Key Differences Between Homeopathy & Naturopathy
There is a tendency, when comparing two things, to look at what differentiates them. This can orient us towards opposition, rather than understanding how two things can work together. Homeopathy and naturopathy are distinctly different. By first looking at what they share in common, we can find important synergies between the two practices, allowing us to appreciate how they can work together as a whole.
Homeopathy and naturopathy are both part of a larger umbrella group of practices known as complimentary medicines. This group of practices are characterized by a number of shared traits. One of the most important of that is they, to some degree or another, lie outside of conventional medicine. Many patients turn to complimentary medicine when conventional medicines have been unable to cure their ills. Patients might, for example, turn to acupuncture for pain management if they want to avoid the side effects of strong analgesics, like opioids.
Complimentary medicines generally share a few other characteristics. For one, they are most often concerned with a holistic approach to healthcare. This approach takes a multifaceted look at a patient’s healthcare, accounting for physical, mental, and spiritual health. Most alternative medicine will also focus on using the body’s own regenerative abilities to cure illness. Finally, complimentary medicines have very few side effects, and can thus often be used in a holistic treatment plan with each other and other medicines.
With these similarities in mind, we can delve into what exactly homeopathic and naturopathic medicines are, and what differentiates them.
Homeopathic Medicine: To understand homeopathy, it’s useful to know a bit about its history. At the time the practice was invented, mainstream medicine was often focused on very questionable practices like bloodletting. Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the inventor of homeopathy, noticed that patients often became less healthy due to these interventions; he put “do no harm” as one of the most important principles of the new practice.
The central tenet of homeopathy is “like cures like”. In practice, this means working with the body’s natural healing systems in order to combat illness. This notion is well-accepted in the medical mainstream – vaccines, after all, work on the very same principle.
When you consult with a homeopath, they’ll perform a holistic evaluation of your health. You might visit because you’ve got a cough that won’t go away, chronic pain, anxiety, or any number of other health conditions. No one single health condition will be treated, because homeopathy takes a holistic approach. The notion is simple: every person is different, and every person combats disease differently, so every person should receive a different kind of medication.
Homeopaths use highly diluted substances (often plants, minerals or animal sources) with the goal of stimulating the natural healing processes of the body. These solutions are the hallmark of homeopathy; exactly what type of solution you might get will vary widely depending on the holistic evaluation you receive. Homeopathic medicines almost always have no side effects, and can, more often than not, be used in conjunction with conventional medicine.
Naturopathic Medicine: Naturopathic medicine revolves around six basic principles: do no harm, the healing power of nature, identify and treat the causes, doctor as teacher, treat the whole person, and prevention. Based on those principles alone, you can see that naturopaths and homeopaths have very similar medical philosophies. What exactly, then, is naturopathic medicine?
The discipline is quite broad – it integrates a number of different complementary and alternative medicines, based on the above principles. Thus, naturopathic doctors may use homeopathy, acupuncture (and other Traditional Chinese Medicine), botanical medicine, physical therapies (like massage), clinical nutrition, lifestyle counselling, and more. This approach uses all the tools naturopathic doctors have at their disposal, with a focus on avoiding simply suppressing symptoms.
Exactly what treatments a naturopath will recommend to you will depend heavily on your lifestyle, symptoms, and more – again, this is a holistic approach to healthcare. Your naturopathic doctor will be able to coordinate treatments with the rest of your healthcare team – this might include doctors, spiritual counsellors, mental health professionals, and others.
Key Differences Between Homeopathy and Naturopathy: Now that we’ve taken a brief look at the two disciplines, what differentiates them is clear. Homeopathy is a specific approach – it aims to cure patients using the body’s own regenerative powers, stimulating them through the use of highly diluted medicines. Naturopathy, conversely, is a broad approach – naturopaths are willing to use homeopathy as a means of helping patients, but they’ll look at other possible solutions, too.
You might, then, think of naturopaths as general complimentary medicine doctors, much like your family physician. They can offer you a broad range of solutions that can address your health concerns. Homeopaths, then, might be likened to specialists; while they won’t have the array of tools that naturopaths have at their disposal, they will have a more sophisticated understanding of homeopathy.
The main takeaway, however, should not be the differences between homeopathy and naturopathy. Rather, focus on how complementary and alternative medicines can work together to improve your health. Organizing medication, treatments, dietary and lifestyle changes can be difficult. When you have a holistic healthcare team, with doctors, homeopaths, naturopaths, mental health professionals, spiritual leaders, and others, you’ll be able to tackle health problems from a wide variety of angles.
– Thomas Peterson
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