What is Naturopathic Medicine or Naturopathy?

Naturopathic medicine is a broad medical system focused on disease prevention and the use of natural therapies to treat a diverse number of health conditions. Its immediate roots come from the European naturalist movement at the end of the 19th century. Its practice as naturopathy formally began in the United States in the early years of the 20th century, when a diverse group of natural medicine modalities became integrated under a single medical system. Naturopathic Medicine incorporates diverse traditional therapies based on the practical knowledge of generations of naturopathic doctors. However, it recognizes the need to evolve and modernize, as long as this evolution is in harmony with its fundamental principles (described below). Because of this, new safe and effective therapies have been incorporated throughout the years based on scientific studies in fields such as nutrition, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology of natural substances, toxicology, and immunology. At the same time, traditional natural therapies that today are known to be unsafe or ineffective have been eliminated from its practice.

Fundamental Principles of Naturopathic Medicine

Since its beginning, the practice of naturopathic medicine has been guided by six fundamental principles that have endured through the years. These principles are: the belief in the nate capacity for self-healingof the human body; identify and remove the root cause of the patient’s health condition; do not offer treatments that may harm the patient; treat the whole person (holistic treatment); educate the patient; and promote prevention. Each of these is explained next.


The Healing Power of Nature

Every person has an innate capacity for self-healing. One of the main objectives that a naturopathic doctor has is to identify and remove those factors that impede this self-healing process (like a poor diet, smoking, excessive alcohol use, exposure to toxins, stress, etc.).

Identify and Remove the Cause

Treatments that suppress symptoms may bring temporary relief to patients but do not fix the root of the problem. Naturopathic doctors always try to identify and remove the root cause of the patient’s health condition (whenever possible) because this brings true healing to them.

First Do No Harm

Naturopathic doctors use utmost care to prevent that a treatment given to a patient may cause damaging side effects. This is achieved by using safe natural therapies and substances that minimize the risk of such side effects (this is described as “using the least possible force to treat a health condition”).

Treat the Whole Person (Treat Holistically)

Naturopathic medicine treats every person in a holistic (integrated) way, considering physical, mental, spiritual, environmental and social factors that may be affecting their health. It also recognizes that all human beings are different, and thus it is necessary to provide individualized treatment to every one (including individualized preventive medicine recommendations, because we all have different risk factors that need to be identified and minimized).

Doctor as Teacher

Naturopathic medicine affirms the importance of the role of doctors as teachers to their patients, educating them about lifestyle changes that lead to the prevention of disease, or educating them about their medical conditions, their health risks, how to prevent disease progression, and treatments that are available. A very important part of the education process involves encouraging patients to take an active role in the medical decisions and their implementation.


It is said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  Preventive medicine states that it is much easier to make lifestyle changes to prevent chronic diseases (such as atherosclerosis or cancer) than to improve or cure those diseases once they develop. For this reason naturopathic doctors emphasize prevention as the best method to optimize everyone’s health and well being. Prevention includes the evaluation of health risks that a person may have (like dietary, environmental and  genetic risks among others), patient education regarding lifestyle changes that minimize those risks, and preventive treatments if needed. It is worth noting that prevention includes lowering the risk of recurrence of a previously diagnosed and cured health condition (such as prevention of recurrence of cancer, infections, autoimmune diseases, etc.).

Naturopathic Medicine vs. Natural Medicine, Holistic Medicine,  Alternative Medicine and Complementary Medicine

The terms natural medicine, holistic medicine, alternative medicine and complementary medicine describe specific characteristics of naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic medicine:

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Jeffrey Sepúlveda, N.D.

Naturopathic Doctor

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