Naturopathic Methods of Diagnosis & Treatment

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Naturopathic doctors use the following diagnostic and treatment modalities:

Nutritional medicine—In 420 BC, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said, "Leave your drugs in the chemist's pot if you can cure the patient with food." Many of the chronic health problems that plague Americans today are the result of poor dietary and lifestyle choices. Illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer, and gastrointestinal problems develop as a consequence of the food we choose. By changing our diet and adopting a healthy lifestyle, we can often change or reverse the course of an illness and restore health. Naturopathic doctors are trained in assessing nutritional status and recommending dietary changes and vitamin and mineral supplementation.

Botanical medicine— Botanical medicine (phytotherapy)—herbal medicine—has been used for thousands of years. Current scientific studies have validated the use of many plants as medicines. Today, 80 percent of the world's population uses plants to treat illness. Plants are used medicinally because they do not have high toxicity, accumulate in the body, or cause addiction or withdrawal symptoms. Herbs are used to enhance immune function; improve digestion; normalize bodily functions; destroy bacteria, viruses, and fungi; soothe irritated tissues; calm nerves; and relax muscles. Examples of botanical treatments are teas, poultices, and tinctures.

Hydrotherapy—Hydrotherapy, or water therapy, is the application of water to initiate cure. It is a safe and painless therapy that can be done at home for all types of injury and illness. Some common hydrotherapy treatments are hot foot bath, constitutional hydrotherapy, warming socks, and the castor oil pack.

Homeopathy—In the 18th century, Dr. Samuel Hahneman discovered that substances that cause specific symptoms in large doses could cure those same symptoms in infinitesimal doses. For example, when a healthy individual is given quinine in large doses, it produces symptoms of malaria. Yet, when very small doses of quinine are given to an individual with malaria, it helps ease the symptoms. This is known as the Law of Similars. Homeopathic medicines, known as remedies, are produced from animals, plants, and minerals.

The naturopathic doctors prescribes remedies based on an individual's unique symptoms or characteristics. This means that two people who have the flu may receive different remedies because their symptoms are different. It requires training and skill to determine the appropriate remedy. When the appropriate remedy (called the similimum) is given, it can produce powerful and effective results. Homeopathy is used to treat all forms of acute and chronic illness and injury and is safe for children, pregnant or lactating women, and the elderly.

Other diagnostic and treatment modalities include

  • Diagnostic radiology and other imaging techniques
  • Physical medicine (i.e., ultrasound, microcurrent, manipulation)
  • Minor surgery
  • Naturopathic obstetrics (requires additional training)

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2001

Last Modified: 28 Sep 2015