Holistic Health: What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Women's Health | | Natasha Weiss
4 min read

Modern allopathic medicine has made some incredible advances when it comes to healthcare – there’s no doubt about that. That being said, it’s not the only option when it comes to taking charge of your body’s health. 

As the health and wellness industry grows, more and more people are realizing how many options they have when it comes to maintaining their well-being. Although they’re by no means new kinds of medicine, we see this in the rise in the popularity of acupuncture (Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine (originating in India). 

Another system of holistic medicine, meaning it treats the whole body as a connected organism, is Naturopathy. If you’re looking for an alternative treatment for mental health disorders, cardiovascular disease, and more, then stay tuned!

When and How Was Naturopathic Medicine Developed?

Although Naturopathy may not be as old as TCM and Ayurveda, it has been around for quite some time. Some of the treatments used in Naturopathic medicine are centuries old, and many were regularly used in Europe at least through the 1800s. At the turn of the 20th century, Naturopathy was brought to North America from Germany.

In 1902, Dr. Benedict Lust founded The American School of Naturopathy in New York. That sprouted into the growth of practitioners, schools, and regulations in the industry. Since then, the field has developed and evolved and started integrating more tools and techniques based on modern science.

What Exactly is Naturopathy?

You know a bit of the history, but what exactly is Naturopat

  • Naturopathic manipulative therapy which uses massage and pressure on the body.
  • Homeopathy

hy? Much like other systems of holistic medicine, Naturopathy aims to get to the root of an illness by treating the whole person  – mind, body, and spirit. 

One of the things that separate most holistic practitioners from modern medical doctors is the amount of time they’re able to spend with their patients. Since most naturopathic practitioners work from private practice, they are able to spend an hour or two each session getting a comprehensive idea of your health history and lifestyle and using different kinds of treatment. 

While the methods that a naturopathic practitioner can use depend on their license, and where they practice, these are some of the most common tools used:

  • Education and prevention tools focused on stress management, exercise, diet.
  • Herbalism and botanical care.
  • Acupuncture and other TCM tools.
  • They may order lab tests as necessary.

You may see different treatments used across various countries and cultures, the commonality being the guiding principles. Where they practice also influences their license and what modalities they are allowed to use with their patients. Providers who have specific training and licensing in other modalities like chiropractic care or midwifery may integrate these practices together.

Who Can Benefit from Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is beneficial for people looking for alternative treatment for chronic issues or hoping preventatively to increase their overall health and wellbeing. It is based on six main guiding principles:

  • Do no harm
  • The physician as teacher
  • The healing power of nature
  • Prevention
  • Identify and treat the causes
  • Treat the whole person

What sort of conditions can a naturopathic provider help with?

  • Fertility issues and pregnancy
  • Reproductive health disorders like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Digestive and gastrointestinal issues
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Mental health imbalances like anxiety and depression
  • Chronic pain

Research supports that naturopathic medicine has been able to help patients in healing from chronic kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, preventing cardiovascular disease, and decreasing respiratory tract infections.

Naturopathic medicine is not an answer for emergency situations or serious health conditions like heart disease and cancer. Although depending on what you’re hoping to treat, naturopathic modalities may be able to be used alongside allopathic medicine. It may be able to help treat side effects from certain medications, surgeries, and treatments like chemotherapy. 

Naturopath VS Naturopathic Doctor

There are different types of practitioners who practice Naturopathy, the main ones being a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) and a Naturopath. Naturopathic doctors typically attend a graduate-level four-year school and depending on where they practice – hold a specific license. Naturopaths, sometimes called traditional naturopaths, don’t hold a license and most likely haven’t attended graduate school. They may have been educated through an apprenticeship or another method.

Those aren’t the only options. Many other healthcare practitioners like nurses, osteopathic doctors, chiropractors, medical doctors, and dentists hold an ND license or have studied it separately, and integrated it into their practice.

If you’re looking for a naturopathic provider in your area, your best bet is to find a directory for your country that can help point you in the right direction. You may also be able to find one through your insurance or healthcare provider, and of course – word of mouth! 

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