What is Naturopathy?

What is Naturopathy?

Written by Dr. Poorna Menon, Balanced Living Naturopath


What is Naturopathy?

Naturopathic Medicine is a distinct system to approaching health & wellness, which emphasizes the prevention of ill health and the body's innate self-regulating, self-healing, abilities in establishing optimal health. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are educated and trained at accredited naturopathic medical colleges in North America. Practitioners utilize natural therapeutic methods,  combined with modern science, in order to restore an individual's health.  


Naturopathic Medicine is based on 4 different assumptions:

1. The Universe is ordered and intelligent as is evident at the most minute levels of anatomy, physiology, chemistry and biology, and the order and intelligence we see in the body reflects the order we see in the Universe.

2. Health is the natural state of humanity, and illness is an adaptive response to disturbances in function.

 3. Correction of the disturbance should result in the return of the normal healthy state.

 4. Interventions should involve the least force necessary to accomplish this.

 Out of these assumptions comes a time tested ordered approach to intervention, which we call the Therapeutic Order.


The Naturopathic Therapeutic Order

The Therapeutic Order delineates the natural sequence and prioritization of care, providing the greatest benefit with the least potential for side effects.

Central to the therapeutic order is that the order is not rigid, and is adapted to each individual's needs.

The following are the seven components and stages of the therapeutic order:


Remove Obstacles to Health

In order to return to health, the initial step must be removal of anything impeding the healing process.  This is often referred to as “removing obstacles to cure.”  NDs create a plan that addresses these obstacles (common culprits are poor diet, excessive stress or disruptive coping mechanisms, digestive disturbances, inadequate rest, toxic exposures, socioeconomic stressors, trauma, etc.) in an effort to remove them and their effects, and improve the conditions under which the disease developed. Removing the things that are disturbing health allows the person’s vitality to increase, the self-healing process to be optimally engaged, and further therapeutic interventions to have the greatest beneficial effects possible. Removing obstacles to cure is core to the expression of the Naturopathic Philosophical Principle, Treat the Cause.

Stimulate the body’s self-healing mechanisms

Every person has within them an innate wisdom and intelligence that tends toward the optimal expression of health. In Naturopathic Medicine, this is called the “Vis Medicatrix Naturae.” The “Vis Medicatrix Naturae” is the body’s innate healing ability, the process of healing which engages with one’s “vital force” or life force, as it is often termed. NDs employ various modalities such as nutrition, botanical medicine, physical medicine, lifestyle counseling, acupuncture, homeopathy and hydrotherapy to stimulate and enhance this mighty and dynamic force and process allowing the body to self-regulate and return to optimum health.



    Strengthen Weakened or Damaged Systems – Restore and Regenerate

    Sometimes the mind, spirit and body’s systems or functions need more than stimulation to improve. Systems that are under or overactive, or that need repair or support are addressed in this step. NDs use their broad and varied natural therapies and healing practices to aid in restoring optimal function to an entire physiologic or organ system. This might include employing botanical medicine, hormone balancing, professional grade supplements, homeopathy, counseling, certain manual therapies and others with the intention of enhancing the function of specific tissues, organs or systems; or at the psycho-emotional level.



    Correct Structural Integrity  

    This level involves the use of physical therapies such as spinal manipulation, massage therapy, electrotherapy and cranio-sacral therapy to improve, support, and maintain musculature, fascial and skeletal integrity. Therapeutic movement, optimizing biomechanics, physical therapy and exercise may also be employed at this level to promote return to optimal structural condition.

    (This level has limited scope in Naturopathy in Singapore.)



    Use Natural Therapies to Address Pathology and Symptoms


    Although the primary objective of Naturopathic Medicine is to restore health, not to treat a distinct pathology, there are instances where specific pathologies must be addressed and managed. In these cases, naturopathic physicians utilize physiologically synergistic, dependable, effective natural substances that are unlikely to add toxic burden, cause adverse effects, place undue additional strain on an already disordered system, nor undermine the vis medicatrix naturae, while relieving the symptoms which cause suffering and are manifestations of pathology.



      Use Pharmaceutical or Synthetic Substances to Stop Progressive Pathology

         Synthetic or pharmaceutical substances may be necessary to restrain or strongly manage symptoms, and address specific pathology that is negatively impacting a patient’s quality of life or safety. NDs recognize that suppressing symptoms removes some of the awareness that helps us better understand the root cause of an issue and the ability to restore vitality. 

        (This level has limited scope in Naturopathy in Singapore.)



        Use High Force, Invasive Therapies 

        When necessary, NDs can refer for  more invasive therapies like surgery. NDs work as part of a health care team to support optimal patient outcomes. They may recommend therapies that minimize side effects and enhance the efficacy of more invasive treatments.


        Naturopathic Principles:

        Naturopathic medicine is distinguished by the principles upon which its practice is based. These principles are continually re-examined in the light of scientific advances. The techniques of naturopathic medicine include modern and traditional, scientific and empirical methods. The following principles are the foundation of naturopathic medicine:


          The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)

          Naturopathic medicine recognizes the body's inherent ability to heal itself. NDs identify and remove obstacles to recovery to facilitate this healing ability in individuals.



            Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle Causam)

            The ND seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness, rather than eliminate or merely suppress symptoms.


              First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere)

              Naturopathic medicine follows three principles to avoid harming the individual:

                1. Use methods and substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects;
                2. Avoid, when possible, the harmful suppression of symptoms;
                3. Acknowledge and respect the individual's healing process, using the least force necessary 


                Doctor as Teacher (Docere)

                NDs educate the individual and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also acknowledge the therapeutic value inherent in the practitioner-client relationship.

                  Treat the Whole Person

                  NDs support each individual by taking into account physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental and social factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual path.



                    NDs 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.



                        Wellness follows the establishment and maintenance of optimum health and balance. Wellness is a state of being healthy, characterized by positive emotion, thought and action. Wellness is inherent in everyone, regardless of disease(s). If wellness is recognized and experienced by an individual, it will more quickly heal a given disease than direct treatment of the disease alone.

                        (The wellness principle was adopted by Bastyr University and added to the six principles.)


                        Education in Naturopathic Medicine 

                        NDs are educated in all of the same basic sciences as a medical doctor (MD). Just like MDs, naturopathic physicians must pass rigorous professional board exams before they can be licensed by a state or jurisdiction. And, for at least the final two years of the medical program, naturopathic medical students intern in clinical settings under the close supervision of licensed professionals.

                        NDs, however, also study holistic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and promoting wellness. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, NDs are trained in clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, physical medicine and counseling.

                        Many receive additional training in areas such as Mind-Body Medicine and Ayurveda or Oriental Medicine. Because NDs view natural remedies as complementary as well as primary, they cooperate with other medical professionals, referring patients to (and receiving patients from) conventional medical doctors, surgeons and other specialists when appropriate.




                         NDs are licensed or registered as health care providers in the following North American states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Legal provisions allow the practice of naturopathic medicine in several other states. NDs are also recognized in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.

                         Efforts to gain licensure elsewhere are currently under way. Forty-two states and territories in the United States have professional associations for naturopathic medicine. Canada has 11 provincial and territorial professional associations.


                        Licensure Requirements for Naturopathic Doctors


                        All states and provinces with licensure laws require a resident course of at least four years and 4,100 hours of study from a college or university recognized by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). To qualify for a license, applicants must satisfactorily pass the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX), which include basic sciences, diagnostic and therapeutic subjects and clinical sciences.

                        Applicants must satisfy all licensing requirements for the state or province to which they have applied. Dr Poorna Menon, ND has Naturopathic licensure in the state of Washington.  



                        Website References for above text:


                        From Naturopathic Medicine Institute NaturemedAANMC, Salmon Creek Clinic, Bastyr

                        Other References for above text:

                        Zeff J. The Process of Healing: A Unifying Theory of Naturopathic Medicine. Journal of Naturopathic Medicine 1997;7:122-5.

                        Snider P, Zeff J. NM 5131 – NMTP 5141-5143. Naturopathic Clinical Theory.  Course Syllabus and Materials 1998.

                        Zeff JL, Snider P, Myers S. A Hierarchy of Healing: The Therapeutic Order. The Unifying Theory of Naturopathic Medicine. In: Pizzorno JE, Murray M, eds. Textbook of Natural Medicine. Missouri: Churchill Livingston; 2006.

                        Back to blog