What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a comprehensive primary health care system that distinctly addresses the root causes of illness by integrating conventional medical science with traditional natural therapies. Signs and symptoms of diseases are recognized as indicators of improper function, an underlying imbalance, or poor dietary and lifestyle habits.  Naturopathic doctors (ND) aim to determine the underlying causes of disease and restore optimum health by treating the whole person.  As primary care doctors, ND's treat both acute and chronic conditions by using:

    • botanical medicine
    • clinical nutrition
    • lifestyle counseling
    • physical medicine (spine and joint adjustments, massage, hydrotherapy, etc)
    • environmental medicine
    • exercise prescription
    • acupuncture/Asian medicine
    • homeopathic medicine

Click on  Conditions Helped for more information.

ND’s also follow six principles that guide their approach to helping you improve your health:

  1. Primum non nocere (do not harm): effective health care with the least risk for all patients
  2. Vis medicatrix naturae (healing power of nature): promote self-healing of the body
  3. Tolle causum (treat the cause): identify and remove causes, avoid suppression of symptoms
  4. Docere (doctor as teacher): educate patients, inspire rational hope, encourage self-responsibility
  5. Treat the whole person: each person is unique with their own factors effecting their health
  6. Emphasizing health promotion is the best prevention: optimal well-being includes opportunities for health and individually, in the community and globally

A brief history of Naturopathic Medicine

The original principles of naturopathic medicine were based on the nature cure doctors from nineteenth century Europe.  Diet and exercise, along with water, air, sunlight and herbal remedies were the first foundational therapies used by the nature cure doctors throughout Europe that were eventually brought to North America.  Over time, naturopathic medicine adopted other natural therapies and always strived to maintain a diversity of treatment tools in order to use what was most indicated for patients.

The actual term ‘naturopathy’ (a hybridization of the Latin-natura and the Greek-pathy) was first coined in 1892 by Dr. John Scheel, a medical doctor in New York.  Benedict Lust (pronounced Loost - meaning 'joy' in German), was looking for a term that was not persecuted by the conventional medical doctors of the time and purchased 'naturopathy' from Dr. Scheel in 1902 to describe the nature cure methods of healing taught at Lust’s naturopathic school.  Benedict Lust and his wife Louisa were the instrumental figures who devoted their life to bringing naturopathic medicine to North America in the face of tremendous opposition.  Lust was also responsible for incorporating spinal manipulation, homeopathy and massage into naturopathic medicine.  Lust traveled extensively learning and adopting practices from clinics that had successful patient outcomes.  And, in the spirit of incorporation, he was a key figure that opened the door for a place for eastern medicine within naturopathic medicine.

Benedict Lust's commitment to nature cure and naturopathic medicine was personal.  It was reported that neither allopathy nor homeopathy were able to recover Lust from tuberculosis yet he was brought back to full health under the care of Father Sebastian Kneipp.  So, in 1896 Lust came to America to teach Kneipp's hydrotherapy methods.  Father Sebastian Kneipp, ordained a priest in 1852, gained a reputation for helping the poor and he may have been one of the most famous nature cure doctors in Europe.  Vincent Priessnitz (born 25 years before Kneipp and one of the first recorded nature cure doctors) as well as Adolf Just and Emanuel Felke were also strong Christian influences on the nature cure movement in Europe. 

Much more recently, Joseph Boucher (who was born in Edmonton) was joined by John Bastyr in 1956 to open National College of Naturopathic Medicine (initially in Seattle Washington before moving to Portland Oregon). Dr. Boucher was said to be a key figure in keeping naturopathic medicine alive during the tremendous hardships and persecution endured by Naturopathic doctors in the 1950's, 60's and 70's.

Although some of the principles of naturopathic medicine remain similar to those of the nineteenth century, there has been a tremendous broadening of traditional knowledge as well as a necessary incorporation of biomedical sciences.  Today naturopathic doctors in Canada have a minimum of 8 years of post secondary schooling and practice as primary care doctors.

*If you have any more questions about naturopathic medicine, please read the Frequently Asked Questions section or CONTACT US at the Mountain Health Team and we would be happy to answer them.