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An introduction to naturopathy

 Nandhini Sadasivam

A healthy nation needs a healthy population! The roots of naturopathy go back thousands of years, relying on the healing wisdom of many cultures including Indian, Chinese, Greek, Arabic, and European-Egyptians. In these early civilisations people lived in a harmonious relationship with their surroundings and the understanding of disease was accomplished by observing nature and how it interlaced with human life. What these traditional forms of medicines have in common is the understanding that the body has an innate ability to heal, which is referred to as vitalism and that life, health and disease follow certain laws and principles that are logical. They recognise that in order to achieve optimum health, you must treat all aspects of an individual and that health is dependent on a healthy lifestyle and on the health of the environment referred to as holism. Vitalism and holism are the core naturopathic philosophies.

Naturopathy is a form of alternative medicine that employs an array of scientific practices from fasting therapy, diet therapy, colour therapy, mud therapy, massage therapy, hydrotherapy, and physiotherapy and magneto therapy. Naturopathy advocates lifestyle change.

Even though the term naturopathy is fairly new, its principles have roots in the healing systems of ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, Native American and Greek systems. These include:

The healing power of nature: All healing comes from within and the body heals itself. Naturopathy helps ease this natural process.

Treat the cause rather than effect: Seek the underlying cause of disease rather than suppress symptoms. Symptoms are viewed as expressions of the body’s imbalances on all levels ie physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

First, do no harm: One of Hippocrates’ principles is to not do any kind of harm during the treatment and to try and create a balance within the body by utilising natural substance and therapies.

Treat a person as an entity: It is a holistic view point of the total body which goes beyond single body system treatments. This approach results in a therapeutic approach in which no disease is automatically seen as incurable.

Regard the physician as a teacher: Naturopaths are first and foremost teachers that educate, empower and motivate the person to take responsibility for his or her own health by assessing and adopting lifestyle changes.

Prevention is the best cure: By understanding the underlying lifestyle imbalances and understanding body systems, a person can prevent many disease processes and arrest them in advance with minimal intervention.

In the traditional and authentic approach to natural medicine, therapies are done without the use of any drugs and by avoiding all procedures that interfere with natural functions or have harmful side effects.

Every living cell has an intelligence of its own and has enough resources to overcome temporary disabilities caused by internal and external circumstances. The ideal way to communicate with the cells and aid the self-healing process is to do so by using elements from which the cells are made up of. These elements are Earth, water, fire, air and space.

Naturopathy is considered as primary care that can treat everyday problems with certain methods and application. A few are listed below.

Nutrition: One’s diet is the foundation of naturopathic medicine. One should reduce the consumption of over processed and chemical laden foods. Lay emphasis on whole foods rather that particular diet programmes like vegetarianism, etc. Nutritional supplementation is a part of this process when trying to get positive body responses.

Herbal medicine: Plants have been used for thousands of years and have known benefits for balancing body systems. Most naturopaths recognise the necessities of conventional drug for emergency medicine and short-term use but work with natural substances to restore harmony and balance.

Acupuncture and acupressure: This entails stimulating the ‘chi’ by opening pathways of energy to restore balance.

Hydrotherapy: It is the use of hot/cold packs, immersion bath, spinal bath, steam bath, sitz bath, saunas, whirlpools, poultices, castor oil packs and enemas to maintain health and prevent disease.

Yoga therapy: Therapeutic yoga is an inherently holistic approach which works simultaneously on the body, mind and spirit by utilising poses, breathing techniques and meditation.

Counselling on lifestyle modification: One must understand what the cause of symptoms and make the required changes in one’s lifestyle.

Physical medicine: This involves massages, therapeutic touch, reiki, ultrasound, magnet and light therapy.

Even though naturopathic principles are as old as history, they are as new as tomorrow because nature and truth never changes.

Any system that cured people years ago will help people today, and we can now scientifically validate and explain the clinical success of these approaches.

 (Writer is a naturopathy consultant at Traya natural health centre and can be reached at

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