Naturopathy, also called naturopathic medicine, is a system of therapy and treatment which relies exclusively on natural remedies, such as sunlight, air, water, supplemented with diet and therapies such as massage.
Naturopathy believes that the body is self-healing.The body will repair itself and recover from illness spontaneously if it is in a healthy environment. Naturopaths have many remedies and recommendations for creating a healthy environment so the body can spontaneously heal itself. This holistic system of healing, Naturopathy has evolved over time in different cultures and parts of the world. Naturopathy (naturopathic medicine) emphasis on supporting health rather than combating disease.
Naturopathy is rooted in health care approaches that were popular in Europe, especially in Germany, in the 19th century, but it also includes therapies (both ancient and modern) from other traditions.
A Brief History of Naturopathy
Naturopathy has its origins in India along with Ayurveda, but is today practiced in many countries around the world in one form or another, where it is subject to different standards of regulation and levels of acceptance.
Naturopathy was named and popularized in the United States by Benedict Lust, who was born in Germany in the late 1800s. When Lust became seriously ill with what he believed was tuberculosis, he was treated by a priest and healer in Germany named Sebastian Kneipp. Kneipp’s treatment was based on various healing approaches and philosophies that were popular in Europe, including:
Hydrotherapy (water treatments).
The “nature cure” movement, which focused on restoring health through a return to nature. This movement advocated therapies such as gentle exercise, herbal medications, wholesome dietary approaches, and exposure to sun and air.
Lust found his health much improved from Kneipp’s treatment, and when he immigrated to the United States at the turn of the 20th century, he was dedicated to popularizing it. He gave it the name naturopathy, led the way in developing it as a medical system in the United States, and founded the first naturopathic college and professional association. In naturopathy’s early years, other therapies were added to its practice-for example, homeopathy and manipulation (a hands-on therapy).
Naturopathy’s popularity reached its peak in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. However, its use began to decline when drugs (such as antibiotics) and other developments in conventional medicine moved to the forefront of health care. Naturopathy began to reemerge in the 1970s, with increased consumer interest in “holistic” health approaches and the founding of new naturopathic medical colleges. Today, naturopathy is practiced in a number of countries, including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.
Naturopathic practice may include a broad array of different healing modalities, including manual therapy, hydrotherapy, herbalism, acupuncture, counseling, environmental medicine, aromatherapy, nutritional counseling, homeopathy, and so on.
Principles of naturopathy
The practice of naturopathy is based on six key principles:
Promote the healing power of nature.
First do no harm. Naturopathic practitioners choose therapies with the intent to keep harmful side effects to a minimum and not suppress symptoms.
Treat the whole person. Practitioners believe a person’s health is affected by many factors, such as physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social ones. Practitioners consider all these factors when choosing therapies and tailor treatment to each patient.
Treat the cause. Practitioners seek to identify and treat the causes of a disease or condition, rather than its symptoms. They believe that symptoms are signs that the body is trying to fight disease, adapt to it, or recover from it.
Prevention is the best cure. Practitioners teach ways of living that they consider most healthy and most likely to prevent illness.
The physician is a teacher. Practitioners consider it important to educate their patients in taking responsibility for their own health.
Naturopathy in India
Naturopathy is very popular in India, and there are numerous naturopathy hospitals in the country. There are also many doctors trained in the Western system of medicine who have acquired naturopathy degrees so as to integrate the insights gained into their system of practice.
The Indian stream of naturopathy differs from the Western stream in many ways, particularly in their emphasis of strict vegetarianism and yoga.
Today, Naturopathy is quickly growing in popularity and accepted use.
Naturopathic Physicians doctors/ naturopathic medicine schools (certification)/ naturopathy course
Naturopathic physicians are educated and trained in a 4-year, graduate-level program at one of the four U.S. naturopathic medical schools accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree and standard premedical courses. The study program includes basic sciences, naturopathic therapies and techniques, diagnostic techniques and tests, specialty courses, clinical sciences, and clinical training. Graduates receive the degree of N.D. (Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine). Postdoctoral training is not required, but graduates may pursue it.
Depending on where they wish to practice, naturopathic physicians may also need to be licensed. A number of states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories have such licensing requirements (see the box below), most often consisting of graduation from a 4-year naturopathic medical college and passing the national standardized board examination (known as the NPLEX). The scope of practice varies by state and jurisdiction. For example, some states allow naturopathic physicians with special training to prescribe drugs, perform minor surgery, practice acupuncture, and/or assist in childbirth.
Regulation of Naturopathy
The following U.S. states and jurisdictions have laws regulating the practice of naturopathy:
• New Hampshire
• District of Columbia
• Puerto Rico
• U.S. Virgin Islands
The second major group of practitioners are traditional naturopaths, or simply naturopaths. They emphasize education in naturopathic approaches to a healthy lifestyle, strengthening and cleansing the body, and noninvasive treatments. Prescription drugs, x-rays, and surgery are several of the practices that traditional naturopaths do not use. Education and training for these practitioners typically consists of correspondence courses, an apprenticeship, and/or self-teaching. Admission requirements for schools can range from none, to a high school diploma, to specific degrees and coursework. Programs vary in length and content. They are not accredited by agencies recognized for accreditation purposes by the U.S. Department of Education. Traditional naturopaths are not subject to licensing.
Conventional Providers With Naturopathic Training
This group consists of licensed conventional medical providers (such as doctors of medicine, doctors of osteopathy, dentists, and nurses) who pursue additional training in naturopathic treatments, and possibly other holistic therapies. Education and training programs for this purpose also vary.
Benefits of Naturopathy/ Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic medicine is useful for treating chronic as well as acute diseases. It is sometimes used in conjunction with allopathic care to enhance wellness and relieve chronic symptoms, such as fatigue and pain. A naturopath treats a wide range of health problems, ranging from back pain to depression.
Side Effects and Risks in Naturopathy
Naturopathy appears to be a generally safe health care approach, especially if used as complementary (rather than alternative) medicine.
NCCAM-Funded Research in Naturopathy
Some recent NCCAM-supported projects have been studying:
CAM approaches, including naturopathic treatments, for women with temporomandibular disorder, a condition in which the joints connecting the skull to the lower jaw become inflamed
A naturopathic dietary approach as a complementary treatment for type 2 diabetes
The mushroom Trametes versicolor, for its effects as a complementary immune therapy in women with breast cancer
The costs and effects of naturopathic care, compared with conventional care, for low-back pain
Herbal and dietary approaches for menopausal symptoms.