The Naturopathic Principles have been an active healing philosophy since the ancient Greeks laid the foundations for western civilization. Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, proposed the 6 governing principles to guide the hands of healers. His Hippocratic School of Medicine instituted this vision for healing in 400 BCE. In the late 1800’s, the founders of modern Naturopathy took up these guidelines to inform their practitioners. The principles emphasize treating the whole person, avoiding harm, the causes of disease rather than the symptoms, preventative care, education, and an individual’s responsibility in achieving and maintaining health and wellness.
The 6 Principles of Naturopaths
Primum non nocere
First, do no harm.
This maxim is often considered a part of the Hippocratic Oath, as it is a governing principle for all healers. However, it is unique to Naturopaths. As healers, Naturopaths first seek to do no harm to their patients. Since naturopathy seeks to help the body heal itself, practitioners use methods and medicines that are non-harmful to the individual. In fact, naturopathic medicine supports a person’s natural healing mechanisms. Though there are medicines and practices that have side effects, naturopaths seek to minimize these effects in service of the greater good. Practitioners have the knowledge to discern how to weigh a potential negative side effect against the benefits of their professional tools. Therefore, naturopathic principle often serves as the overriding guideline in a healer’s practice.
Vis medicatrix naturae
Use The Healing Power Of Nature
This naturopathic principle is rooted in the knowledge that the body holds immense healing powers. The healer’s intention is to help strengthen the patient’s body so that it can return to health and vitality. She does this by removing obstacles to health and enhancing the body’s inherent strengths with foods and other tools. Where some healing practices emphasize a specific medicine’s ability to fight illness, the naturopathic modality seeks to work with the body’s natural immunity and other strengths. With this in mind, the practitioner evaluates each patient as an individual whose body, mind and spirit have specific strengths and other qualities. The naturopath uses these strengths to bring the patient back to health.
“The natural healing force in each one of us is the greatest force in getting well.” ~Hippocrates
Identify And Treat The Cause
It may be possible to treat the full manifestation of an illness. However, if a patient and practitioner do not address the underlying causes of the dis-ease, it is likely to return. For this reason, the naturopathic principles address a core part of the practitioner’s philosophy: that illness and disease are more than a collection of symptoms. Naturopaths are concerned with the whole person and the bigger picture of wellness and healing. For instance, a patient might work in an environment that exposes him to a cold virus on a regular basis. Rather than prescribing a way to defeat a single instance of a cold, the Naturopath might suggest ways to alter his working environment so that the cycle of illness does not continue.
Treat the Whole Person
Naturopaths don’t treat illness in isolation. The naturopathic principles see illness as affecting the whole individual. Thus, they seek to treat the entire individual: body, mind, and spirit. Thus, if a patient has difficulty with her lungs, a naturopath who follows the principles will seek to treat the other systems of body, mind, and spirit. That is, each of these three work together to support the patient’s overall health. To practice this naturopathic principle, healers might partner with other healing and wellness practitioners, such as meditation teachers, yoga instructors, and even psychologists. To fight illness, naturopaths strengthen the whole person so that a lasting sense of health and wellness can persist.
Doctor as Teacher
A large part of the naturopath’s job is education. The naturopathic principles involve teaching patients about health and nutrition. They do this because patients need knowledge and insight to fight disease on their own. Thus, the practice of naturopathy is transparent. Practitioners share information with patients so that they can gain deeper knowledge of themselves and how they interact with the world. For instance, they may learn to be more sensitive to how they respond to certain foods. In this way, patients become responsible for their own health and are given the confidence to take agency with regards to ailments. This includes when to ask for help from a professional healthcare provider. In the naturopathic view, patients are not passive recipients of care, but are active participants in their own lives. Knowledge is power!
Prevent Future Disease
Several naturopathic principles work in tandem to support a preventative philosophy. Prevention is also specifically addressed by the principles. The preventative principle seeks, through education, a holistic view of the individual, and a focus on the cause of disease, to prevent future illness. That is, the naturopathic view of health and wellness becomes preventative when patients integrate it as a lifestyle practice. When patients are mindful and engaged with how their individual bodies, minds, and spirits collaborate, they maintain optimum health. That is, patients who know that their body has a propensity towards certain ailments can maintain themselves with the knowledge given to them by their naturopath. They will know what foods are particularly bad for them, and which promote wellness. Thus, the tools for prevention are given to patients in hopes that they might not develop future disease.
The naturopathic principles are comprehensive guides that naturopaths use to help patients optimize their health and well-being. When patients are treated with the holistic approach prescribed in the principles, they will achieve a sense of health they may not have previously known. Further, they will be armed with knowledge about themselves and natural medicines that will help prevent future illness.
Naturopathic Doctor Interview