Portland Naturopaths Answer Top 10 Questions About Natural Medicine
Healing is a journey that often takes many forms. Plants, minerals, foods, movement, medication—they can all play a role in returning the body to balance.
A growing number of people are realizing that working with their body’s innate healing process might be the answer they’ve been seeking. They want an alternative or complement to conventional medicine and are interested in following a more natural path toward health.
At our Portland natural health clinic, Heart Spring Health, we often field questions from people who are curious about how natural medicine works. We love answering them and helping people find improvement in their health and well-being when they decide to give naturopathic medicine a try.
1. What is naturopathic medicine?
The human body has an incredible ability to heal itself. In fact, it is always striving to remain in balance. But sometimes obstacles get in the way. These might be environmental factors, stress, lifestyle limitation such as lack of sleep or poor diet, or emotional suffering. That’s when disease arises.
Naturopathic medicine harnesses your body’s innate power to restore and maintain health. By removing the obstacles to wellness and stimulating the natural healing process, a naturopath can help patients recover from acute illness, achieve long-term healing from chronic disease, and make lifestyle changes that support overall wellness.
Naturopaths use a variety of techniques, many of which are rooted in ancient healing traditions. Depending on your unique needs, these may include:
- Botanical medicine
- Physical medicine
- Mind-body therapies
- And more…
2. How is natural medicine different from conventional medicine?
Natural and conventional medicine both have an important role to play in treating disease. But they take fundamentally different approaches to healing.
Conventional medicine focuses on treating the symptoms of disease, often using pharmaceutical drugs to help patients find relief from illness. When symptoms become severe, medical doctors have potent, life-saving interventions at their fingertips.
Naturopaths, on the other hand, find the cause of underlying illness to find out what’s preventing your body from healing. We recognize symptoms as signals that your body is trying to repair itself, so we use therapies designed to help that process along, rather than suppressing it with medications (although we can and do use them when needed).
3. Does natural medicine really work?
For thousands of years, people all over the world recovered from injury and illness using exclusively natural methods. Herbal formulas, manual techniques, exercise and diet prescriptions were passed down from generation to generation—not because they’d been proven in a laboratory setting, but because, time and time again, they were effective. Now we live in an era when both natural and other options are available, and the standard of care is often determined by research findings. In today’s age, it’s increasingly important that the efficacy of natural medicine be supported through empirical, scientific findings.
Luckily, natural medicine, having stood the test of time, is also standing the test of modern research. As interest in alternative health care grows, and thereby funding for natural medicine research becomes more available, scientists are discovering that many natural approaches actually prove more effective (and economical) than conventional medicine. Several long-term studies have found that natural treatments such as homeopathy and acupuncture are as effective as conventional care—and with fewer side effects. Natural medicine has also been shown to help three-quarters of chronically ill patients get ‘moderately better’ or ‘much better’.
Major medical institutions have also come to realize the value of naturopathic medicine. Portland medical centers and other renowned hospitals are creating alternative medical clinics or offering naturopathic services to improve patient care. Nearly a third of American medical schools—including Harvard, Yale and Johns Hopkins—now offer coursework in alternative modalities. Even the World Health Organization has gotten on board, recommending worldwide propagation of Traditional Chinese Medicine to help meet the health care needs of the twenty-first century.
4. Is naturopathy safe?
Naturopathic care is safe, natural and gentle. While all medical treatments involve risk, many alternative forms of healing are less invasive and have been scientifically proven less dangerous than contemporary medical care. One study of emergency room patients found that acupuncture significantly reduced pain for 92 percent of patients, a higher success rate than intravenous morphine. It also took half as long to provide relief.
Like all doctors, naturopaths take an oath to do no harm. We strive to always take the course of action that’s in our patient’s best interests—and sometimes conventional medical treatment is what’s needed. We can prescribe medications and refer patients to other medical practitioners when necessary.
One thing to be aware of is that powerful botanical medicines and herbal supplements can sometimes interact with pharmaceutical drugs. If you do decide to visit a naturopathic clinic, it’s important to let your medical doctor as well as your naturopath know about all of the treatments you’re receiving.
5. What types of health problems can natural medicine treat?
Natural medicine can help treat a wide variety of diseases, including nearly all chronic and most acute conditions. Its use is most prevalent among patients with recurrent or serious illness such as chronic pain, allergies, autoimmune disorders, chronic colds and flus, digestive problems, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. We can also help with mood-related disorders such as depression, anxiety and PMS.
Many people also come to us for support as they work to improve or maintain their overall health. A naturopath can guide patients along their journey toward increased balance and wellness.
6. Can naturopathic care help me avoid prescription drugs?
Pharmaceutical drugs work by suppressing your body’s natural response to disease. Although the symptoms may disappear, the underlying problem remains—and it often continues to resurface as a chronic condition or even develops into a more serious issue. Drugs can also trigger side effects and throw your body out of balance, preventing deeper healing from occurring.
For holistic-minded patients that visit our Portland clinic, natural medicine offers an alternative to conventional medicine’s heavy reliance on pharmaceuticals. Whenever possible, we treat patients using natural remedies, without prescription drugs. Patients who want pharmaceuticals to be reserved as the last line of defense often seek naturopathic care as a gateway to living medication-f
7. Can I combine naturopathic care with conventional medicine?
Many of our patients seek naturopathic treatment in tandem with conventional medical care. Natural and conventional medicine offer different strengths that, when combined, can result in powerful healing. At Heart Spring Health, we find that the deepest healing occurs when a team of providers works together with the patient using a variety of modalities.
That’s why we take a collaborative care approach at our naturopathic clinic. This means all of your different providers—which may include naturopathic physicians, acupuncturists, massage therapists, chiropractors, and mental health professionals—communicate and collaborate with each other (and you) to ensure you get the best care possible. Although we do not have any medical doctors or nurses practicing at Heart Spring Health, we often coordinate care with our patients’ out-of-clinic providers as well.
8. Who should I visit first: a medical doctor or a naturopath?
When health problems arise, people often wonder whom they should turn to first. The answer varies depending on the patient’s condition, preferences and circumstances.
Some people choose a naturopathic doctor as their primary care provider; the naturopath then refers them to other practitioners when needed. Others prefer to see a medical doctor most of the time and use natural medicine as a supplement to conventional treatment. Although Oregon law qualifies naturopaths to serve as primary care providers, some insurance plans still categorize them as specialists and require that plan-holders visit a medical doctor first to get a referral to a naturopath.
9. What training do naturopathic physicians receive?
Naturopathic doctors must complete a four-year doctoral program, which requires the same undergraduate pre-requisites as any other medical school. We study the same bio-medical and clinical sciences as medical doctors, including pharmaceuticals.
We’re also extensively trained in the principles and practices of naturopathic medicine and are well versed in healing through natural substances such as plants, minerals, water, foods and other modalities.
10. How can I start receiving natural medical care?
If you are ready to take control of your health, and you live in the Portland area, you can start by talking to one of our Portland naturopaths. After learning a bit about your current health and future wellness goals, we’ll help you determine the best course of action.
To begin your journey into natural healing, contact our Portland natural health clinic today.