The Origins of Naturopathy

Meenu Minocha

The Origins of Naturopathy

The principles of Naturopathy were first used by the Hippocratic School of Medicine in about 400 BC. The Greek philosopher Hippocrates believed in viewing the whole person in regards to finding a cause of disease, and using the laws of nature to induce cure. It was from this original school of thought that Naturopathy takes its principles.


What is naturopathy?

Naturopathy deals with the healing power of nature since it believes that all healing powers are within our body. This means that within every human organism there is a healing energy, which includes our immune system in the fuller sense of both the physical and the psyche, which is responsible for our wellness and our ability to heal and maintain health. Since we fall ill only when we go against Nature, the cause of diseases (toxins) is expelled from the body to cure it. Fasting has been described as Nature’s way to recover. A thorough rest, which includes fasting, is the most favorable condition in which an ailing body can purify and recoup itself.

Following this first premise is the second, that the therapies used to support and stimulate this healing power of nature must be in “the gentlest, least invasive, most efficient manner possible”.

The third Naturopathic premise is “to diagnose and treat the cause”. Naturopaths do not simply treat the manifestation of the disease but rather search for the cause and treat it. To accomplish these goals, Naturopathic medicine incorporates many therapeutic modalities: herbal medicine, homeopathy, nutrition, hydrotherapy, food, exercise therapy, physical therapy, manipulation of the bony and soft tissues, lifestyle and counseling.

Naturopathy , or Naturopathic Medicine, is a form of alternative medicine based on a belief in vitalism, which posits that a special energy called vital energy or vital force guides bodily processes such as metabolism, reproduction, growth, and adaptation. Naturopathic philosophy favors a holistic approach, and, like conventional medicine seeks to find the least invasive measures necessary for symptom improvement or resolution, thus encouraging minimal use of surgery and unnecessary drugs. It is a system of medicine based on the healing power of nature. Naturopathy is a holistic system, meaning that naturopathic doctors or naturopathic medical doctors strive to find the cause of disease by understanding the body, mind, and spirit of the person. Most naturopathic doctors use a variety of therapies and techniques (such as nutrition, behavior change, herbal medicine, homeopathy, and acupuncture).


There are 2 areas of focus in naturopathy: one is supporting the body’s own healing abilities, and the other is empowering people to make lifestyle changes necessary for the best possible health. While naturopathic doctors treat both short bouts of illness and chronic conditions, their emphasis is on preventing disease and educating patients.


Fundamental principles

* The healing power of nature- nature has the innate ability to heal.

* Identify and treat the cause – there is always an underlying cause, be it physical or emotional

* Does no harm- a Naturopath will never use treatments that may create other conditions

* Treat the whole person- when preparing a treatment plan, all aspects of a person’s being are taken into consideration

* The Naturopath as a teacher – a Naturopath empowers the patient to take responsibility for his/her own health by teaching self-care

* Prevention is better than cure – a Naturopath may remove toxic substances and situations from a patient’s lifestyle to prevent the onset of further disease


 What is the history of naturopathy?

Naturopathy, or Nature Cure, is underpinned by a fundamental principle – vis medicatrix naturae – the healing power of nature. This was made clear twenty-five centuries ago when Hippocrates said Health is the expression of a harmonious balance between various components of man’s nature, the environment and ways of life – nature is the physician of disease. Man was part of nature and the universe, and health was achieved by living in accordance with this principle. Harmony was fostered with proper nutrition, water treatments, rest, sunshine and fasting. Medicine, religion and science were intimately related and man was seen as a whole – a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual being. The same vital force or chi (qi) that made up the universe and nature flowed through man and it was his dislocation from this source that caused illness. Early Naturopaths realised that if you could restore the vital force to the patient, the body would naturally heal itself.

The body has this capacity to heal itself if given the right conditions and naturopathy, along with acupuncture, homoeopathy, herbal medicine, and most other holistic modalities subscribes to this basic understanding of the body’s own innate intelligence.


Modern day Naturopathy

The modern form of naturopathy can be traced to 18th and 19th century natural healing systems. Such systems include hydrotherapy (water therapy), which was popular in Germany and nature cure, developed in Austria, based on the use of food, air, light, water, and herbs to treat illness.

Benjamin Lust, a German immigrant, first introduced naturopathy to the United States in 1902 when he founded the American School of Naturopathy. The school emphasized the use of natural cures, proper bowel habits, and good hygiene as the tools for health. This was the first time that principles of a healthy diet, like increasing fiber intake and reducing saturated fats, became popular.

In the mid 1920s to 1940, the use of naturopathic medicine declined. It was not until the 1960s that naturopathic-style holistic medicine became popular again. Today, naturopaths are licensed care providers in many states. They offer a variety of natural therapies, including homeopathy, vitamin and mineral supplements, Traditional Chinese Medicine, relaxation techniques, and herbal remedies.

Modern orthodox medicine, apart from all its positive and beneficial attributes, does not subscribe to this idea of wholism or to the importance of prevention. As long ago as the second century BC, the Yellow Emperor, in the Classic of Internal Medicine, said ‘A doctor who treats a disease after it has happened is a mediocre doctor..a doctor who treats a disease before it happens is a superior doctor.’ Indeed Chinese physicians were paid to keep their patients healthy and were either dismissed or not paid if the patient became ill. This ensured a health system, not an ill health system, as we know it. Unfortunately this understanding has changed to a new paradigm-wait until it is broken and then fix it. This is not intelligent medicine and part of a Naturopath’s role is empowering the patient to take responsibility for his or her own health. This is not always an easy task amid a hostile environment of toxins and chemicals.



The modern day Naturopath faces many more challenges than those of their forefathers. Most of us now live in a sea of electromagnetic pollution, coupled with a plethora of chemical pollutants which were completely alien to man 40 years ago. Add to this a dose of denatured food fast-tracked by technology and we have a heady mix of health problems waiting to happen. In short most people have too much of what they shouldn’t have in their bodies and not enough of what they should have. The Naturopath of today needs a very eclectic approach to meet these challenges and guide their patients back to vibrant health. Whilst never losing sight of the basic fundamentals of the naturecure, the modern-day Naturopath might employ a raft of skills such as herbs, homoeopathy, manipulation, flower essences, acupuncture or biochemical supplementation to augment their work. These may be necessary to offset many of the suppressions brought about through living in our modern times with all its concomitant stresses that seek to strangle the life force in our bodies. –


What does a treatment consist of?

An initial consultation with a Naturopath normally takes about an hour. During this time the Naturopath will ask questions about the person’s condition, medical history, diet and lifestyle, and any conventional treatments that they may be taking. The consulting Naturopath may then use Iridology (looking into the iris), or tongue and nail diagnosis to get a better picture of the complete health state of the client. If needed, pathology testing such as hair, stool, or blood analysis may be recommended. Once all of the information is gathered, a treatment plan is formulated that addresses all areas of the person’s life, providing the body with the optimum chance to heal itself. The treatment plan may include advice on diet, lifestyle, exercise, herbal medicine, homeopathic treatments, or other suitable remedies. A Naturopath may also refer the client to other practitioners as part of an integrated health care approach.

Some of the more common treatments used by a naturopath include:

*             Nutritional counseling

*             Herbal medicine

*             Homeopathic medicine

*             Acupuncture

*             Hydrotherapy (water therapy) — These therapies include drinking natural spring water, taking baths, alternating hot and cold applications, and water exercise, all of which are thought to stimulate healing and strengthen the immune system.

*             Physical medicine — This natural approach to healing involves using touch, hot and cold compresses, electric currents, and sound waves to manipulate the muscles, bones, and spine.

*             Detoxification — This therapy removes toxins from the body by fasting, using enemas, and drinking lots of water.

*             Spirituality — Personal spiritual development is encouraged as part of an overall health program.

*             Lifestyle and psychological counseling — An N.D. may use hypnosis, guided imagery, or other counseling methods as part of a treatment plan.

*             Naturopaths consider patients to be participants in their health care, so you may be asked to make lifestyle changes, such as changing your sleeping, eating, and exercise habits.


What should one expect from a visit to a naturopath?

Naturopathic doctors treat the whole person, which means they consider a variety of factors before they diagnose an illness. An N.D. might look at your mental, emotional, and spiritual state; your diet; your family history; your environment; and your lifestyle before making a diagnosis.


What illnesses and conditions respond well to naturopathy?

Because naturopaths combine so many therapies, it is difficult to single out specific illnesses that respond well to naturopathy. Naturopaths treat both acute and chronic conditions from arthritis to ear infections (otitis media), from HIV to asthma, from congestive heart failure to hepatitis. N.D.s treat the whole person, rather than only treating a disease or its symptoms, aiming to help their patients maintain a balanced state of good health. Because of this holistic approach, naturopathy may be especially suited for treating chronic illnesses.


Is there anything one should look out for?

Be sure to let your medical doctor (M.D.) know about any naturopathic treatment, and let your N.D. know about any conventional medications you are taking. Some treatments can interact with each other, and your health care practitioners will be better able to treat you if they know every therapy you are using. Do not take high doses of nutrients and herbs without your N.D.’s supervision, because of potential toxic effects and drug/herb interactions. Please see the monographs on individual herbs and supplements for detailed information. Make sure that your doctor approves any major changes in your diet, so they don’t undermine your health (especially in the very young, the elderly, and those with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes).

Naturopathy is both preventive and curative, with high rates of healing. It is a philosophy of life based on harmony of the person with itself and with its environment, encompasses the physical, mental, intellectual, moral and spiritual levels.


One should live according to the laws of Nature and use its elements to preserve health.

Naturists have to do the following means: water baths, baths sun, steam, fresh air, exercise, naturopathic diet, massage, fasting, chief fruit and vegetables.

According to Naturism, man is not by nature carnivorous or omnivorous, but vegetarian. Sobriety in the food and that this is as natural as possible.

According to naturopathic, theory is important to note that for each of the body to be in good condition, the action of all others is needed.

The symptoms are the phenomena, signs and abnormal functions with which the disease is manifested. A set of symptoms is called a syndrome. There are three types of symptoms: useful, harmful and artificial.

The useful are the evident symptoms –  constituting the healing crisis, for example diarrheal elimination expel harmful substances from the intestine, or fever which destroys by heat – viruses or bacteria causing infection.

Detrimental are produced by chronic degenerative processes, for example, those derived from a cancerous lesion, tuberculosis or an inflammation of the meanings.

Artificial are those that trigger the side effects of the drugs, which overlap or are confused with other symptoms from the disease and therefore can confuse the diagnosis that seeks the origin of any illness, such as nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, stomach pain, etc. that occur when taking certain medications.

The diagnosis is the process by which it is intended to find out the class, type and cause of any pathological imbalance produced by the body.

In Naturopathy is seen as a process of global assessment of the state of health, physical and energetic individual level. What heals the sick is not the doctor who initiates the cure, but is the vital force of the patient itself, with which he heals itself. The patient is not a passive recipient but an active and autonomous being. There are four main phases of naturopathic therapy. Investigate and then eliminate the cause or causes that produce disease, purify or cleanse toxic materials. According Naturopathy to cure a sick doesn’t mean you are there to fight something specific, but it is to strengthen their defensive mechanism to stimulate organic reactions. The causes of disease can be for several reasons. In naturopathy, the body’s ability to heal you trying optimized.

Instead of only treating the symptoms, the root cause of the disease should be treated.

Treatment with toxic drugs and invasive procedures should be minimized.

Naturopathy also pays attention to psychological factors, physical, and even spiritual patients to support treatment efforts. In order to treat patients, naturopathic practitioners can utilize various forms of alternative therapies such as herbal medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, traditional medicine, spinal manipulation, exercise, and massage. Naturopathy can be used to treat a variety of patient conditions ranging from prevention to treatment of chronic diseases.

Therefore, people can use naturopathy for allergies, bronchitis and colds, as well as for more serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Naturopathy is currently gaining popularity around the world because it is a healing method that is effective and safe. Of the various factors, what food was eaten or not eaten considered to be the cause of various diseases.

Naturopathy is the multi disciplinary approach, which uses the healing power of natural resources like foods, herbs, earth, water and air to allow the body to heal itself. It also lays an emphasis on the importance of positive attitude in determining the state of one’s existence.

To conclude, we can say that Naturopathy believes that unless there is harmony between body, mind and spirit, one cannot enjoy a healthy life.

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