Basic Principles of Complementary/ Alternative Therapies
JUST AS MAINSTREAM MEDICINE has a fairly consistent approach to illness, so does al-ternative medicine. Most prevalent in alternative medicine are the six naturopathic principles. In one form or another, these principles are revisited again and again throughout Section Two of this text. The following principles are described by Dr. Catherine Downey and excerpted from her chapter on naturopathic medicine.
1. The Healing Power of Nature (Vis medicatix naturae)
The body has the inherent ability to establish, maintain and restore health. The healing process is ordered and intelligent: nature heals through the response of the life force. The physician’s role is to facilitate and augment this process, to act to identify and remove obstacles to health and recovery, and to support the creation of a healthy internal and external environment. In short, give the body the appropriate tools and it will heal itself.
2. Treat the Whole Person (The multifactorial nature of health and disease)
Health and disease are conditions of the whole organism, involving a complex interaction of physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social factors. The physician must treat the whole person by taking all of these factors into account. The harmonious functioning of all aspects of the individual is essential to recovery from and prevention of disease and requires a personalized and comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment.
3. First Do No Harm (Primum no nocere)
Illness is a purposeful process of the organism. The process of healing includes the generation of symptoms, which are, in fact, an expression of the life force attempting to heal itself. Therapeutic actions should be complementary to and synergistic with this healing process. The physician’s actions can support or antagonize the actions of the vis mediatrix naturae; therefore methods designed to suppress symptoms without removing underlying causes are considered harmful and are avoided or minimized. Therapeutic actions are applied in an ordered fashion congruent with the internal order of the organism.
4. Identify and Treat the Cause (Tolle causam)
Illness does not occur without cause. Underlying causes of disease must be discovered and removed or treated before a person can recover completely from illness. Symptoms are expressions of the body’s attempt to heal, but they are not the cause of disease; therefore naturopathic medicine addresses itself promptly to the underlying causes of disease, rather than symptoms. Causes may occur on many levels, including physical, mental-emotional, and spiritual. The physician must evaluate fundamental underlying causes on all levels, directing treatment at root cause rather than at symptomatic expression.
5. Prevention (Prevention is the best “cure”)
The ultimate goal of naturopathic medicine is prevention. This is accomplished through education and promotion of lifestyle habits that create good health. The physician assesses risk factors and hereditary susceptibility to disease and makes appropriate interventions to avoid further harm and risk to the patient. The emphasis is on building health rather than on fighting disease. Because it is difficult to be healthy in an unhealthy world, it is the responsibility of both the physician and patient to create a healthier environment in which to live.
6. The Physician as Teacher (Docere)
Beyond an accurate diagnosis and appropriate prescription, the physician must work to create a health-sensitive, interpersonal relationship with the patient. A cooperative doctor-patient relationship has inherent therapeutic value. The physician’s major role is to educate and encourage the patient to take responsibility for health. The physician is a catalyst for healthful change, empowering and motivating the patient to assume responsibility. It is the patient, not the doctor, who ultimately creates or accomplishes healing. The physician must strive to inspire hope as well as understanding. Physicans must also make a commitment to their personal and spiritual development in order to be good teachers.