As a celebration of nature’s way of healing our bodies, the term naturopathy was coined back in 1895 by John Scheel, a German doctor whose treatment methods involved hydrotherapy or use of water to treat different health conditions and hygienics. A few years later, Dr Benedict Lust, another German practitioner added a combination of more such therapies to disseminate naturopathy as we see it today.
The principles of nature’s vital forces have a mention in many other forms of medicine, like traditional Chinese medicine. However, naturopathy is based on the Hippocratic school of medicine.
The primary goal of naturopathy is to remove the cause of illness through natural elements like clean air, water, natural light, unadulterated food, adequate rest, exercise and socioeconomic factors like the living environment and workplace.
The philosophical basis and treatments of naturopathy is a few centuries old and has evolved from the natural healing methods adopted in Egypt, Greece and Rome. The practice of nature cure is based on the following principles.
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Nature’s healing power (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)
All living systems can self-organise and maintain health. A healthy internal and external environment is necessary for the systematic healing process. Every individual has the innate energy to lead a life that helps in recovery after illness. Fever occurs due to the body’s reaction against toxic elements. However, the inflammation and discharge represent the body’s attempt to heal from ailments.
“External treatments give only relief. But the individual’s own will to get well, determination and faith are important for nature cure treatment,” says Dr Divya, naturopath from Dr Divya herbal and yoga, Coimbatore.
Do no harm (Primum Non Nocere)
According to Hippocrates, illnesses should be healed without harming the body. The symptoms should not be suppressed as it interferes with the healing process. Therefore, the least external force or intervention is applied to diagnose and heal the ailments. However, palliative or the person as a whole approach for treating the symptoms is sometimes necessary when the individual has discomfort or pain.
Treat the whole individual (Tolle Totum)
The various aspects of an individual like mental, physical, genetics and social factors are intimately connected with each other. It also involves the person’s emotional intelligence, social well-being, and their connection with spirituality. These aspects contribute to the health and illness of an individual. Hence, a naturopathy practitioner looks at comprehensive approach for treating the individual. Each person experiences illness in a different manner. Therefore, it is essential to examine the cause and provide treatment accordingly.
Treat the cause (Tolle Causam)
The underlying cause should be identified and removed for complete recovery in a person. Naturopathy believes that the exposure to exogenous toxins on an everyday basis causes harm to an individual. The organs eliminate the toxins and maintain a balance in the internal environment. But accumulation of toxins in the body compromises the functions of cells and organs. It is the source for chronic illness. It can be treated with lifestyle and dietary changes.
“The body will alert the individual when there is a need of a deep detox. Symptoms like headache, fatigue, allergic reactions, stomach upset, and confusion indicates that the body is overloaded, and the liver is working too hard to eliminate the toxins,” says Dr Bhavit Bansal, Naturopathy and yoga consultant, Doctoral Fellow in Neurological Rehabilitation at Nimhans.
“Dietary modifications like increased intake of vegetables and fruits, organic foods, antioxidant supplements, and probiotics help in detoxing the organ and supporting the liver function better.”
Naturopath as a teacher (Docere)
The goal of a naturopath is to educate individuals about the functioning of their organs, nature of illness, and the healing mechanism. The therapeutic relationship of the naturopath and the individual adds value in the healing process. Providing the individual one-on-one information about the treatment allows them to better understand their body and mind. The emphasis here is to encourage lifestyle changes and give an individual adequate rest to recover. Counselling can provide emotional support and help the individual understand the relationship between mental and physical health.
Naturopathy emphasises the importance of healthy behaviour for better health. Naturopathy helps in implementing behavioural change in the individual and healthcare system. It also emphasises the importance of self-reliance and states that each person is responsible for their own health.
Therapies in naturopathy
Diet: In naturopathic practice, good food is essential for health promotion. It can help prevent illness and support overall wellbeing. Foods are best when they are obtained seasonally and eaten in their natural form. Read more about a naturopathic diet.
Hydrotherapy: It is the external or internal application of water in the form of ice or steam. Naturopaths use different temperature effects of water like steam bath, fomentation, sponge bath, sitz bath, and cold compress for various conditions.
Fasting therapy: Fasting is the act of self-restraint from food or drink or both for a specific period. But the individual can drink water, fruit juices, or raw vegetable juices. It helps the body in excreting the accumulated waste.
Yoga: Practicing yoga includes controlled breathing (pranayama), meditation, and body postures (asanas). Pranayama helps to regulate and harmonise the body’s energy. Asanas aid in stabilising both body and mind. Read more about Pranayama.