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What is Naturopathy?

by Peggy Graham Taylor(more info)

listed in naturopathy, originally published in issue 118 - December 2005

Naturopathy is a system of medicine which attempts to awaken and nurture the potential for health in a person rather than treating a disease or illness.

Modern Naturopathy grew out of various traditions, including European Hydrotherapy, Nature cure, Natural hygiene, Anglo-American Herbalism, Osteopathic medicine and the North American Eclectic Physicians.

Amazingly, instead of becoming a hotchpotch of philosophies and therapies, it evolved into a coherent system of medicine based on the philosophy 'only nature heals'. If someone is feeling chronically unwell, has unpleasant symptoms or is diagnosed with a disease process of some kind, then from a Naturopathic viewpoint there must be an impediment to healing which is preventing the person from returning to health or unleashing the potential for health.

The Naturopathic Triumverate

Naturopaths look for 'impediments to health' by considering the totality of structure, function and behaviour using as their blueprint the Naturopathic Triad.

The three interlocking circles are structure (Anatomy) function (Physiology which can be defined as adaptive capability) and behaviour (Psyche, usually defined as mentation, emotions and the spiritual dimension i.e. how we see ourselves – how we see the world).

The outer boundaries of the circles are representative of our immune system. The inner boundaries are our nervous system. The areas shaped by the circles our endocrine system and the central point represents our innate vitality without which we cannot heal.

Thus the triad gives the Naturopath a schematic diagram of the neuro-endocrine-immune system, within which he can begin to evaluate a working hypothesis of where possible impediments may be, what they may be and how best to help the person remove them, and access healing.

The main tool a Naturopath will use to elicit the information required is a comprehensive and detailed case history, along with a structural and postural assessment and careful observation of the patient. Additional information may be gathered by testing of various sorts e.g. Bio-energetic machines, Dowsing, Kinesiology, Blood Tests, Hair Mineral Analysis, Stool tests, etc. etc. Such information is integrated into the case history and the case is 'worked'. 'Working the case history' may uncover the most important clues.

The cornerstones of a Naturopathic lifestyle are common sense – in order to be well we require good food (but not too much of it), Rest, Relaxation, Sleep, Fresh Air, Sunlight, Laughter, A Non-Sedentary Daily Pattern, A Purposeful Existence with challenges that can be met without undue distress, Mental Stimulation (but not too much) and To Love and Be Loved. Often a real challenge for the patient is how to fit these necessities into a modern lifestyle!

For both Naturopathic practitioners and their patients the main quality required is indeed patience, as health which is often lost slowly over many decades cannot necessarily be quickly recovered. The required changes in lifestyle often have to be slow if they are to be sustainable.

Naturopaths will usually combine dietary and lifestyle suggestions with bodywork treatments and hydrotherapy. Nutritional or herbal supplements are often used to support digestive and liver health. Relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, flower essences and homeopathic remedies may be recommended. Some Naturopaths are also trained as Osteopaths, Medical Herbalists, Homeopaths, Acupuncturists, Aromatherapists, Reflexologists, etc., and will utilize their major modality in a Naturopathic context. Naturopathy is primarily a Philosophy of healing and any natural therapeutic can be incorporated if it is deemed appropriate, provided the patient is supported with a Cohesive, Integrated Treatment Plan rather than a bit of this and a bit of that!

No Naturopathic Residential Centres in the UK

As a practising Reflexologist and life-long follower of Naturopathy I confirm that I and my patients can find no dedicated Naturopathic places where we can retreat to for a week, which offer a programme of revitalizing and caring treatments and a vegetarian diet in the style of the old school Naturopathic Centres.

We have explored many options and gone as far as Poland, but still not found anything remotely like the one which JC Thompson operated in Edinburgh from the 1930s till 1980s, where those attending had light vegetarian food, plenty of fresh air, cold water treatments and Osteopathy, plus lots of advice on how to keep healthy.

The followers returned year after year to recharge their immune systems. We recently met a few of these young 80 and 90 year-olds who were bright, active, mobile and all the therapists remarked on their wonderful skin.

Tyringham was another residential Naturopathic clinic which operated in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire from 1963-2000. This offered a health retreat which many people used to take each year for a week or fortnight. All the treatments were arranged and timetabled and all one had to do was present oneself for each session. With lots of rest and walking and water exercise and vegetarian meals, people came away feeling stronger and fitter and encouraged into the habit of sensible living and eating.

Is it lack of knowledge that more people don't ask their GPs for a 'prevention' option – a week or more to experience and practise how to improve one's health and if they did – where would they go? We have Naturopaths in the UK, but I know of no residential premises.


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About Peggy Graham Taylor

Peggy Graham Taylor has been on the Council of the Association of Reflexologists (AOR) since 1985 and helped raise the profile of Reflexology in her role as membership secretary, Hon. Sec and Hon Treasurer. The AOR's membership was 150 and now has over 8,000 members. She is now a Patron of the AOR. Through her parents, she knew Sydney Rose-Neil and was involved in Naturopathy and the birth of the Naturopathic Clinic at Tyringham. She practises Reflexology, runs an area group for other therapists and because there is no suitable residential premises for her patients, she is at present running an annual Naturopathic Week at Brecon in Wales. She may be contacted on Tel: 020 8445 0154;

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