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What Exactly Is Naturopathy?

by Renée Leonard Stainton
Posted: March 31, 2016

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Is naturopathy pure hype? Why use it? Luckily, our resident expert health writer, Renée Leonard-Stainton, is a qualified Naturopath, and she's here to shed some light on the matter.

Most people have heard about naturopathy, but theories abound as to what exactly a naturopath does. For us to chat about a naturopath’s role in your health and wellbeing, let’s first have a closer look at what it is. 

What is naturopathy, then? Naturopathy is the practice of preventing, assessing and treating conditions of the human body and mind. The underlying philosophy is rooted in the belief that health is more than just the absence of disease, but also the presence of wellness, vitality and happiness.

Although naturopathy is often described as ‘alternative’ medicine, it is not really an alternative to modern medicine, but should be seen as a complementary therapy. While firmly science based, modern naturopathic treatment also preserves the traditional wisdom of natural medicine.

What does a naturopath do?

What is naturopathy?

The role of a naturopath is to work with a person to promote their body’s natural healing process.

Your practitioner will really take the time to listen and to get to know you as an individual. They also need to do this to find the underlying causes of your ailments, rather than just treating the symptoms. Naturopaths integrate conventional health sciences with a range of natural therapies in order to empower an individual to achieve their highest possible level of health. The therapies used include the following;

  • Nutrition
  • Homeopathy
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Flower Essences
  • Counselling
  • Massage Therapy
  • Vitamin and Mineral Therapy
  • Aromatherapy

Where does naturopathic medicine come from?

Naturopathic medicine - echinacea

The foundation of naturopathy draws on the traditional wisdom of many countries, including Greece (Hippocratic), India (Ayurveda) and China (Taoism). 

Hippocrates, a Greek physician who is known as ‘the father of medicine’, first formulated the concept of the ‘healing power of nature’ in about 400 B.C. This concept has long been at the core of all medicine around the world and remains one of the central principles of naturopathic medicine. It was from this original school of thought that the seven principles of naturopathic medicine are based:

  1. First Do No Harm: A naturopath strives to use safe and effective natural techniques and substances, with as little side effects as possible. 
  2. Nature has healing powers: Living things have an innate ability to heal themselves.  Our vital force promotes self-cleansing, self-repair, and therefore self-healing. Naturopaths strongly believe in the body’s inherent ability to heal itself.
  3. Identify and treat the cause: Naturopaths are trained to seek the underlying cause of disease, rather than to simply suppress symptoms.
  4. Treat the whole person: The aim is to view and treat the patient holistically by taking into account the complex set of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental factors that make up their total state of health.
  5. The physician is a teacher: Naturopathic physicians are primarily teachers – educating, empowering, and motivating patients to assume more personal responsibility for their own health by adopting a healthy attitude, lifestyle and diet.
  6. Prevention is the best cure: Naturopaths are preventive medicine specialists. They achieve this by educating and encouraging people about life habits that support health and prevent disease.
  7. Establish health and wellness: The primary goal of the naturopath is to establish and maintain optimum health and to promote wellness. While “health” is defined as the state of optimal physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, “wellness” is defined as a state of health characterised by a positive emotional state.

What can I expect from a naturopathic consultation?

Naturopathy consultation

An initial appointment will take around one hour in which your medical history, general lifestyle and current complaints will be reviewed in order to determine a treatment plan tailored to suit your individual needs. Because teaching the patient to live healthily is a primary goal of naturopathy, the time devoted to discussing and explaining principles of health maintenance sets naturopaths apart from many other health care providers. 

Each individual has his or her own unique set of symptoms and reactions which will, in turn, dictate the approach the naturopath takes to treat them. This is why each person seeking help from a naturopath will receive an individualised treatment plan. Naturopaths often work closely with other health professionals (such as doctors), referring people to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate.

The World Health Organisation’s definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, not merely the absence of disease” is a perfect example of the naturopathic holistic approach to wellbeing. If given the proper support, care, and the chance to function freely without suppression, the body can be bought back to a state of balance or “ease” (as opposed to “dis-ease”). It is the role of the naturopath to facilitate and enhance this process with the aid of natural, non-toxic therapies.

How viable is naturopathy as a career option?

Natural goodness - natural career

Naturopathy is becoming an increasingly popular career choice for males and females alike. 

This is primarily due to the fact that there has been an increasing acceptance of ‘alternative’ therapies worldwide and a steadily growing number of people are seeking alternative treatments to assist towards the goal of good health. Most recently, the rising interest in naturopathy is, in part, due to the steady rise of wellness bloggers, healthy foodies and fitness personalities creating full-time jobs out of their social media presence. This increases opportunities for lucrative brand endorsement work, along with the likes of book deals, TV work etc. 

Working in a clinic alongside other natural health practitioners (ie. osteopaths, massage therapists etc) is also a great way to enter the business as your client base can build quickly with referrals from other practitioners working close by. 

Because of the exploding interest in natural health care, there are more career opportunities in natural medicine than ever before. Graduates of naturopathic programs are establishing thriving practices, with many choosing multi-faceted careers. They are working as primary care physicians in private practice and in integrative clinics. They are working as research scientists and faculty members in alternative or conventional medical institutions.

Seeking a rewarding career in Natural Therapies? Research the industry, job outlook and career pathway here.


Renée Leonard-Stainton

Renée is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist, and Western Medical Herbalist. She has worked with a growing list of clients around the world, from her home country in New Zealand across Australasia, to the States and the Middle East.

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