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What is 'Natural Medicine'?

So I’ve been getting asked a lot lately, from both Western and Chinese friends and colleagues, what exactly is a ‘Naturopath’? Being so involved with this concept and related material on a daily basis, I can forget that for many, it is a new term, and for some, a new way of looking at their health. So, I thought I should take a little time to introduce the term/concept to those who might be curious.
Naturopathic medicine is often called an ‘alternative’ medicine, but I believe the most appropriate term is ‘complementary’. For the most part, Naturopathic medicine is not meant to replace existing medical systems, like ‘Western Medicine’. Western medicine has done an amazing job in many areas, and the rapid pace of innovation in this field has certainly had many benefits for the quality and length of our lives. It is not a question of ‘one or the other’. Instead, as with all things, our main concern should be to simply use the most effective strategy at our disposal, for whatever our goals may be. Pretty reasonable right?
Regardless of the issue, it is rare that one single approach is the most appropriate for all situations. Different circumstances and different objectives almost always require the option of several different approaches, and so it is that Naturopathic medicine has developed in to the popular ‘complementary’ medicine it is today. With this in mind, depending on the situation, goal, or medical concern, an individual can choose to seek the advice of a naturopath, a western Doctor, or any other therapy that would most suit their needs.
That said, as great as Western Medicine can be, especially for severe illness and emergency situations, it is not without its downsides, perhaps most notably, its over-reliance on pharmaceutical drugs. These drugs can be very effective at treating symptoms, but often fail to address the true cause of the illness, and can have several worrying side-effects. The Western medical approach admirably adheres to rigorous scientific testing and development, but this approach can often lead to the human organism being perceived as a simple machine, rather than a complex system of relationships, patterns, emotions, beliefs and thoughts which together compose a healthy and unique individual. 
I could go on with differences, but again, this is not my purpose. Both systems are valid depending on the circumstance, purpose and individual, that is the main point.
So, what principles is naturopathic medicine based on?
  1. First, do no harm. This includes using methods and substances that minimize the risk of harmful side effects in diagnosis and treatment; avoiding the harmful or forceful suppression of symptoms; acknowledging, respecting and working with the patients self-healing process.
  2. The Healing power of nature. Naturopathic medicine recognizes the body’s inherent ability to heal itself. Naturopathic physicians identify and remove obstacles to recovery to facilitate this healing ability in patients.
  3. Identify and Treat the Causes. The naturopathic physician seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness, rather than eliminate or merely suppress symptoms.
  4. Treat the Whole Person. Naturopathic physicians treat patients by considering physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social and spiritual factors.
  5. Doctor as Teacher. Naturopathic physicians educate the patient and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also acknowledge the therapeutic value inherent in the doctor-patient relationship.
  6. Prevention. Naturopathic physicians emphasize disease prevention, assessment of risk factors and hereditary susceptibility to disease and making appropriate interventions to prevent illness. Naturopathic medicine strives to create a healthy world in which humanity may thrive.
Naturopathic medicine may use several different treatments, including both traditional and modern methods, as long as they adhere to naturopathic principles. Some common treatment methods include clinical nutrition, physical manipulation, botanical medicine, exercise, hydrotherapy, emotional counselling, supplement therapy, TCM treatments, Ayurvedic treatments and a wide variety of other methods.
With the above principles in mind, and using a variety of treatment methods, Naturopathic medicine  seeks to restore and promote optimal wellness of body, mind and spirit in the individual. 
So there it is, pretty simple right? 
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