“Natural medicine” often refers to any treatment using natural therapies. The National College of Naturopathic Medicine (1999) provides a more specific definition: “Natural medicine would be the science and art of preventing, curing or alleviating ill health using treatment modalities in harmony with the laws of nature.” Although specific treatments don’t define natural medicine, this is an approach that cares for and treats the whole person, not individual diseases.
Natural Alternative Medicines
Natural medicine is also called naturopathic medicine because a naturopath may use many different forms of natural medicine. While all naturopaths practice natural medicine, not all natural medicine practitioners are naturopaths. For example, homeopaths, acupuncturists and herbalists also practice natural medicine.
Natural alternative medicines can encompass many types of therapies, including:
- Herbs and supplements
- Mind-body therapies such as stress management, biofeedback and hypnotherapy
- Nutrition and diet
- Physical medicine, including exercise, hydrotherapy (use of hot and cold water), massage therapy and reflexology
- Traditional Chinese Medicine, including acupuncture, acupressure and Chinese herbs.
Principles of Natural Medicine
Natural medicine follows six principles:
- First, do no harm.
- Natural medicine treats the whole person, not individual diseases.
- Natural medicine emphasizes prevention.
- Natural medicine looks for the underlying cause of a problem and does not just treat symptoms.
- The body heals itself. The purpose of natural alternative medicines is to facilitate this healing ability.
- The natural medicine practitioner educates the patient and encourages taking responsibility for one’s health.
Herbs and supplements might be called natural drugs because they have a chemical composition that can cause changes in the body but come directly from nature or a natural setting. Even some foods contain components that can be considered natural drugs.
Some people believe that a substance is safe just because it’s natural. However, the chemical components of herbs and supplements can cause side effects, just as the ingredients in synthetic drugs do. Herbs and supplements can also interaction with each other or with prescription medications.
Although natural medicine is less likely to cause side effects than many conventional treatments, look up the benefits and risks of any herb, supplement or treatment you choose to use. If your condition doesn’t improve, seek other medical advice.
MacIntosh, A. (1999). Understanding the differences between conventional, alternative, complementary, integrative and natural medicine. Retrieved August 26, 2010, from http://www.tldp.com/medicine.htmhttp://www.tldp.com/medicine.htm
Oregon Board of Naturopathic Medicine. (2010). Naturopathy. Retrieved August 26, 2010, from http://www.oregon.gov/OBNM/Aboutnaturopathy.shtmlhttp://www.oregon.gov/OBNM/Aboutnaturopathy.shtml