Naturopathic Medicine (also known as Naturopathy or Natural Medicine) is a form of alternative or supplementary medical treatment which emphasizes the body’s ability to heal itself and maintain its own well-being.
It is an integrated holistic system. Its goal is to help the patient physically, biochemically and psychologically, recognizing the crucial role of these elements in the restoration and maintenance of health. Understanding the complexity of these elements, naturopathy works as an instrument for rehabilitation and the restoration of balance or harmony between them.
Naturopathy is based on 6 basic principles:
Firstly, to do no harm and to give the most effective care entailing the minimal potential danger to the patient (Primum Non Nocere).
To acknowledge, respect and promote the power of the individual to heal him/herself (Vis Medicatrix Naturae).
To recognize and eliminate the fundamental causes of illness rather than merely suppressing symptoms (Tolle Causum).
To educate and inspire hope (within reasonable limits) and to encourage the patient’s sense of responsibility for his/her own health (Doctor as Teacher).
To provide treatment which takes into consideration the specific and distinct influences affecting each individual’s health (Treat the Whole Person).
To place emphasis on the conditions essential to health and well-being thus minimizing disease (Health Promotion, the Best Prevention).
Naturopathy, like osteopathy, offers the advantages of contemporary as well as traditional or historical medicine. It uses whatever clinical methodology and technology is deemed appropriate in assessing the patient’s problem. The naturopath’s evaluation is grounded in an understanding of the systemic dysfunction in the patient’s body rather than focusing on a specific disease.
Historical medicine explores the particulars of a patient’s problem, his pharmaceutical history, and his other probable health problems. The patient’s familial, professional and social history are considered equally indispensable in getting a full picture of the state of his/her health.
Clinical methods include the use of conventional medical tools such as stethoscopes, blood pressure guages, otoscopes, ophthalmocopes, neurological “hammers”, etc. The conducting of a variety of clinical tests may be part of the examination process. When necessary, the patient is required to remove his/her outer clothing.
Blood tests and X-Rays are often required in conjunction with naturopathic treatment. These tests often confirm the naturopath’s evaluation of the problem even when there is recourse to the second opinion of a specialist. Often the results of tests are compatible with the specialist’s view of the problem. Blood testing usually gives a clearer picture of the actual problem.
Many medical historians believe that Hippocrates was the first proponent of naturopathic medicine long before the term ‘naturopathy’ came into use. Hippocrates posited that “Nature is the therapist for all patients.”
In the USA, the term naturopathy was coined by John Skill before 1900 and was used by Benedict Last. The latter taught hydrotherapy and other natural therapeutic practices under the tutelage of Father Sebastian Klaitt who sent his pupil to the U.S. In 1905. Last founded the first American school of naturopathy in New York. In the 1930’s, the discovery of penicillin and synthetic drugs (antibiotics, corticosteroids) along with the development of advanced technologies accrued to the decline of naturopathy as well as other medical disciplines with a ‘natural’ orientation (homeopathy, herbal remedies, etc.).
By 1970, the profound clinical limitations and excessive expense of conventional medicine had become consistently more obvious. As a result, millions of Americans turned towards “new” choices of treatment and alternative solutions. Thus began a new epoch for naturopathy and other alternative medical practices. Since then, naturopathy has achieved recognition in many American states. This recognition is contingent upon an extensive university medical education. Naturopathy is taught in universities in Canada, Europe and Australia. It has consistently gained ground in the medical world.
Naturopathic treatment is a systematic therapy comprising a number of therapeutic methods and techniques of physical manipulation.
The particular combination of therapeutic methods depends on the patient’s sex, age, general state of health and specific dysfunction or illness. The methods used are a function of the overall goal of the therapy. The treatment is designed uniquely for the patient (individualized treatment).
Therapeutic methods include the following:
The importance of nutrition as the foundation of preventive medicine as well as the means for the maintenance of health has received significant and growing recognition in medical sectors.
Nutritional medicine is primarily of interest because of its clinical applications. However, its goal is more multi-dimensional than that. Besides analyzing the elements of the diet itself, it concerns itself with the significant and specific dietary habits of the individual patient. The use of dietary supplements is common practice in contemporary nutritional medicine, when, of course, such supplements are deemed necessary.
Herbal medicine (also referred to as herbal therapy, botanical therapy or plant therapy) is based on the use of plant and botanical extracts. Its use predated Hippocrates. Its pharmacological benefits are even more widely recognized in contemporary medicine. The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of the global population have used and continue to use botanical medicine. Many drugs dispensed by doctors have a long history in botanical medicine, the most common being aspirin. It is interesting to note that 7000 medical substances originate in plants.
The abstention from food, typically from specific foods or drinks (with the exception of water) for a fixed period must be determined by the naturopath. Such abstention is prescribed only when the general health of the patient permits it. Fasting gives strength to the organism by conserving energy and helping it to recover by itself or heal itself (self therapy). Fasting has been used for thousands of years not only for its medical benefits but also for its practical restorative powers of the mind and the spirit as has been recognized by many religions.
Water therapy was used originally by Father Sebastiano Knaitt. He recognized the healing properties of water (warmth and solubility) in dealing with a variety of diseases. Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians were cognizant of the curative powers of water. Water therapies include body wrappings or coatings, baths, saunas and hot and cold compresses. These therapies are contraindicated by wounded, infected skin, allergies to the compresses, hardened skin, Reynard’s disease, cardiological disease or the possibility of pregnancy. The evaluation of the latter two conditions is subject to the advice of a specialist.
Φυσικοπαθητική σωματική ιατρική (Naturopathic physical medicine)
Είναι η πρακτική της σωματικής (χειρονακτικής) ιατρικής στα πλαίσια της φυσικοπαθητικής φιλοσοφίας. Ενοποιεί την επιστημονική γνώση με τις αρχές της φυσικοπαθητικής.
Περιλαμβάνει ειδικές χειρονακτικές τεχνικές τόσο των οστικών όσο και των μαλακών μορίων με σκοπό την αύξηση του εύρους κίνησης μίας άρθρωσης, χαλάρωση υπερτονικών μυών και περιτονιών, αύξηση του μεταβολισμού και συνεπώς μείωση του πόνου και της φλεγμονής. Η επιλογή των τεχνικών έγκεινται στο πρόβλημα που αντιμετωπίζει ο ασθενής, την κατάσταση της υγείας του, την ψυχολογία του και την ηλικία του.
Ψυχολογική συμβουλευτική (psychological counseling)
Περικλείει τεχνικές χαλάρωσης και μείωσης του στρες όπως διαλογισμό και τεχνικές αναπνοής. Η ψυχολογική χαλάρωση και η ψυχική γαλήνη είναι απαραίτητες προϋποθέσεις για τη διατήρηση της υγείας ενός ατόμου, σε αντίθεση με τα υψηλά επίπεδα του στρες. Έχει πλέον κλινικά αποδειχθεί ότι το άγχος και το στρες αποτελούν παράγοντες υψηλού κινδύνου για χρόνιες ασθένειες και κοστίζουν πολλά λεφτά σε κυβερνήσεις και ασφαλιστικούς φορείς. Η εφαρμογή της μεθόδου αυτής εξαρτάται από την επιστημονική εγκυρότητα και πεποιθήσεις του φυσικοπαθητικού.
Πρέπει να ειπωθεί ότι η παραπάνω μέθοδος δεν πρέπει να συγχέεται με την παραδοσιακή ψυχοθεραπεία, ψυχανάλυση και άλλες μεθόδους της κλασικής ψυχολογίας.
Naturopathy recognizes the validity of therapeutic methods based on other scientifically reliable schools of thought. These include homeopathy, acupuncture, and traditional Chinese medicine. Naturopathy embraces a broad spectrum of therapies practiced in other branches of medicine.