Naturopathic Medicine is a distinct primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ inherent self-healing process. It is a system of alternative medicine based on the theory that diseases can be successfully treated or prevented without the use of drugs, by techniques such as control of diet, exercise, and massage. The practice of naturopathic medicine includes modern and traditional, scientific, and empirical methods.
Naturopathic medicine follows a number of key principles:
- The healing power of nature: The body has an inherent ability to maintain and restore health. Naturopathic physicians facilitate this healing process by removing obstacles to cure and identifying treatments to enhance healing.
- Identify and treat the cause: Naturopathic physicians treat the underlying causes of illness rather than just the symptoms of disease. Symptoms are an external manifestation of an internal imbalance due to any combination of physical, mental, or emotional causes. Symptom management may be important, but it is more important not to disregard the underlying cause of disease.
- First do no harm: A naturopathic treatment plan uses therapies that are gentle, non-invasive, effective, and do not have adverse side effects. A conscious effort is made to use methods that do not suppress symptoms.
- Doctor as teacher: The Latin root of doctor is docere, which means "to teach." The primary role of naturopathic physicians is educating, empowering, and motivating patients to assume more personal responsibility for their health by adopting a healthy attitude, lifestyle, and diet. Thomas Edison once said, "The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest patients in the maintenance of the human frame, in diet, and in the prevention of disease." It is more effective to teach than treat patients.
- Treat the whole person: Naturopathic physicians identify specific weaknesses or dysfunctions in their patients and tailor treatment based upon the patient's individual presentation. It is the patient that is in need of treatment, not the disease state or symptom. Naturopathic physicians are interested in finding and treating characteristic symptoms that define the patient rather than common symptoms that define the disease. William Osler, MD, once said, "It is more important to know what sort of patient has a disease rather than what sort of disease a patient has."
- Prevention: It is far easier and cheaper to prevent a disease than to treat a disease. Naturopathic physicians evaluate both subjective and objective information necessary to uncover potential susceptibilities to future disease states in their patients. They can discuss specific lifestyle strategies or nutritional supplementation as a means for disease prevention.