from a placebo effect. The effectiveness of many natural treatments is disputed, with some being actively studied, while others, such as homeopathy, have been conclusively shown by various studies to have no medical value.
It is important to remember that, while some natural medicines can be useful in conjuction with conventional medical treatment, they should not be regarded as a substitute for treatments whose efficacy has been proven.