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Alternative therapies emphasize natural healing. Naturopathy is an alternative therapy that is based on the concept that the healing power of nature can support the body’ ability to heal itself.

How Does Naturopathy Work?

Practitioners of this therapy use a combination of treatment methods that are considered natural and non-invasive including:

  • Making dietary changes, like eating more whole grains and less processed foods
  • Adding vitamins, minerals, and other supplements to the diet
  • Using herbal medicines instead of drugs
  • Using homeopathic treatments (see section on homeopathy)
  • Hydrotherapy, which are exercises performed in a swimming pool
  • Therapeutic massage to increase blood and oxygen flow
  • Exercise therapy
  • Eliminating unhealthy lifestyle choices, like smoking

How Did Naturopathy Originate?

The concept of natural healing dates back to ancient times; however, the origin of modern naturopathy can be traced to the European Nature Cure movement of the 19th Century.

Dr. John Scheel coined the term “naturopathy,” but it was popularized by Br. Benedict Lust who purchased the right to use the name from Dr. Scheel. Dr. Lust first learned about naturopathy from Father Sebastian Kneipp, a German Catholic priest and healer. When Dr. Lust developed what he believed to be was tuberculosis, he received treatment from Father Kneipp. The regimen Father Kneipp prescribed included hydrotherapy, proper diet, exercise, herbal remedies and exposure to the sun.

When Dr. Lust recovered, Father Kneipp told him to return to the U.S. to promote the use of naturopathy. While in America, Dr. Lust developed it as a complete treatment system, and founded the first naturopathic college in 1902.

What are the Underlying Principles of Naturopathy?

Although naturopathy is a departure from some of the practices of traditional Western medicine, it does share a common belief in the same underlying principles:

  • Lessen harmful side effects and avoid suppressing symptoms.
  • Teach patients so they can take responsibility for their own health.
  • Consider physical, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social factors when customizing treatment for the individual patient.
  • Determine risk factors and take necessary steps to prevent illness, taking into account the patient’s input.
  • Identify and remove obstacles to the body’s own mechanisms for restoring health.
  • Separate the causes of a disease from its symptoms.

How are Naturopathic Practitioners Trained?

The level of education depends upon the type of naturopathic practitioner:

  • Naturopathic doctors are required to complete four years of graduate-level training at a North American naturopathic medical school accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education. The curriculum includes basic sciences, naturopathic therapies, diagnostic techniques and tests, clinical sciences, and clinical training. Graduates are given the designation of N.D. (Naturopathic Doctor) or N.M.D. (Naturopathic Medical Doctor. In addition, 15 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have licensing requirements for naturopathic physicians.
  • Naturopaths receiving training from non-accredited naturopathic schools or through distance learning courses. They are not subject to any licensing requirements because their treatments focus on healthy lifestyle, strengthening and cleansing the body, and noninvasive treatments.
  • Traditional health care providers with additional training in naturopathy may or may not have received their training from accredited naturopathic schools.

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