Before starting my journey at CCNM last year, I thought I knew what naturopathic medicine meant. Then as the year progressed and second year hit me hard (read: worst midterm experience period), I realized naturopathic medicine is so much more than giving a herb instead of a drug to treat a patient’s chief complaint.
The therapeutic order (a unifying theory of naturopathic medicine) states that we must first establish the conditions for health before even thinking about stimulating the healing power of nature and addressing any damaged and weakened systems or organs. From there, it is our duty as naturopaths to correct structural integrity, address pathology using natural substances, then finally implement pharmaceutical substances or surgical intervention if necessary.
In today’s fast-paced society where everyone is looking for a quick fix, is it even possible for us to treat patients following the therapeutic order? I do think we need to put the patient’s needs first and alleviate unwanted symptoms asap, however this order can help guide our way our thinking when trying to work through a patient case and strive for optimal long-term health.
There is a lot of talk in the media about ND’s being nothing more than ‘green allopathy’ For example, you see a doctor for a urinary tract infection (UTI), they prescribe antibiotics, you see an ND, they prescribe botanical herbs with antimicrobial properties aka giving a herb instead of a drug to fix a patient’s chief complaint.
But there is so much more than removing symptoms. As two of our principles’ state, first do no harm and treat the root cause, let’s find out WHY this infection is occurring. What’s happening in our patient’s life? Can we reduce stress? Maybe there is a dietary component, maybe we need to look at lifestyle factors, and then maybe we can prevent this infection from coming back in the future.
Below is an excerpt from one of our recent required readings for a class and feel it sums up everything perfectly
“In some states, such as Oregon, where the naturopathic formulary includes most antibiotics and many pharmaceutic drugs, one can practice almost without distinction from a medical doctor. The typical naturopathic formulary is often sufficient to prescribe on a strictly pathologic basis.
The problem with this is that it is generally not as effective, especially in the treatment of chronic disease. The value of naturopathic medicine in our culture is not that naturopathic physicians can function almost like medical doctors, with a “natural” formulary instead of drugs. It is that they offer a fundamentally different approach, one based on the restoration of health rather than the treatment of pathology.”
And it is this approach to medicine that we as ND’s must never forget….. It is not about prescribing some fancy supplement and sending your patient on their way with a massive bill and nothing to show for it. If patients come to you with hair loss, don’t jump on prescribing biotin, but instead ask WHY there is hair loss in the first place. What is their diet like? How is their stress? When is the last time they had their thyroid hormones or ferritin levels checked? We must always look at identifying the root cause and stimulating the body’s own healing processes before looking to external supplements as a treatment plan.