Naturopathic Medicine is a holistic health care profession emphasizing prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ inherent self-healing process. The practice of naturopathic medicine includes modern and traditional, scientific, and empirical methods. Licensing requires that Naturopathic Doctors undergo a four year post graduate degree at an accredited Naturopathic Medical School and pass National Board examinations.
The practice of naturopathy incorporates the ideas and methods of many time honored traditions as well as current innovations in natural methods. It is the underlying principles and philosophy that unite these practices:
- treat the whole person – mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health are inter-related
- treat the cause – find and remove the cause rather than suppress symptoms,
- first do no harm – use the least invasive, least harmful, means necessary to diagnose and treat
- doctor as teacher – empower patients by teaching patients the means to heal themselves
- nature as healer – as part of the natural world we have an innate ability to heal ourselves
- prevention – intervene before a disease process gets started
It is these principles that distinguish the art of medicine from the conventional medical model.
Detoxification is a concept embraced throughout the ages in most healing traditions. Cumulative load of toxins – even from low level exposures in everyday life – is often the root cause of degenerative and chronic conditions. A very particular challenge is posed in todays world. The sheer quantity and diversity of chemicals in our daily life dictates that we limit our level of exposure, and that we aid the body in its natural effort to cleanse itself. The human body has well honed and intricate ways of excreting toxic substances ingested from the environment, yet man made chemicals or heavy metals may shut down the very mechanisms by which those toxins are excreted.
Detox or “cleansing” is popular in these times of environmental degradation, yet if inappropriately prescribed may do more harm than good. The issue must be addressed according to the level of exposure, the offending toxins, and the strength of a person’s constitution. Methods might include dietary restrictions, nutritional and botanical support, chelation, hydrotherapy, massage, drainage remedies, and acupuncture. Some people may undertake a simple cleanse from several days to several weeks long once or twice a year to maintain and gain overall well being. Others may be suffering the consequences of environmental exposure and may need specific testing and a supportive protocol for the longer term. It is important to tailor the treatment to the individual.
Diet is the foundation of good health in virtually every traditional form of medicine. It can be a confusing subject because, beyond the issue of eating high quality food, it is something that must be approached on the basis of an individual’s constitution. Although it is best to receive nutrients through diet, supplementation is called for in some cases. Modern farming methods, soil depletion, refinement and processing of food strip the vitamins and minerals and alter molecular structures. Supplementation may be necessary because of inadequacies in the diet, malabsorption, or the dictates of a patients condition. It is possible to assess whether supplements are needed by testing nutritional status. The quality and form of supplementation is very important in determining whether the body can utilize the nutrients.
Over countless millennia herbs have been highly revered for their healing “wisdom.” This has a lot to do with the co-evolution of plants alongside humankind. As people cultivated plants, plants fed and healed people, and they gradually became adapted to their respective roles. The use of herbs has taken many forms over the ages. Traditional forms such as teas or alcohol-based tinctures act biochemically, but have an energetic component as well. Botanical extracts can also be tableted or encapsulated, and are sometimes standardized for the “active” constituent. These are very popular, being stronger and narrower in scope, more like a pharmaceutical drug, but with fewer, if any, side effects. Many pharmaceuticals were originally derived from plant substances and were conceived in this way.
In many traditions, a number of herbs are put together in a formula to treat a particular condition. The combinations of herbs balance one another. Every herb contains many compounds, each with a different action, allowing the herbs to work holistically. Chinese herbal formulas are perhaps the ultimate in refinement, having been honed and improved by adding, subtracting, or changing the formula as knowledge improved, over many hundreds of years. Homeopathy
Classical homeopathy is a gentle, deeply healing form of medicine in use for over 200 years. A truly holistic discipline, the premise is that that mental, emotional and physical planes are interrelated and that a single well chosen remedy can effect healing on every level by stimulating a patient’s innate vitality. Effective homeopathic treatment demands a detailed understanding of how a disease affects an individual on all levels, and therefore usually requires an extensive interview, exploring a person’s habits and history in detail. The effect of a homeopathic medication or remedy is based on the idea that a substance, which in its crude form evokes certain symptoms, can cure similar symptoms if prepared in an ultra-dilute form. Homeopathic medicines are created from plant, mineral and animal substances in specialized pharmacies. They are regulated by the FDA and are considered non-toxic.
Acupuncture is based on the idea that there is a vital energy, (Qi, pronounced “chi”), that permeates and animates living beings. It circulates in the human body through specific pathways or meridians. Impediments to the flow of Qi can lead to pain and disease. Very fine sterile needles are inserted in specific points to balance or modulate the flow of Qi.
The origins of acupuncture predate written history. It is one component of the comprehensive system of Oriental Medicine which includes herbal medicine, body work (Tui Na), meditation in motion (Tai Chi), and other modes of healing. Oriental Medicine has its own diagnostic framework based on observation of physical characteristics, most notably tongue and pulse diagnosis. Signs and symptoms lend insight to the persons state of health which may be interpreted in terms of weather patterns. Thus, a patient may have “heat” or “cold” or “wind”. This viewpoint differs from modern medicine: instead of focusing on one isolated aspect of an illness – an organ, a lab value, or a cell type it may emphasize relationships between different organs, or look at the flow of Qi and blood in a global or holistic way.
Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET®) is a method developed by Dr Devi Nambudripad in the 1980’s for alleviating allergies and related hypersensitivities. Her initial discovery centered on the observation that stimulating certain points on the back while a subject is holding an allergenic substance could neutralize future allergic responses to that substance. It is a non-invasive, drug free system that is based on energy testing and balancing, employing aspects of kinesiology (muscle testing), acupuncture, and chiropractic disciplines. It is therefore drugless and non-invasive. The protocol is precise, requiring treatment of a series of basic substances in a certain order, one at a time. Results vary according to the severity of the patients condition, but patients with mild to moderate reactions often see results within the first fifteen treatments.