The term naturopathy originates from the Greek root for suffering (“pathos”) and the Latin root for birth (“natura”) and suggests “natural healing.” The first advocate of naturopathic medicine is said to be Hippocrates, however, the modern form of naturopathy is traced to 18th and 19th-century “natural healing” systems. These include “nature cures”, which were the use of light, food, air, water and herbs (developed in Austria), and hydrotherapy (popular in Germany), which was the use of water to treat illness.
The term naturopathy was coined in 1895 by John Scheel and purchased by Benedict Lust, whom naturopaths consider to be the “Father of U.S. Naturopathy.” Lust had been schooled in hydrotherapy and other natural health practices in Germany by his father, who sent Lust to America to spread his drugless methods. Lust first introduced naturopathy to America in 1901, when he founded the American School of Naturopathy.
It emphasised the use of natural health practices, including homeopathy, hydrotherapy, herbal medicines, the avoidance of overeating, and the elimination of coffee, tea and alcohol from the diet. The school also emphasised proper bowel habits and good hygiene as essential tools for health. This was the first time dietary principles, like minimising saturated fats and increasing fibre in the diet, became popular.
Western naturopathic practitioners eventually became licensed under drugless practitioner and naturopathic laws, therapies were adopted by many chiropractors, and several universities offered Doctor of Naturopathy (ND) degrees and Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degrees.
Today, naturopaths are licensed primary care providers in many states and offer information and advice on a variety of alternative and complementary therapies, including homeopathy, relaxation techniques, herbal remedies, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and vitamin and mineral supplements.
Naturopaths will typically work alongside your doctor or other health professionals to offer the best possible patient-centred care. They will use non-invasive and natural treatments that work in harmony with the body’s own healing mechanisms. Naturopaths will also focus on disease prevention and the influence of the environment, lifestyle, and emotions on a patient’s holistic health. Naturopathy is suitable for people of all ages, and can alleviate a wide range of conditions.
The naturopathy techniques undertaken to treat clients can differ depending on the modalities they’ve studied, as well as their healing philosophy. A naturopath will typically start by asking you questions about your lifestyle, diet, stress, bowel habits, energy levels, sleep quality, environment, family background, and any history of illness. After compiling a detailed health history, then may then also use other techniques, including:
They will then design a naturopathy treatment plan to support your body’s ability to heal itself. They will advise you on which areas of your body need treatment and which body systems are under pressure. Treatment options, what your treatment journey will look like, and what treatments and supplements will cost will also be discussed. They may then use a range of non-invasive techniques to treat you, including:
Some naturopaths also:
Naturopaths will typically formulate a holistic health plan that targets a variety of deficiencies and imbalances to help patients understand how their diet, lifestyle, environment, stress levels, and relationships could be impacting their health. These include:
It’s also worth mentioning that natural remedies aren’t a “quick fix” solution. They work on healing the body over time and offer a long-term solution to health problems. A change in your symptoms will depend on your age, the severity of your symptoms and how long you have had your health condition/s. Some patients start to feel results within a couple of days, but for others, it will take a few weeks or even longer. Typically, naturopaths will be keen to know of your progress between consultations and will suggest follow-up appointments, including an annual check-up.