The nice thing about naturopathy is that it enables you, the patient, to play a more active part in your treatment. Naturopathy is the science of health promotion, based on the principle that our bodies, when working in a balanced and harmonious way, can resist or overcome illness. Whereas other complementary medicine systems, such as acupuncture, osteopathy, and medical herbalism, involve doing things to you, the naturopathic physician, although often making extensive use of such treatments, recommends things you can do yourself. These are usually simple physical treatments, lifestyle changes, and dietary measures that can be carried out at home.

How naturopathy can help you?

Naturopathy can be used to manage and treat a wide range of diseases in a safe, non-invasive way for people of any age because its main purpose is to restore and promote health. Children respond particularly well to naturopathic measures, especially in the more acute conditions. Older people with chronic ailments can obtain much relief but may take longer to respond because of a reduction in vitality, previous drug treatments, and long-term dietary insufficiencies.

Some of the conditions for which naturopathic treatment is helpful are shown in the box

Joint pains
Menstrual troubles
Menopausal disorders
Bowel problems
Sinus problems
Coughs and colds
Skin disorders
Digestive disorders
Bladder or kidney problems

The naturopathic diagnosis Assessing body function

First the naturopath needs to find out more about your health and what may have caused its breakdown. At your initial consultation the naturopath will ask you about your symptoms and how they affect you, the sort of things that aggravate them, and any other treatments you may have had. A full health history will be taken. You will be given a general medical examination with particular reference to your main areas of trouble.

Sometimes further investigations of blood or urine might be required. Although a great deal can be determined about your needs from clinical information, tests of sweat or saliva for mineral or hormone levels or investigations of intestinal function or the detoxification functions of the liver can enable the practitioner to give you more precise recommendations.

Advice and treatment

At the first visit the practitioner will usually give you some basic advice even if further investigations are necessary. Naturopathic treatment covers a wide range of options but you can be sure they will be safe, non-toxic, and geared to your individual needs. Naturopathic treatments may include the following.

Diet and nutrition

You will almost certainly be given dietary advice. Nutrition and dietetics are the cornerstone of naturopathic medicine. Where detoxification is a priority you might be given a controlled diet plan to follow or even a short fasting programme to rest the body systems and allow it to eliminate the overload of waste products that may be obstructing healthy function of the cells. Fasting would be unlikely in the early stages, however. More often people are weakened or run down and need a more nutritious programme including some supplements. (By focusing on the individual patient's needs we are able to avoid prescribing an expensive array of supplements, using only the most important ones and supporting digestive functions, where indicated, by herbal or enzyme preparations) The naturopath can give balanced and well-tested advice on all aspects of nutrition.


There are a number of packs and compresses that can be used at home with hot or cold water to relieve pain or stimulate the immune system. Cold compresses to painful joints or a trunk pack for a feverish child are two examples of natural treatments that help. A sequence of hot and cold packs to the front and back, known as constitutional hydrotherapy, has been found to be beneficial in chronic viral illnesses. Even a simple sequence of cold sprays at night can help give you a better nights sleep.

Exercise and relaxation

The naturopath will advise on suitable exercise for your needs as well as recommending appropriate relaxation techniques in cases of anxiety and tension. Stress management may include these measures together with nutritional advice and herbal medicine.

Structural treatment

As mentioned above, naturopaths often use osteopathy or other physical treatments. Postural realignment is considered to be an important element in regaining health and osteopathic techniques can be used, for example, to improve the mechanics of breathing in asthma or bronchitis, promote lymphatic drainage in chronic fatigue, or release tension in headaches and migraine.

Herbal and homoeopathic medicines

Many naturopaths prescribe herbal or homoeopathic remedies that are compatible with the biological functions of the body. Plant medicines may be needed, for example, to soothe inflammation in the digestive system, lungs, or kidneys, or to help control the detoxification functions of the liver. Homoeopathy is particularly helpful in the management of acute childhood illnesses. Combined with other naturopathic procedures, such as hydrotherapy and juice fasts, they are a less toxic alternative to antibiotics and aspirin.

How long will it take to get better?

The answer to this question depends on many factors to do with age, how long you have had the disorder, previous treatments, your vitality, and your diligence in following our advice. Most acute symptoms will subside quite quickly with naturopathic treatment but chronic disorders require some weeks or months of rebuilding vitality and changing the inappropriate behaviour of your body's tissues. Sometimes initial relief may be followed by a slight aggravation of symptoms. This is known to naturopaths as a 'healing crisis' and is usually a sign of the body's curative efforts. If this happens it is important to inform your naturopath who will guide you through it, so do not feel you are getting worse and give up!

Our task is to work with you to raise your health to whatever level your body is willing to go.

R. Newman Turner, ND, DO, BAc

Further reading:

Naturopathic Medicine -
treating the whole person
by R.Newman Turner
Available from HeALL books.

For more information on naturopathy visit the following websites:

British Naturopathic Association
General Council and Register of Naturopaths
Further reading...