Naturopathic Medicine, or Naturopathy, is a system of medicine that uses natural substances to treat the patient and recognition that the patient's mental, emotional, and physical states must all be treated for a lasting effect. Though the term Naturopathy was coined in 1895, this type of medicine had been practiced for hundreds, if not thousands of years prior. In the mid and late 1800s in the United States, the standard medical schools taught herbal, homeopathic, and nutritional medicine along with surgery and other more heroic type medicines.
Gradually, the pharmaceutical direction to isolate components of the herbs created more potent, but potentially more toxic drugs. Further, with the advent of antibiotics, the long-term adverse consequences of drugs was not understood and the slower, more gradual effects of Naturopathic medicine almost pushed it into disuse in the early 1900s. The current resurgence is due to a recognition of both the accomplishments and the limitations of the current medical system and the efficacy of Naturopathic medicine. The foundation of Naturopathic medicine is the vitalistic philosophy of the "healing power of nature." 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.
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. Additionally, some Naturopaths elect to continue their education to receive a license to practice natural childbirth.
Naturopathic medicine treats the patient from the preventive stage through to serious, chronic and debilitating disease. Therefore, people can go to Naturopaths for colds, bronchitis, allergies, as well as for heart disease, diabetes, and malignant diseases.
Naturopaths are recognized in the state of Washington as licensed physicians who are trained not only in the naturopathic therapeutics but in the conventional fields of diagnosis: lab tests, x-rays, physical exams and other procedures. On account of this broad training, Naturopathic physicians are best able to integrate conventional and alternative medicine.
Internationally, Naturopathic medicine has both popularity and acceptance with the Conventional and Naturopathic doctor working in a more integrative manner. Much of our research comes from countries that will fund studies in which there will not be a patentable product. Hopefully, that situation will change in the United States and individuals can chose the type of medical care best for them.