What is Naturopathic Medicine?

This is an exciting time for medicine and health care in general. With more of a spotlight being shown on complementary and alternative medicine, society is becoming more aware of the options available for treating illness.

Although the use of complementary and alternative care in the US is on the rise, many people haven't heard of one of the most comprehensive systems of medicine that there is: naturopathic medicine.

So what is naturopathic medicine? Naturopathic medicine is a century year old system of medicine founded on the belief of the "healing power of nature" championed by Hippocrates over 2400 years ago.

The first school of naturopathy was founded by Benedict Lust with it's first class graduating in 1902. Naturopathic medicine has been practiced in the United States with varying levels of popularity ever since.

Well that's great but what does naturopathic medicine actually do and why do I need it? I'm glad you asked. As stated above, naturopathic medicine is founded on a number of principles, the chief of which being: the healing power of nature.

What does that mean, you ask?

Well think back to when you were a child and you fell and scraped your knee or when you last had a paper cut. Is your knee still bloodied and bruised?

Are you still wearing a band-aid for your painful paper cut? The majority of us would say no.

Why? The healing power of nature, that's why.

What naturopathic doctors usually mean by the healing power of nature is that the body has the ability to heal itself given optimal conditions with little to no conscious effort on our part. When you fall and scrape your knee, you don't have to consciously tell your fibrin (a protein involved in clotting blood) to create a blood clot or your fibroblasts to contract your wound. The body does this on it's own without any effort on your part.

This is the healing power of nature. It the naturopathic doctor's job to remove whatever is impeding your body's own healing abilities to allow the body to heal itself.

Another key principle of naturopathic medicine is to identify and treat the cause.

No one likes feeling bad and if you go to a doctor with a headache you'd be grateful to leave with a prescription that promises relief but what happens when you only address the symptom of the headache without trying to find out the cause of the headache in the first place?

A lifetime of medication with possible side effects.

The goal of naturopathic medicine is to find out what is causing the symptoms and remove it.

This will get rid of your symptoms safely and permanently. Sometimes this can't be done but more often than not, it can.

So back to our headache example, if you were suffering from headaches and you went to a naturopathic doctor, he would do a thorough intake (often up to 2 hours) to find out about you. Your lifestyle, diet, stress, family and personal history, among many other factors, will be addressed in this visit.

At the end of the visit, he might tell you to have a protein snack in the afternoon because your blood sugar levels are low which causes your headache or he might refer you out to a neurologist for advanced imaging. It all depends on your unique symptoms and personal history.

One of the biggest principles that guides naturopathic medicine is first do no harm.

Naturopathic medicine is designed to be safe, gentle, and effective. Naturopathic doctors are trained to use the most effective method with the least amount of force for the greatest amount of healing.