The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)
The healing power of nature is the God given power of living systems to recognize, maintain, and restore the divinely established perfect pattern of health. Naturopathic medicine seeks to activate and release this healing process in all levels of the body, soul, and spirit. It is the naturopathic physician’s role to support, facilitate and augment the body’s naturally embedded ability to heal itself by using substances found in nature; by supporting the function of damaged tissues and organs with various human crutches such as drugs and prostheses while the body does the actual regeneration and repair; and, by encouraging the patient to engage in proper behavior and deeply embrace a true transcendent faith. It is the naturopathic physician’s duty to identify the disease and help the patient remove the obstacles to health and recovery while supporting him or her in creating a healthy internal and external environment.
Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle Causam)
Illness does not occur without cause. Causes may originate internally and externally, and on many levels of magnitude and subtlety. Underlying causes of illness and disease must be identified and removed before complete recovery can occur. Symptoms can be expressions of the body’s attempt to defend, adapt, recover, and/or heal itself. Symptoms may also arise from cellular toxicity, trauma, mutation, infective disease, cellular and organ dysregulation, or other degenerative processes. The naturopathic physician seeks to treat the causes of disease and minimize suffering, rather than to merely eliminate or suppress symptoms.
First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere)
Naturopathic physicians follow these precepts to avoid harming the patient:
- Administer the Minimum Dose: Naturopathic physicians utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful effects, and apply the least possible force or intervention necessary to diagnose illness and restore health.
- Avoid Suppression: Whenever possible the suppression of symptoms is avoided, as suppression generally interferes with the healing process. Old symptoms may resurface as a “Healing Crisis” for a short time as the vital force eliminates the disease causing agents. Optimum regeneration occurs when the body’s self-healing processes are supported without suppressing the symptoms which may arise in the process of repair.
- Support Natural Processes: Naturopathic physicians respect and work with the vis medicatrix naturae in diagnosis, treatment and counseling. Natural substances resonate more harmoniously with living systems than synthetics, and thus are generally superior healing agents.
- Restore Optimal Function: The primary goal of all treatment and the highest philosophical principle is the restoration of optimal function. Toxic substances and invasive procedures may be administered when a less forceful intervention would be insufficiently effective, and the expected benefit is much higher than the probable degree of harm.
Doctor As Teacher (Docere)
The original meaning of the word “doctor” is teacher. An important role of the Naturopathic physician is to educate the patient in the principles and practices of health, encourage compliance with these ideals, and emphasize self-responsibility for his/her health maintenance and recovery. Naturopathic physicians recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship.
Treat the Whole Person
Health and disease arise from the interaction of a complex of physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social factors. Total health includes spiritual health, and naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to conduct their lives consistent with the highest spiritual principles. Naturopathic medicine recognizes that health requires the harmonious and optimum functioning of all components, elements, layers, and aspects of the body, soul, and spirit. This system is complex, intricate, and interconnected, and the function of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The multifactorial nature of health and disease requires a personalized and comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment. In the development of a treatment plan, Naturopathic physicians consider the entirety of the living system and its environment.
Naturopathic medical colleges emphasize the study of health as well as disease. The prevention of disease and the attainment of optimal health in patients are primary objectives of naturopathic medicine. In practice, these objectives are accomplished through support, education, and the promotion of healthy choices. Naturopathic physicians address the susceptibility to disease by considering risk factors such as heredity, lifestyle, and stresses. The subtle signs and symptoms of degeneration, disintegration, and deterioration can serve as warnings to apply naturopathic interventions prior to the onset of any diagnosable condition. Naturopathic medical philosophy recognizes that optimal health cannot be attained in an unhealthy environment, and is committed to the creation of a world in which humanity may thrive.