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Natural Health: The Many Names of Naturopathy

Naturopathy, natural medicine, holistic medicine, complementary medicine or alternative medicine - so, what’s the difference?

Perhaps the paradigms they share are easier to describe: The concept that the whole is more than the sum total of its components - i.e. a person is more than a machine made up of numerous parts that can be adjusted or replaced without consequence for the entire, interdependent system - there is also the vital force, an organising energy that distinguishes a person alive from one who is deceased.

Also the belief that each patient is unique and should be assessed by taking all of the individual’s parameters into account, rather than identifying the person by a defined disease. Thus, “the diabetic” or “the alcoholic” is seen as a person with unique reasons why they have arrived at that particular point in their journey.

There is an acknowledgment of nature’s healing powers and the view that disease or symptoms represent the body’s attempt to restore balance - thus, symptoms are not merely suppressed but, rather, vitality boosted using non-invasive techniques and medicines which do not interfere with the body’s functions.

The terrain or internal environment is considered to be all important in the disease process, whereas the microbe/virus (pathogen) is considered to be of secondary concern. An example of this principle at work might be where one person within a group of afflicted persons does not “catch” the flu thanks to a robust immune system - there is no imbalance within the internal terrain. Thus, ensuring the terrain is sound is the key to good health - the host is everything!

The importance of the patient’s involvement, empowerment and education is also seen by natural medicine practitioners as being crucial in working towards prevention. Prevention is considered to be the best cure.

So, what are the differences?

Complementary medicine recognises the need for co-operation between traditional or natural and orthodox medicine and encourages cross-modality referrals whenever this is in the patient’s best interest.

Alternative medicine perceives its form of practice - also based on the above holistic principles - as an alternative to the exclusion of orthodox medicine.

Ironically, “alternative medicine” or natural medicine is the original form of medicine, while the alternative to this traditional form of medicine is today’s modern medicine....

As a naturopath I position myself in the middle, supporting both perspectives. I certainly see the need to refer when I recognise that a patient will benefit from modalities and expertise I cannot offer or when I need further diagnostic clarification from more sophisticated testing methods offered by orthodox medicine. A fact of life today is also the patient who wants to manage certain illnesses with drugs, while seeking help from a naturopath in other areas of his or her life. Ultimately, health-care choices must be left in the hands of the patient.

When it comes to my choice of health-care model - natural or surgery and drugs-based - you can guess where my bias lies. As such I regard naturopathy as a viable alternative for the person who wants to be empowered about his or her health and who is ready to embrace change.

And in an emergency? - Rush me to a hospital please!