Holistic Medicine views the mind and body as part of the whole that comprises mental, physical, emotional and spiritual parts of the whole human being. There are many modalities that may fall under this term, many of which are part of a naturopathic physician’s training and some which extend beyond this training, but still operate from this philosophy of holism.
Natural medicine is medicine is a broad term that focuses on interventions that are based in nature, versus synthesized in a lab (pharmaceuticals). Naturopathic medicine employs several natural medicines (as described here) to facilitate healing and is based on the following key principles:
- The Healing power of Nature
- First do no harm
- Identify and treat the cause
- Treat the Whole Person
- Physician as Teacher
Naturopathic physicians are trained to provide integrated medical care as licensed primary care providers. Diagnostic and treatment approaches are drawn from historical use, scientific studies and clinical experience. Naturopathic physicians are taught to combine modern medical diagnostic procedures (laboratory tests, X-rays, ultrasounds, MRI and other imaging studies and physical examination techniques) with time-tested and innovative new natural therapies.
Treatment approaches include homeopathic medicine, herbal medicine (tinctures, teas, elixirs and topical treatments such as ointments, salves, soaks and poultices), flower essences, nutrition, physical medicine, hydrotherapy and lifestyle counseling.
Treatments are administered with the following therapeutic order in mind:
1st: Re-establish the basis for health
Remove obstacles to cure; factors in an individual’s life that interfere with their capacity to live a healthy life and to have the energy to heal.
2nd: Stimulate the patient’s innate healing capacity (the healing power of nature)
Many modalities or systems of treatment work at this level (homeopathic, herbal, nutritional, Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine, among others. Hydrotherapy and psychological and spiritual interventions also work to stimulate the patient’s capacity to heal.
3rd: Tonify weakened systems
The modalities and systems listed in the 2nd order above all work at this level to strengthen the immune system, to decrease toxicity, to normalize inflammatory pathways, to optimize metabolic function, to encourage regeneration and promote the strength and harmony of your vital force.
4th: Correct structural integrity
Therapeutic exercise (physical therapy), manipulation, massage and other forms of hands-on body and energy work help to restore the optimal function of the musculoskeletal system.
5th: Prescribe specific natural substances and therapeutic interventions to target pathology
Symptom-based herbal and supplemental prescribing are examples.
6th: Prescribe pharmacological substances (targeted, high dose preparations) for pathology
High-dose vitamin supplementation is one example.
7th: Use surgery, pharmaceutical medication, radiation & chemotherapy
Note: This order has its exceptions as there are times when one will precede the other out of necessity, patient preference or individual need, but it does represent the framework which guides naturopathic treatment.
Acknowledgements: The therapeutic order is drawn from the work of Jared Zeff, N.D. and Pamela Snider, N.D.
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