Naturopathy was the earliest known healing system. Before surgery and synthetic isolation of chemical substances, foods water, and whole herbs were used by many cultures for a wide range of problems. In the Western sense, Hippocrates (circa 400 B.C.), who studied in Egypt, was possibly the best known of the older Naturopathic Scientist (the aurvedic herbalist, and other’s preceded him). “Throughout his professional life he exhibited the greatest respect and reverence for Nature, and taught his followers, students, and initiates that the healing of all diseases was ‘up to’ Nature… He stated that only nature could cure, and that the province of the physician was merely to assist, to make the healing more pleasant and less painful.”
Probably his best contribution to Naturopathy was the principle of “first do no harm”
(premum no nocere). In medieval times the Catholic Church fostered and was in charge of the healing arts, among which Natural Healing Methods were outstanding.
Perhaps the most historically relevant legal view of what became known as naturopathy was the Herbalist Charter (34 & 35 Hen VIII, C.8:, 1542-1543). It was granted by King Henry the VIII in 1912. This codified English statue became part of what is still known as “common-law” (which has not been repealed by any of the states). As can be seen below, the herbalist Charter allowed non-medical doctors to recommend herbs, roots, and water for health concerns:
What is “Naturopathy”, to quote Benedict Lust, “is a distinct school of healing, employing the beneficent agency of Natures forces, of water, air, sunlight, earth power, electricity, magnetism, exercise, rest, proper diet, various kinds of mechanical treatment, and mental and moral science. As none of these agents of rejuvenation can cure every disease (alone), the Naturopath rightly employs the combination that is best adapted to each individual case. The result of such ministration is wholly beneficent. The prophylactic power of Nature’s finer forces, mechanical and occult, removes foreign or poisonous matter from the system, restores nerve and blood vitality, invigorates organ’s and tissue, and regenerates the entire organism. Note, as used by Dr. Lust, the term occult meant beyond present understanding (as opposed to the spirit world as it is commonly considered to mean now).
Although Naturopathy is based on several principles as mentioned above, the foundational one should be “first do no harm” (premum no nocere)
Natural does not always mean safe. Several poisons are natural. Dust and pollens are natural yet can be harmful for those who are allergic to them. Therefore, Naturopaths try not to recommend interventions that can cause harm. However, this does not always mean without side effects. For example, if a Naturopath recommends that someone avoid caffeine, it is possible that the individual may have an unpleasant caffeine withdrawal reaction. Although that is still consistent with the concept of “first do no harm” it would also be appropriate for the naturopath to inform the individual about somewhat probable reaction.
2. It should be added that it is not practical or even possible for the naturopath to inform someone of every possible negative reaction that something can cause as many are rare and unknown.
Naturopaths practice and believe in the healing power of nature (vis medicatrix naturae) This belief includes the concept that the body can heal itself of just about anything (short of amputations, etc.) if clear of toxins and if given proper nutrition, rest, mental outlook, and natural stimulation. It also acknowledges that no health practitioner can know everything there is to know about human health (including side effects and individual reactions), thus when in doubt, the naturopath recommends the most natural approach possible. The naturopath trusts that the natural processes within the body want it to heal. This is one of the reasons why naturopaths tend to recommend whole herbs (as opposed to synthesized isolates), water (for therapy and for drinking), breathing (clean air), avoidance of toxins, and rest (nightly and weekly).
Naturopaths’ deal and work with the cause (tolle causam). Symptoms give an indication of the cause. Identify the cause and support it’s healing and everything else will improve. Naturopaths work with the whole person and understand that there is a multifactorial nature of health and disease. However, no Naturopath (or other health professional) can possibly know everything about health, individual reactions to recommendations, and individual differences (including physical, mental, and spiritual).
Naturopaths believe in prevention. Prevention is the best “cure”. Regarding “cure”, modern naturopaths rarely use that term. Naturopaths, and the modalities that we employ, do not cure. The body “cures” itself. Naturopaths are facilitators. We try to identify the cause of problems, eliminate toxins, recommend substances to deal with deficiencies, and stimulate the body’s own natural healing abilities.
Everyone is different biochemically, genetically, mentally, environmentally, and spiritually. Naturopaths do not believe that everyone with the same problem will benefit with the same solution. E.W. Cordingley, Ph.D., N.D. wrote, “As cases vary, remedies must vary. What will help Nature to cure one disease will only aggravate another. For this reason, a system that is truly eclectic or selective must be the ultimate healing art, and the one, and the only one that can permanently endure. For example, although some people with mild depression benefit from St. John’s Wort, not everyone with mild depression notices improvement with that particular herb. The highest success rates in helping the chronically fatigued are achieved precisely because the recommended interventions are varied for people with this problem.
Naturopaths must vary interventions by the person, not just the “diagnosis”.
Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (the founder of homeopathy) and Dr. Lust (considered by many to be the founder of modern naturopathy) advised avoidance of toxins and/or toxic environments. Dr. Hahnemann even wrote that being exposed to a toxic environment could eliminate the positive benefits of homeopathic remedies. It is important to remember that toxin plus antidote does not equal no toxin. For example, if caffeine contributes to someone’s headache, it is not enough to simply recommend white willow bark, feverfew, or some other herb. It is also necessary to avoid caffeine (if that is the suspected offending substance).
3. If someone is regularly exposed to chemicals that bother, then exposure needs to be reduced-simply consuming some herb is not enough from a Naturopathic view.
Dr. V.M. Kulkarni wrote the principles of Naturopathy they are:
1. A healthy human body does not contain any poisons in it.
- Human beings do not get ill if they lead a natural life and take no poisons in their system.
- They need no poisons to get cured when they get ill.
4. If blood is kept pure and vitality preserved, they continue to be healthy; even if they inhale millions of microbes, the disease germs will perish, as they cannot thrive in pure blood.
5. But if the blood gets impure even a single microbe will propagate millions of its species in the human bodies; nay even if they do not inhale a single disease germ they will get some disease, with innumerable microbes peculiar to that disease, as microbes are the scavengers of wise nature.
In such cases: -
Fresh air, pure water and bright light with proper food will set us right. In fact there is not a need or any poisonous drug indeed. All diseases even so called incurable ones can be treated successfully with water, bright light and natures food supply. No drugs, no poisons, no injections, nor any unnatural drastic measures are needed in the treatment of diseases according to Naturopathy.
E. W. Cordingley, Ph.D., N.D. wrote,
After having studied practically all systems of healing, and graduating in many of them, it can be said with some authority that Naturopathy is the greatest healing system the world has ever known. It is the most comprehensive of all, and the members of the Naturopathic profession… have been found to be the most intelligent and broad-minded of any healing art. It is hoped it will ever be thus, and that as time goes on, the Naturopath will in even a greater measure be capable to rendering the greatest possible assistance to the sick and afflicted.
As we review the history of the healing art, we find that mankind has constantly delved into methods of eradicating human disorders that lead away from unnatural drugging, and tend toward Nature.
The theories that have been advanced regarding the cause of disease are legion. Wrong chemical combinations, germs, impingement of nerves, wrong habits of eating, faulty mental states, and a host of others have each been held responsible as the sole cause of disease by a host of enthusiastic disciples.
However, after all is said and done, it must be admitted by any fair investigator that each single system has its shortcomings. Each method will accomplish some good, but no single method is infallible.
For this reason the more intelligent among those who are devoting their attention to the prevention and cure of disease have come to realize that a perfect system must include all natural, non-drug methods in so far as each one is adapted to an individual case.
As cases vary, remedies must vary. What will help Nature to cure one disease will only aggravate another. For this reason, a system that is truly eclectic or selective must be the ultimate in the healing arts, and the one, and the only one that can permanently endure.
[it is not] necessary to discuss the system that depends upon the administration of drugs. Learned medical authorities are practically all agreed that drugging is an unnatural practice, and that drugs possess no power to heal or cure. Some of them may seem to be of some value in relieving symptoms, or “killing pain,” until Nature is enabled to effect a cure, but doubt[ful] if it is hardly ever desirable to administer such poisons that are so much at variance with Nature. For that reason, this treatise deals only with natural, drugless methods of healing, and those natural systems, whatever they may be called by “single branch” practitioners, are, after all, simply a part of the complete and composite system known as Naturopathy.
Furthermore, Dr. Cordingley wrote,
… the definition of Naturopathy as given by Dr. J.E. Cummins is the best brief definition ever given by Dr. J. E. Cummins is the best brief definition ever given. It is as follows:
“Naturopathy is the science, art, and philosophy of adjusting the framework, correcting the mental influences, and supplying the body with its needed elements. Osteopathy, chiropractic, mechano- therapy, dietetics, Christian Science and other ‘single Branch’ systems all have their day. They all do some good and gain many adherents, but it cannot be denied that all such “branches” have their limitations, and for that reason they will all eventually have to make room for a system that includes the best of the underlying principles of all of them - and that system is Naturopathy.
This introduction would be incomplete if [it] did not add the beautiful idealistic definition of Edward Earle Purinton…”Naturopathy is the perfected Science of Human Wholeness, and it includes all agencies, methods, systems, regimes, practices and ideals of natural origin and divine sanction whereby, human health may be restored, enhanced, and maintained.”
Dr. Lust wrote:
“Naturopathy” is the mother, -all inclusive, of natural therapy. It is the basic platform for all healing; without it any healing art will be a failure …Naturopathy is the only healing system that is not a cult, nor a fanatical narrow creed, nor a system controlled by one man, one or one group; it is the science of nature, the biological way of living right, the natural way to cure…All the other systems, if they are biologically correct, must belong to naturopathy or nature cure; and if contrary to nature, superstitions, dangerous, criminal in their practices and results, they are sure to belong to regular medicine-regular licensed quackery” (1925)
At the Golden Jubilee meeting of 1947, the following standards were drawn up for the practice of Naturopathy:
We believe that…
1. The body under normal conditions is a self-sustaining organism.
2. The theory of health and disease is based on Nature itself.
3. The body is governed by definite natural laws with regard to physical, chemical, biological and physiological basis.
4. Ill-health is, therefore, as a result of a departure, from healthful living out of harmony with Natures laws.
5. To the degree that man adheres to and applies Natures beneficial laws, to that degree will the body heal, through its natural inherent powers restore itself to normal.
6. Naturopathy is a philosophy, art and science and recognizes the body’s inherent processes of healing, and acts in no way to suppress, antagonize or hinder these vital life forces, but, rather to arouse, assist and cooperate with the body to a restoration to normal.
7. To this end Naturopathy proceeds as follows; it makes use of the healing properties of such natural agencies as air, sunshine, water, light, heat, electricity, manipulations of the spine, natural vital foods, organic vitamins, organic minerals, herbs in conjunction with cleansing and eliminating processes of other physical and mental cultures.
8. Naturopathy does not make use of synthetic or inorganic vitamins or minerals or drugs, narcotics, surgery, serums, vaccines, anti-toxins, injections or inoculations.
9. Naturopathy also provides for the prevention of disease and the preservation of health by teaching the basic fundamental laws of natural living and the application in daily life.
These standards should be adopted by all Naturopaths. This does not mean Naturopaths must always be against all surgery, medications, etc., but that Naturopaths should not employ those modalities. Dr. Burr-Madison had a practical observation on this subject when she wrote, “ Even if Naturopathy was the accepted form of medicine in this country we would still need allopathic medicine both for emergencies, surgical procedures and for the pharmaceutical industry, simply because the demand for instant, lazy ways outs is so enormous.
Even though naturopaths do not believe in drugs, if the patient has lived a life that has been so abusive to his body, then invasive intervention may be necessary to save the person’s live, with the hopes that they will then learn to respect the human body and stop the abuses.
Also, most Naturopaths believe that each individual is responsible for making decisions about his/her own health. Naturopathic doctors do not prescribe treatments for disease. They educate (the word doctor means teacher) and inform their clients about natural health and some of the options of which they know. However, the reality is that not all individuals are willing to shoulder responsibilities for their own health and thus not all individuals are ready for Naturopathy.
Different Views of Health
Dr. Cordingley has written:
We would furthermore like to have it distinctly understood that we do not consider that we have adopted any technique and applied the name “Naturopathy” to it from any present day “system.” We feel that the original research that we have done has enabled us to go back before the time of osteopathy, chiropractic, etc., to select the technique that we are here describing, and which we have “woven into the wool and woof” of Naturopathy.
For that reason a Naturopath who is using this technique in his practice cannot be rightly charged with practicing any other system under the name of Naturopathy. We desire to stress this point because some osteopathic, chiropractic and other State Licensing Boards may attempt to obtain jurisdiction over Naturopathic practitioners, and we feel that would be as unjust as if the case were reversed. Naturopathy is truly a distinct school of practice. It is in reality the oldest drugless school of healing in existence. It is no part of the practice of medicine, osteopathy, chiropractic or any other method.
Furthermore he added,
“We do not demand that medical doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors, lawyers, ministers, civil engineers, pharmacists, embalmers or members of any other profession submit their credentials to us to determine their right to practice, and we consider our profession so separate, distinct and complete from all of theirs that we request the same rights that we concede to them.”
Dr. Jimmy Steger, N.D., Ph.D., D.MA.