What is Naturopathy?
Naturopathy simply means a natural approach to healing. It is, above all, a philosophy, which states that the body has the ability to heal itself, given the chance. The task of the Naturopath is to be an educator, to teach how and why illness arises, not just to treat the symptoms. We aim to empower our patients to take control of their own health.
Illness is seen as a manifestation of the body trying to heal itself. For example, eczema may be the body’s attempt to clear toxins. If treatment is not designed to deal with the root of the illness, it can merely mask or even supress the problem. As part of our approach, therefore, we must establish why the eczema is occurring: is it due to toxic build up, emotional issues, digestive weakness, lack of nutrients?
The basic principles of naturopathy go back at least to Greek medicine and Hippocrates, and it is interesting to note the similarities between his principles and those of his contemporaries in China, for example:
· the idea of the “life force” has much in common with qi.
· the body is composed of elements, or “humours”, which need to be balanced.
· medicine should work with the body’s own healing force, and not over-ride it with strong medicine, which will simply supress illness.
· humans are composed of spirit and matter, and both aspects need to be addressed in healing.
· Nutrition is a key form of medicine
Naturopaths use a wide variety of techniques to stimulate the body’s own “life force”. These may include nutrition, supplementation, fasting, water cure (application of hot / cold water, in the form of baths or compresses), detoxification, herbs, flower remedies, breathing techniques, and exercise.
What is the benefit of the Naturopathic approach?
We are working in a very different situation from ancient China: whereas much illness then was due to poverty and lack of nutrients, much modern disease is due to overeating, eating too much rich food, and lack of exercise and fresh air. Diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain and infertility are usually, from the naturopathic perspective, due to poor lifestyle, leading to toxic overload. It is therefore necessary to apply treatments which aim to work with nature, to allow the body to regain its vitality. This idea echoes the words of the Yellow Emperor, which points out that it is poor lifestyles which are the cause of premature aging and death. One suspects that the Emperor would be horrified to see how things have degenerated still further in our modern society.
Naturopathy as a bridge between western and Chinese medicine
Many of us have found that Naturopathy has helped us gain a deeper understanding of Chinese medicine, and make sense of it from a western perspective. For example, the Chinese concept of “blood stagnation” is explained by the naturopathic concept of “agglutination” of blood cells, or “sticky blood”. This can reduce the amount of oxygen entering the cells, leading to fatigue, toxic build up and tissue damage. The resultant stagnation can cause “phlegm”, which is referred to as “morbid matter” by naturopaths. This can be expelled by a range of techniques, such as enemas or controlled fasting.
Another example is what acupuncturists call “spleen qi deficiency”. From the naturopathic perspective, this could be a lack of digestive enzymes, which may be treated by enzyme supplementation, or by consuming freshly juiced vegetables, which are rich in enzymes.
In our experience, the naturopathic approach works by combining the best of the western healing traditions with the wisdom of Chinese medicine. The two systems are mutually supporting, and enrich each other. Acupuncture is embedded in a full programme of treatment and education which addresses all aspects of the patient’s lifestyle. Clients are empowered to take control of their own health, and to grow continually in wellness.