Naturopathy: Part III – Principles

Naturopathy: Part III – Principles

Michael Garko, Ph.D.
Host – Let’s Talk Nutrition


The healing power of nature has become one of, if not the most important, health principles of the naturalistic health paradigm.  Hippocrates (the father of modern medicine) is credited with the precept that when the homeostasis (balance) of the human body is upset by either injury/trauma or disease it possesses an innate ability to respond, repair and rebalance to the extent that it can heal itself.

As it turns out, the theory and practice of naturopathy, as a natural approach to health and healing, is defined by and grounded in the notion that the body, when provided the necessary nutritional and lifestyle conditions, has a remarkable capacity to heal itself. In fact, if the principle of the healing power of nature were not to be included in its theory and practice, naturopathy would be rendered far less effective and meaningful. In addition to this principle, there are other principles which naturopaths advocate and follow.

The December, 2008, issue of Healthful Hints focuses on those important principles of naturopathy, which serve to guide the physician and patient in their relationship and treatment of illness. This month’s newsletter and Part I and Part II in the series on naturopathy are presented with an eye toward a future newsletter on how naturopathy can help patients take charge of their health.

Principles of Naturopathy

The contemporary theory and practice of naturopathy is predicated upon principles articulated in a position paper of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP, 1989). In addition to these principles, Bastyr University created and included the principle of wellness to those principles outlined in the AANP’s position paper.

The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)

The healing power of nature has two distinct meanings. First, nature heals. Second, the body heals itself. Naturopathic practitioners recognize that nature heals and to violate the laws of nature can result in serious health consequences. They also understand that the body possesses an inherent, ordered and intelligent capacity to create, sustain and heal itself if necessary.

Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle Causam)

Rather than eliminating or suppressing symptoms, the naturopathic practitioner attempts to identify and remove the cause(s) of illness and, thereby, facilitate the body’s ability to heal itself.

Treat the Whole Person

Naturopathic practitioners adopt a holistic perspective to health. They realize that physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social and spiritual factors bear upon the quality of a person’s health. They are trained to take into account all of the various factors when making decisions about what therapies to use and how to tailor the treatment to the individual.

First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere)

Naturopathic practitioners are taught to do no harm to the patient by advocating and using methods and medicinal substances minimizing the risk of harmful side effects, avoiding the deleterious suppression of symptoms and employing the least force necessary to diagnose and treat illness all of which acknowledges and respects the individual’s own unique healing process.

Doctor as Teacher (Docere)

Naturopathic practitioners seek to educate patients and encourage them to take personal responsibility for health. They also respect and acknowledge the doctor-patient relationship and its inherent therapeutic value.
Prevention Is the Best Cure

Rather than putting the emphasis on combating illness, naturopathic practitioners emphasize the prevention of disease, while making an assessment of lifestyle and nutritional risk factors and hereditary factors and suggesting appropriate and effective interventions to prevent illness.


Notwithstanding the seriousness of an illness, naturopathic practitioners believe the potential for wellness always exists. Wellness, a state of being, stems from the creation and maintenance of optimum health and balance. It is constituted of positive emotion, thought and action. Further, when patients recognize and experience wellness, they will tend to heal more quickly than by the direct treatment of disease alone.


Naturopathy is a philosophy and approach to health predicated upon important and meaningful principles that serve to guide the naturopathic practitioners and patients in the prevention and treatment of disease and illness. It was contended that the healing power of nature stands out as a principle which gives greater meaning and context to other naturopathic principles. Without it, the theory and practice of naturopathy would stripped of its philosophical foundation and essence. Embracing and supporting the healing power of nature is what distinguishes naturopathy from conventional approaches to health. In a real sense, it represents the soul of naturopathy.

Nevertheless, taken together naturopathic principles underscore the healing power of nature, focus on identifying and treating the cause(s) of illness and disease, support a holistic approach to health, caution against harming the patient, encourage patients to take personal responsibility for their health, emphasize the prevention of disease and promote the idea that wellness can being achieved no matter how seriously ill a person may be.

AANP (1989) Position Paper, Snider P., Zeff J., Co-Chairs: Select Committee on the Definition of Naturopathic Medicine AANP House of Delegates, Rippling River, Oregon.

Bastyr University (n.d.). Naturopathic medicine: Principles. Retrieved October, 15, 2009, from