With all the synthetic drugs and philosophy of covering the symptoms rather than promoting healthy living, the naturopath approach regained some legitimacy since the 1970s. This approach to medicine stresses a holistic philosophy and reliance on herbal and natural remedies. Naturopathy espouses maintaining the optimum balance and natural strength of the body through the concept of vitalism. These healers practice in two main disciplines, traditional natural medicine and physicians using natural techniques, who are certified care providers.
This approach originated according to some with Hippocrates, the ancient Greek who is considered the father of medicine. But the modern version began in the nineteenth century with the Nature Cure movement, which advocated promoting good health through natural diet, exercise and avoiding the use of tobacco, alcohol and caffeine.
In the first few decades of the twentieth century, this naturalistic view of medical treatment gained acceptance in Europe, The United States, and Canada. But with the discovery of penicillin and other so called wonder drugs, the pharmaceutical avenue became dominant and the popularity of natural medicine declined. By the 1970s, people began to take a new look at alternative healing systems, and this theory reemerged from obscurity.
A doctor of this type relies on the use of nutrition, herbal remedies, stress reduction, exercise and the bodies ability to heal itself and maintain its health as long as everything exists in its proper balance. This view of cultivating ones optimal well being is focused on natural herbs, whole foods and a healthy lifestyle, and with identifying and removing the causes of illness. By contrast, mainstream medicine focuses on suppression of symptoms and the use of pharmaceuticals.
Regular medical doctors (MDs) who practice western medicine and emphasize treating a patients symptoms are sometimes known as allopathic doctors, while osteopathic doctors, or DOs, are similar, but take a more holistic approach. The holistic health movement, which sparked the renewed interest in natural medicine, concerns the importance of a whole system and the interdependency of its parts.
Holism looks at all of the individual health factors and influences which affect ones health, including diet, environmental influences, and both exercise and the avoidance of over work. The initial consultation with a natural cures therapist might include an interview about ones medical history, a physical exam, discussion of their lifestyle and anything unique about their physical and emotional make up.
The practitioner may then prescribe a treatment regimen based upon herbal remedies, diet and life style changes based on promoting the natural abilities of the patients body to heal itself. This approach is one of vitalism, an ancient belief in a vital life force, the spark of life or soul, which is independent of the biochemical reactions that modern science uses to evaluate health. Due to this philosophy, healing through analyzing and adjusting ones life force with acupuncture, sunlight, fresh air, massage, and meditation would be common techniques.
The traditional naturopath represents one major group of practitioners, who concentrate on the original beliefs of this philosophy. The other major type are also physicians, who in many countries are certified by passing a board exam and are licensed. Some physicians undergo training in natural remedies to supplement their skills. While the general public is increasingly accepting this health care approach, the medical community considers it no more than a pseudo science.