Naturopathic doctors follow six guiding principles that serve as a philosophical platform for everything they do. The principles influence how they think about medicine, how they make clinical decisions, and most importantly, how they treat you as a patient. Each principle plays a role in guiding naturopathic doctors in diagnosis and treatment. The healing power of nature is one of these six core principles.

When NDs highlight The Healing Power of Nature, they’re talking about a number of different areas:

  1. Spending time in the outdoors is itself healing. Research shows that the sensory impact of time in nature has general and specific positive impacts on health. In our current culture of excessive time spent indoors and on our technology devices, we are missing a key ingredient to good health. Your naturopathic doctor may work with you to brainstorm ways for you to spend more time outside in natural settings.
  2. The healing power of nature recognizes the body’s inherent ability to heal itself. This begins at the cellular level. The building blocks of the body — cells — are dynamic, living units that are constantly working toward self-repair and regeneration.1 For example, when your skin is cut or scraped, you start to bleed. Your blood platelets clump together and clot to protect the wound. Blood vessels allow fresh nutrients and oxygen into the wound for healing. White blood cells accumulate on the site of the wound to protect it from infection, and red blood cells arrive to build new tissue.2 This remarkable process stops when healing is complete.

    Self-healing extends beyond the skin level. The body works hard on its own to support recovery from injury and illness. Damaged, destroyed, or dead cells are replaced daily and automatically in your major organ systems. When you have a virus, your immune system attacks it. The digestive system consistently replaces old cells that line the gastrointestinal tract with newer ones. When you break a bone, bone cells kick into action to grow back together.

Naturopathic therapies support and enhance
the natural healing power of the body.

However, certain genetic, environmental, and behavioral/lifestyle factors may slow or prevent optimal healing and recovery. These individually unique factors interfere with the body’s inherent ability to heal. Naturopathic doctors focus on identifying and removing obstacles to recovery, in order to facilitate and support the natural healing ability in patients.

Food sensitivities or intolerances, unmanaged emotional stress, insufficient physical activity, and an imbalanced lipid profile are just a few examples of barriers to optimal healing that naturopathic doctors are trained to identify and treat. In an initial appointment, naturopathic doctors often spend between one and two hours with patients to uncover the individual barriers to optimal health.

Naturopathic doctors use the Therapeutic Order3 as a framework for both diagnosis and treatment. These guidelines are designed to support the body’s health restoring and maintenance processes. Symptoms can be viewed as nature’s attempt to correct imbalances. Consequently, naturopathic treatments are geared toward allowing the body to heal rather than suppressing symptoms, which can lead to a prolongation of the disease.

Naturopathic doctors individualize and prioritize natural, minimally invasive therapies. They are also trained to use pharmacological drugs when necessary. If state license permits, an ND can prescribe medication as a bridge to manage symptoms while the body does its best to heal. If not, they can refer patients to a conventional medical colleague.

  1. Many therapeutic modalities derive from the natural world, such as  food and nutrition, botanical medicine and hands-on approaches.  In this prioritization of these modalities, NDs bring the healing power of nature to your individualized treatment plan.  

Reminding patients of the healing capacity of spending time outdoors, articulating the role your body plays in healing itself, and employing tools from a natural medicine toolbox all allow NDs to empower patients to make changes that support improved health.  This kind of engaged participation in health care leads to both better outcomes and lowered healthcare costs.4

Respect for nature is at the heart of naturopathic medicine.

A service for consumers from the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) and the Institute for Natural Medicine (INM). The AANP and the INM would like to acknowledge Amy Rothenberg, ND, for her contributions to the content of this FAQ.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28596334
  2. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=134&ContentID=143
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273634914_A_Hierarchy_of_Healing_The_Therapeutic_Order_A_Unifying_theory_of_Naturopathic_Medicine 4 Health Policy Brief: Patient engagement. Health Affairs. February 14, 2013. Accessed October 17, 2017
  4. http://healthaffairs.org/healthpolicybriefs/brief_pdfs/healthpolicybrief_86.pdf