Naturopathic medicine is founded on the belief that the human body has an innate capacity for self-healing – an energetic ‘force’ which is organized and acts intelligibly. Based on this premise, naturopathic medicine as a primary health care system is a holistic and comprehensive method of medical care that combines modern scientific research with the use of natural treatments to enhance and encourage the compromised body to heal itself. It is the work of the naturopathic doctor to recognize and remove the obstacles in the way of this inborn healing capacity.
When a disease or condition has been identified, the symptoms of the disease are not to be suppressed; rather, the focus of naturopathic treatment is to address the underlying cause. This is done with the understanding that no two patient cases are the same. As such, people must be treated as unique individuals with unique paths to healing and the process is therefore approached holistically. Naturopathic practitioners do not work in isolation; they cooperate and liaise with other medical professionals to provide integrative healthcare for the common goal of helping the person in need of care.
Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine – Six Guiding Principles
There are six basic principles guiding the practice of naturopathic medicine. These six principles form the foundations on which it is built:
The Vis Medicatrix Naturae (The Healing Power of Nature)
The Vis Medicatrix Naturae works on the belief that the human body has been inherently conditioned to heal itself. Naturopathic practitioners choose treatments that will encourage and trigger the healing process required to restore health, thus prevent relapse and reoccurrence of the diseased state. Once obstacles have been identified, they are subsequently removed so as to facilitate recovery and start the organized and intelligent natural healing process. This principle posits that there is a force within each individual through which they control and keep in check their critical life processes and, thus, their health and ability to heal.
Primum Non Nocere (First, Do No Harm)
The use of non-toxic and non-invasive forms of therapy derived from nature is the backbone of this principle. Emphasis is placed on the use of natural treatments that are given at a strength no greater than the minimum for healing. Practitioners recognize an individual’s self-healing properties and seek to work with it, thereby discouraging harmful suppression of symptoms.
Tolle Causam (Identify and Treat the Cause)
The emphasis of this principle is on identifying that which is causing the disease state and subsequently removing it and other potential threats to health. When the cause of illness has been removed, optimal health can be attained.
Tolle Totum (Treat the Whole Person)
Each individual is unique in every respect and, as such, the ‘same’ disease condition may affect each person differently. Instead of treating merely the specific system or organ affected, naturopathic doctors base treatment plans with a great respect for the interconnectedness of systems. They seek to understand the physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social and spiritual agents that are at play in a patient’s condition and prescribe treatments with all of these in mind.
Docere (Doctor as Teacher)
It is imperative in our oath that naturopathic doctors teach and disseminate information to patients and society regarding prevention of disease and the optimization of health. It is insufficient to prescribe a treatment without ensuring the patient understand the likely cause(s) of their concerns, what they are being prescribed, as well as why those particular treatments are being recommended. Educating patients will enable them to take responsibility for their health on an individual basis as well as to collectively improve the overall health condition of society. The doctor also learns from patients during this interactive process.
Praevenire (Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)
Because good health and wellness are not equal to the mere absence of disease, naturopathic care aims to aid the patient in the removal of the disease state while ensuring lasting healing and the full restoration of wellness. Much effort is taken to understand potential triggers or risks in a patient’s circumstances and to promote healthful habits that minimize and mitigate these. The promotion of whole, mind-body-spirit health alongside the prevention of illness is a core tenet of naturopathic medicine.
Bynum, W. F. (2001). “Nature’s helping hand”. Nature 414 (6859): 21. doi:10.1038/35102123. PMID 11689921
Hiroshi, H. (1998) “On Vis medicatrix naturae and Hippocratic Idea of Physis” Memoirs of School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Kanazawa University 22:45-54 http://sciencelinks.jp/j-east/article/199907/000019990799A0162403.php
The Vis medicatrix naturae: Each person’s inner healing power. Retrieved from, http://www.naturalworldhealing.com/vis_medicatrix_naturae.htm