The 6 Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
As this new chapter of my journey here on earth begins, and I’m preparing to start practicing in Denver, I’m realizing that a lot of people ‘know-of’ or have heard of naturopathic medicine, but still have questions about some of the basics, so I thought I’d introduce myself by talking about the 6 Principles of Naturopathic Medicine.
Naturopathic Medicine is governed at its core by 6 Principles. When I first started at Bastyr (almost 7 years ago!), all of us newbie naturopathic students were introduced to these principles, and were reminded of them throughout our time in school. I had several clinical teachers who taught me to integrate them into each unique patient presentation, keeping me connected to the soul of Naturopathic Medicine. As I’m preparing to start seeing patients here in Colorado, I find myself reflecting back on these principles more than usual as a reminder of the unique and powerful form of medicine Naturopathic Doctors get to practice.
1. First, Do No Harm, “Primum Non Nocere”: This is such an important principle (obviously!). “First, Do No Harm” reminds NDs to maintain awareness as to not harmfully suppress symptoms through the healing process and to use the least force necessary to diagnose and treat. With more force, come more side effects and potential for harm. Each patient has a unique healing process and it is an NDs job to take the most effective and appropriately gentle route possible, to enable sustainable healing. I think it’s easy to get lost in the need for a “quick fix,” and although this quick fix is necessary sometimes (ie. Acute crises), it isn’t, and usually won’t be, the go-to practice if your goal is to create clean and lasting health.
2. The Healing Power of Nature, “Vis Medicatrix Naturuae”: You know that feeling when you step out into the warm sunshine at the dawning of spring after a long cold winter? You relax, breathe deeper, and feel lighter. Naturopathic Doctors call that “medicine”! We call a lot of other things medicine, too, but NDs are the first to acknowledge that nature has SO MANY tools to help us heal ourselves. I believe that it’s in the disconnect from nature in modern living that many diseases are based, because in disconnecting from nature we are also disconnecting from awareness with our own body.
Just like the outdoors has a healing power, so does the nature of our very own bodies.
Everyone’s body wants to reach optimal functioning, and as an ND my goal is to help you remove the obstacles to cure and create a safe and nourished environment within your own body that enables the body to do what it does best – mend and thrive!
3. Identify and Treat the Cause, “Tolle Causam”: The more I work with individuals, the more I see how deep the true cause of dis-ease can be, and that’s why I see this principle as the foundation of Naturopathic Medicine. Through identifying the deepest triggers for ill health, an individual becomes empowered with insight to take the reins in their healing process. The ND does, too! As complicated as modern living has become, the more intricate the process of identifying and treating the root cause of disease seems to be. Poor health implants in layers, and this principle demonstrates the importance of the patient-healer dynamic, because without a patient’s communication, self-awareness, and partnered work with his or her healer, finding the true cause of disease becomes near impossible.
4. Doctor as Teacher, “Docere”: “Doctor as teacher”, but as I’ve learned through working with others, the “teacher” part flows both ways. Doctors learn as much from their patients as patients learn from their doctors. It is with this principle that I strive to meet individuals on a level playing field, each sharing our wisdom, insight, knowledge, and experience on a two-way street. This teaching can happen in many ways, and one of the reasons I favor doing body work on everyone I work with, is because the body has a wisdom it’s eagerly awaiting to communicate with anyone who will listen. I view honoring and enabling the body’s communication as a very large part of my job, and one of the most enjoyable elements to practicing.
5. Treat the Whole Person, "Tolle Totum": Every single human is comprised of a total of their experiences on Earth, and throughout each individual’s lifetime injuries, broken hearts, traumatic experiences, poor diets, infections, and other maladies happen that contribute to a “whole body” picture. Many people have been to a specialist doctor (ie. An endocrinologist or a cardiologist, for example) who has just focused on one organ system, but often times there needs to be a connection of dots to see an individual’s health in its entirety. Don’t get me wrong, specialists are amazing, powerful doctors, and I am a believer that every kind of practitioner serves a necessary purpose in the healing community, and an ND’s job is to help individuals integrate their diagnoses and healing into one cohesive process.
6. Prevention, "Praeventio": Don’t get sick in the first place! I type this jokingly, but, in all reality, we have a huge choice in the state of our health. A go-to example is not smoking cigarettes in order to lower your risk for lung cancer. However obvious “Prevention” is, though, it can also be one of the most overwhelming principles for patients, because so much of prevention rests in one’s own choices. As an ND, my goal is to help you manage, organize, process and implement healthier lifestyle patterns that seem less like tasks and more like easier, cleaner ways to live.
Every treatment plan from a Naturopathic Doctor can stem back to these roots in one way or another, and the interpretation differs from practitioner to practitioner. As you can probably see, this means every ND is different, which makes finding one who is the right fit for you - the patient - an important part of the healing process. I offer free initial 15 minute consults for all new patients, so you can determine if we have a compatible healing dynamic before beginning the deeper work. I feel honored to be so warmly welcomed into this community, and I can’t wait to provide competent naturopathic care for anyone who seeks it.
In healing and magic,