Naturopaths use naturopathy to prescribe dietary, lifestyle, nutritional supplements, herbal medicine and homeopathic remedies to address the cause of disease.
The origins of naturopathy trace back to ancient Greece when Hippocrates, the “Father of Modern Medicine”. Hippocratic therapy focused on easing this natural process by encouraging "rest and immobilisation”. He emphasised keeping the patient clean and sterile and prescribing clean water and nourishing food. The primary objective was and still is (ironically) as stated in the Hippocratic oath taken by doctors, to do no harm. The Johns Hopkins study suggests medical errors are third-leading cause of death in U.S.
The role of the naturopathic is to facilitate this process through educating our patients and prescribing a range of natural medicines. The study of naturopathy includes herbal medicine, diet and nutrition, flower essences, mineral therapy and nutritional supplementation. Naturopathic diagnostic techniques include conducting a full-length consultation and iris analysis. Tests may be ordered if deemed necessary.
Naturopathic study includes biological sciences in order to understand the human body and its functions. Importance is also placed on social sciences including psychology and counselling, nutrition and dietary planning, botany and herbal medicine studies, diagnostic techniques, clinical skills and extensive clinical practice
Not all Naturopathic courses are equal
In Australia a naturopathic degree is a 4year full time 96 hours per month degree in herbal medicine and nutrition with the basis of a science degree at its core. Naturopathy is not pseudo science. The problem with the industry is not the lack of evidence for herbal medicine and supplements, but the lack of regulation in both the education sector and the industry, resulting in the difference in qualifications of your homeopath, acupuncturist, naturopath or nutritionist. In order to successfully integrate Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) into main-stream healthcare the basis of training of CAM practitioners needs to be equivalent to university degree programmes offered currently to mainstream health professionals. In Australia it is moving that way. My degree in Naturopathy is recognised as level 8 on Australia's AQF by the Australian government and also as level 8 on the Irish NFQ through the UK NARIC. The NARIC is the designated United Kingdom national agency for the recognition and comparison of international qualifications and skills, on behalf of the UK Government. I am presently studying a Master in Public Health on the back of my degree.
Australia is at the forefront of natural medicine training, having offered degree programmes for 20 years. My course provider is still going strong. The industry is well-regulated and moving towards registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) the national registration body that develops a nationally consistent approach to auditing health practitioners including doctors, nurses, acupuncturists and allied health professionals. I was, while living in Australia, a registered acupuncturist. Common registration standards include criminal history checks, ensure English language skills are met and ensures all it's members meet continuing professional development requirements. Registration standards are regularly reviewed. This National registration body will, soon cover Naturopathy as a discipline.
Naturopathy comprises Western Herbal Medicine and Nutrition
Herbal medicine is not pseudoscience!
The use of bioactive natural products as herbal drug preparations dates back hundreds, even thousands, of years ago. Their application as isolated and characterised compounds to modern drug discovery and development however, started only in the 19th century. Before this time (male) doctors used herbs. But the fear of the curative powers that herbalists, healers and midwives possessed caused their skills to be demonised and herbalists were vilified and murdered in The Burning Times. Now herbalists and naturopaths are metaphorically burned.
Until recently, plants were an important source of pharmacologically active compounds with many drugs being derived directly or indirectly from plants. Despite the current preoccupation with synthetic chemistry as a vehicle to discover and manufacture drugs, the contribution of plants to disease treatment and prevention is still enormous. Even at the dawn of 21st century, 11% of the 252 drugs considered as basic and essential by the WHO were exclusively of flowering plant origin.
According to the British Journal of an increasing body of evidence is now emerging from systematic reviews and meta-analyses of randomised clinical trials. These suggest that some stand alone herbal medicines are efficacious. E Ernst, Herbal medicines: where is the evidence? Editorials BMJ 2000.
The integration of herbal medicine into evidence-based clinical practice and research however, rests on the acceptance of its scientific evidence by the conventional medical profession, including medical practitioners, pharmacists, nurses, and other health care workers. And the medical fraternity have a current strong-hold on the system. You only have to scratch the surface however to realise how many GPS are now using acupuncture or prescribing supplements and even herbal medicine to their patients. I am not a naturopath because I couldn't be a doctor. I am a naturopath because I believe in the efficacy of herbal medicine, nutritional supplements and dietary and lifestyle advice to address the underlying causes and treat disease. I am a naturopath because I wanted to treat people without causing any harm.
Not all herbal medicines are equal
The herbs I prescribe are organic biodynamic or wild crafted where humanly possible. I also prescribe 1:1 tinctures where possible. These are known as Herbal Extracts. These are the highest strength herbal tinctures available therefore more efficacious. These are superior to herbal tinctures. Other herbalist commonly use tincture tinctures that are 1:3 or even 1:5 meaning one part herb to 3 parts or 5 parts liquid respectively. This means my herbs are 3 – 5 times stronger. You can taste, see and experience the difference.
Nutritional Supplementation is not pseudoscience
In an ideal world, a balanced and varied diet is the best source of essential vitamins and minerals. In reality however nutrient deficiencies can and do occur, including in populations with bountiful food supplies and the means to procure nutrient-rich foods. For example, the Standardised American Diet (SAD) bears little resemblance to what experts recommend for fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, which serve as important sources of an array of vitamins and minerals. With time, deficiencies in one or more micronutrients may lead to serious health issues. So dietary advice and nutritional supplementation prescriptions are are absolutely warranted
Higher intakes of omega-3 PUFAs, either from fatty fish or from supplements, continued over a lifetime contribute towards lower risk for CVD.
Kate J. Bowen et al., Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease: Are There Benefits? Curr Treat Options Cardiovasc Med. 2016; 18(11): 69.
Studies show high circulating levels of the caretenoids lycopene, lutein/zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin are associated with a low risk of prostate cancer.
Zhang J et al., Plasma carotenoids and prostate cancer: a population-based case-control study in Arkansas. Nutr Cancer. 2007;59(1):46-53.
No authors listed., Supplements containing 200-1,000 mcg chromium as chromium picolinate the most efficacious form of chromium supplementation. a day have been found to improve blood glucose control.
Diabetes Educ. 2004;Suppl:2-14.
Nutritional supplementation and safety
The use of dietary supplements is primarily self-initiated rather than practitioner based and presents unique regulatory, safety, and efficacy challenges to consumers, researchers, and practitioners. Many supplements are contraindicated with certain medications. Many supplements should not to be taken together. Some need to be taken before or after meals. Many people are taking too much or alternately not enough of the supplement. Excess dosing, particularly of fat soluble nutrients, can be dangerous as they accumulate in the liver. Taking too little equates to taking none at all. Like herbal medicine, supplements need to be taken in their correct therapeutic doses in order for them to work. This can only be achieved by seeing a qualified practitioner. I would never recommend someone self prescribe supplements. It is strongly advisable if you are taking a supplement or are considering taking supplements that you have a consultation with a degree qualified practitioner who is adequately trained in drug/nutrient interactions interactions to ensure safety and is able to ensure you are taking the right supplement is in the right form and taken at the right times.
Not all nutritional supplements are equal
On top of the safety issues, not all nutritional supplements are considered equal. Some supplements are bioavailable meaning they can be and able to be digested and absorbed and used by the body. Some are not bioavailable and as much use as a chocolate teapot or even worse can causes disease. For example The most common and least expensive type of supplemental calcium available is calcium carbonate. This supplement is poorly assimilable therefore unable to be absorbed. Thus taking it not only doesn't strengthen your bones, on the contrary, it is excreted by the kidneys and can contribute to kidney stones. Calcium carbonate is also an antacid so neutralises stomach acid and inhibits absorption of both calcium and iron so taking calcium in this form can actually lead to osteoporosis and iron deficiency anaemia. Supplements need to be prescribed in their correct form to ensure they are bioavailable. Supplements that are in the wrong form and not bioavailable are as much use as a chocolate teapot. I can prescribe practitioner only nutritional supplements that are readily absorbed and utilised
Carina Harkin BHSc.Nat.BHSc.Hom.BHSc.Acu.
Cert IV TAE. ARCHTI mem.