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What is Naturopathy?

Updated: Dec 18, 2018

“Health is a state of well-being, resulting from a dynamic balance that involves the physical and psychological aspects of the organism, as well as its interactions with its natural and social environment”. (Capra, 1982)

Naturopathy is a holistic system of medicine derived from a strong philosophical belief about life, health, and disease. Naturopathic medicine is a practice of health-care, based on the fundamental philosophies of Vitalism and Holism, and underpinned by the understanding of seven essential principles:

1. Do no harm;

2. Nature contains a self-organising, self-directed healing power;

3. Treat the cause, not the symptom;

4. Treat the whole person;

5. The doctor is a teacher;

6. The aim is health promotion and disease prevention, and

7. Wellbeing is subjective.​

Today many people embrace the holistic philosophy of natural medicine in a way that complements the use of conventional medical practices. Naturopathic medicine recognises the indivisibility of the mind, body, heart, and spirit and the importance of considering each of these interrelated levels of human functioning, in a holistic and integrative approach to healing.

What has Naturopathic Philosophy got to do with Health & Wellbeing?

Vitalism refers to a belief in an intelligent, self-organising and animating principle of life. It is the force, beyond the physical self, that governs life, health and healing. In different traditions, Vital Force is referred to as: healing potential, life force, breath, chi, qi, prana and mana. It is also associated with concepts of personal essence, spirit and soul. (World Naturopathic Federation, 2017).

The philosophies of Holism and Vitalism, are supported by the new paradigm of scientific and philosophical thinking, informed amongst other things by Systems Thinking. These new models of science show that emergence and self-organisation phenomena occur within complex and interconnected, dynamic systems, at all levels of life (Capra, 1996; Capra & Luisi, 2014). Laszlo's (2004) outlines this perspective in his book “The Unified Theory of Consciousness, and it is described succinctly by Capra (1996), as Deep-Ecological Systems Theory.  Larry Dossey (1998, 2013) has investigated the truth of these new sciences and philosophies within our contemporary models of health-care, to conclude that self-organisation, therapeutic change and healing processes are interrelated and occur at all levels—physical, biochemical-metabolic, mental, emotional, spiritual, social and ecological— of human existence and functioning. 

Naturopathy focuses on the cause and treatment of disease, not merely the relief of uncomfortable symptoms. Iva Lloyd (2009), categorised the many causes of disease into various groups - i.e,  personal essence (spirituality), genetics / gestational, lifestyle, social, environmental, external, medical interventions and physiological factors. Interestingly, every causative factor can both stimulate health or create imbalance and disease and this depends on the degree to which it is in line with a person’s constitution and whether it is appropriate for the individual at this particular age and stage of life. 

Naturopath’s inform and teach clients about the causative factors that contribute to disease. They empower and promote health and healing through the development of self-knowledge, and through education to prevent disease from occurring in the future.

Naturopathy uses a range of traditional, safe and natural medicines – i.e., special foods, dietary programs, herbal medicines, and nutritional elements from natural sources - to balance natural biological functions and metabolism and support the natural healing capacity - or vital force - within each of us, to restore vitality, health and wellbeing.

The naturopathic concept of wellbeing implies that it is not only wellness that is required for health, but also integrated functioning of one's whole being. It is not just physical health, but also psychological, social, ecological and spiritual health that creates total wellbeing.

During a naturopathic consultation, people are asked to describe what wellbeing means to them. The concept of wellbeing is so deeply rooted in our subjective experience of being that it can only be conceptualised by what one feels it to be. Some people describe wellbeing as ... passion and love for what you do everyday... a sense of security (financial, self-competence or relational)... physical vitality... a sense of pride or satisfaction, in mastery or success (i.e., contributing to the community)... an ideal quality of relationships... or any another good and enduring feeling.

Wellbeing and wellness follows the process of becoming and maintaining an optimum balance of health across the whole mind-body system - in positive emotion, thought and action. We all have an inherent capacity to achieve wellness, regardless of disease. A holistic and positive state of wellbeing and wellness has more potential to heal dis-ease than direct symptomatic treatments of the dis-ease alone (World Naturopathic Federation, 2017).

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