Introduction to Naturopathy, "Natural Cure"

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Naturopathy is a system of medicine that relies upon the use of only ‘natural’ substances for the treatment of disease, rather than drugs. These may include the employment of various systems of natural treatment, which are prudently utilised to rid the body of ‘unnatural’ substances, believed to be the root of most illnesses.

According to the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, naturopathy is basically a system of medicine defined by principles rather than by methods or modalities, which honours the body’s innate wisdom to heal. A naturopath can therefore help alleviate the suffering and combat diseases without the consumption of poisonous drugs and causing injury to the patient.

Naturopathy: History
The means of natural healing dates back as old as the origin of Man. Even before the introduction of allopathic drugs, Man has, in some ways, devised practices to alleviate suffering from diseases. This is evident among the Egyptian, Greek and Roman communities as they practiced various types of body massage, specific diet and physical exercises and different kinds of baths.

The history of naturopathy was evident in Ancient Greece and the teachings of Hygeia, the goddess of health, and the daughter of Asclepius, the God of medicine. Historical evidences suggest that the ancient days’ communities believe that the earth’s natural elements such as the role of water, sunlight and fresh air had very important impact on Man’s health.

Before the term ‘naturopathy’ even came into existence, Greek philosopher Hippocrates is believed to have set the principles of Naturopathy practices by viewing the whole person in regards to finding a cause of disease, and using the laws of nature to induce a cure. Many today regard Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine” as the first advocate of naturopathic medicine.

Another Swiss-Renaissance-born physician Paracelsus (1493 - 1541) also believed that sickness and health in the body depended on the harmony of man (he microcosm) and Nature (macrocosm). He has been credited for providing the first clinical / scientific highlight of the subconscious mind. Paracelsus believed that the cause of diseases is rooted in one’s perception and imagination in their minds. A physician can, according to him, therefore find a cure for a disease by understanding his concept of tria prima; by understanding the three aspects of human identity:
1) The soul – representing emotions and desires,
2) The body, and
3) The spirit – representing imagination, moral judgment and higher mental faculties.

It was not until later that Vincenz Priessnitz (born in 1799) was credited with laying the foundations of Nature Cure. His work clearly highlighted in favour of suitable food, air, exercise, rest and water over conventional medicine. Priessnitz evolved a method of water treatment and gained a reputation as a water healer in Gräfenberg. He is now popularly known as the man who started hydrotherapy on a sound footing.
The practice of hydrotherapy to treat different ailments at different temperatures was later popularised by a Bavarian monk, Father Sebastian Kneipp, in the Austro-German area.

Another of Priessnitz’ follower, Johann Schroth continued the path of naturopathy at his clinic in Czechoslovakia, utilising heat and presses, fomentations and dietetics (also known as the Schroth System) as means of purification and detoxification of the body.

Another forefather of naturopathy was Arnold Rikli, who proposed various therapies using sunlight and air.
Naturopathy continued to prosper when Dr. Heinrich Lahmann, the first medically trained scientific doctor to gain respect of both nature doctors and medical doctors, practiced natural dietetic science in his clinic at Dresden.

Louis Kuhne is also another main figure in naturopathy known for his cold water hydrotherapy methods that were meant to improve detoxification functions of the body by stimulation of the lower abdomen. He believed that the cause for diseases were that bodies were overburdened by toxins that eventually led to degenerations of the internal organs.

The term ‘naturopathy’ was coined in 1895 by John Scheel, and later purchased by Benedict Lust, student of Father Sebastian Kneipp and is also known as the “Father of American Naturopathy”. He founded the American school of Naturopathy in New York in 1901.

Since then, many other Americans have made significant contributions to the development of naturopathy. Some famous examples include Dr. JH Tilden for his clay cure method, Alfred W. Mecare for dietetics, Dr. Andrew Still for Osteopathy, Dr. Daniel D’Palmen for chiropractic in the United states and more.
Naturopathy gained momentum in India after Mahatma Gandhi, known as the “Father of the Nation” became firmly convicted in the system of natural cure. His faith in natural cure is very much evident from his establishment of a Nature Cure Hospital in the district of Maharashtra, and is widely described in his autobiography; “My experiments with Truth”.

Since its inception, the practice of naturopathy has faced plenty of challenges and ridicule from the society over the years. Nevertheless, through patience, perseverance and faith, naturopaths have, time and time again, proven that natural cure is indeed a significant breakthrough in healthcare. There are many naturopathic centres found all around the world today.

Naturopathy: Philosophy
Naturopathy is a system of healing science which involves stimulating the body’s inherent power to regain health with the help of the five elements of nature: “Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Ether”. Its practices resort to simple ways of living in harmony with the self, society and environment.

Naturopaths believe that there is a ‘life force’ or ‘vital force’ which gives the body an inherent healing ability. They believe that low vitality and a toxic body are major causes of ill health. Naturopathy does not deny the existence of micropathogenic organisms, but believes that one is more vulnerable to them when one’s vitality is weak. Naturopathic methods would therefore be the best solution to encourage one’s innate ability to heal.  It is important to maintain the vital energy of a living body (to increase its immunity) through natural means such as sunlight, water, air, positive mental attitudes, sleep and so on.

Naturopathic ideology emphasises on minimally-invasive methods which encourage natural healing. They believe that any violation of nature’s law will lead to diseases and any suppression induced by dangerous pharmaceutical drugs is believed to cause chronic diseases. Naturopaths also hold firmly to adhering the Triad of Health; involving the connection and interaction between the structural, biochemical and mental / emotional components of all living beings. They believe that dysfunction in one area would invariably lead to disruption elsewhere.

Naturopaths recognise that health is dependent upon a multitude of factors and is a reflection of a harmonious interaction with our environment. As soon as necessary conditions are provided, the body’s vitality is raised, the body detoxifies and hence, good health is restored. Naturopathy therefore aims to extract the root of a disease to prevent it from recurring. All naturopaths collectively share the same principle that prevention is preferable to cure.

Naturopathy: Scopes of Treatment of Naturopathy
The scope of natural therapies is widespread and increasing. It serves as a platform consisting of various options of restoring one’s health. According to the Indian Board of Alternative Medicine, the scope deals with three primary classes of people; 1) Those who are well, 2) Those who think that they are well, and 3) Those who are ill.

There are very few individuals in the modern world who enjoy perfect health, but will be vulnerable to diseases should they deviate from natural ways of living as one cannot defy natural laws. Those suffering from diseases are those leading wrong ways of life, defying nature. Various options may be considered to restore the vitality of their bodies to regain health.

Natural cure such as psychotherapy involving the provision of constructive and positive suggestions to the subconscious and correction of habits etc. is one method practiced widely by naturopaths.
Physiotherapeutic treatments are also highly prescribed in naturopathy. Examples include muscular stimulations, massages, hydrotherapy, magnetotherapy etc., all which involve physical treatment and management of diseases / conditions, which aim to enable people to reach their maximum potential.

Cases may also call for the intervention of nutritional control and dietetics, external applications, mineral salts, vitamins, herbs etc. so long the practices adhere to the laws of nature, maintaining drugless ways to heal the body. The body’s vitality is restored via the proper regulation of natural habits of living; ie. eating, drinking, bathing, resting etc. Some problems may also require certain intake of food combinations such as herb extracts or vito chemical remedies. All naturopaths also utilise the five elementary remedies such as water, air, light, mud, and sun to treat their patients in a natural way. Scenarios involving surgeries and accidents may require more mechanical remedies such as massage, magnet therapy, and corrective gymnastics.

Above all, as Paracelsus believed, correcting the mind leads to correction of the body. Naturopathy encourages methods of relaxation, positive suggestions, building constructive thoughts and faith.

Author: Genevieve Tan Shu Thung

Copyright © 2013 Sandhya Maarga Holistic Living Resources
Holistic Living Annex (AUGUST 2013)

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