Naturopathic medicine emphasizes the natural self-healing processes of the human body. Central principles include using healing approaches which derive from nature, encouraging self-responsibility for health, using therapies that promote the body’s ability to heal itself, and treatment which takes into account the whole person. A naturopathic physician typically combines several kinds of therapies, including diet, lifestyle changes, vitamins, minerals, and herbal (plant) medicines to prevent illness, treat disease, and promote well-being.
Naturopathy evolved as a commonly practiced comprehensive health system in the early 1900’s, and its origins are mainly from European herbal and water therapy traditions.
Greater focus on the importance of clinical evidence for naturopathic therapies and research in the field is resulting in a growing body of scientific evidence supporting approaches used by naturopathic physicians.
Principles central to the practice of naturopathic medicine include:
1. The healing power of nature. Recognize the body's inherent ability to heal itself, and the naturopathic physician's role in promoting and enhancing self-healing.
2. First do no harm. Emphasize the importance of minimizing harmful side effects of treatment. Whenever possible choose gentler, less strong, therapeutic options.
3. Find the cause. Awareness that suppressing symptoms alone may sometimes get in the way of discovering the cause of a disease.
4. Doctor as teacher. The role of the naturopathic physician is to educate and encourage individuals to take responsibility for their own health.
5. Treat the whole person. Naturopathic physicians strive to take into account all aspects of their patients’ health including emotional, social, and spiritual aspects.
6. Prevention. Emphasize the importance of disease prevention through the use of effective disease prevention techniques.
Naturopathic physicians perform a history and a physical exam, order lab tests, and record findings using a “SOAP” format, in very similar ways to that of conventional medicine ractitioners.Naturopathic physicians order many of the same lab tests as conventional practitioners, such as tests for anemia, thyroid disease, diabetes, etc, but in addition may also order some lab tests which are unfamiliar to conventional physicians, such as stool analysis for digestive disorders and salivary hormone panels. Radiology studies, such as mammograms, may be ordered, and Pap smears are commonly performed.
Naturopathic physicians typically combine several kinds of treatments in their practice. The methods employed usually include: herbal (plant) medicine and the use of other dietary supplements such as vitamins and minerals, modifications of diet and other lifestyle changes, hydrotherapy (water therapy), naturopathic physical manipulation, and homeopathy. Those who also have received training in Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine or acupuncture may use these methods as well in some jurisdictions. Most naturopathic physicians have a small dispensary for herbs and other supplements in their office of products which they feel are of sufficiently high quality.