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October 20, 2003

Naturopathic medicine comes of age


Way of Life offers a free lecture series twice a month on natural remedies to health challenges and alternative approaches to health.

When it comes to health care, Santa Cruz County has a large array of contemporary, alternative and complementary therapies to choose from.

Naturopathic medicine, which concentrates on whole-patient wellness, is one among the many possibilities. Lifestyle, interests, habits and preferences play an important part in understanding and treating any particular problem.

Bobbi Spurr, ND, PhD, PA, explores the topic in a Way of Life lecture Thursday, titled "Healthy Hearts: Leading Edge Perspectives and Products."

Rather than focus solely on symptomatic treatment, naturopathic medicine attempts to find the underlying cause of the condition. Treatment is tailored to the patient and the emphasis is always on prevention and self- care. Its goal? To bring wholeness and harmony back into balance.

At a time when many people complain of an impersonal health care system, naturopathic physicians (NDs) are gaining an official place in the California health care system.

A bill (SB 907) signed Sept. 22, allows California to join its neighboring states in licensing NDs by establishing the Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine within the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs.

This shift reflects a growing interest in naturopathic medicine and a desire for access to whole-person health care.

So what exactly is naturopathic medicine?

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians defines naturopathic medicine as a body of knowledge, and it continues to grow and evolve.

Naturopathic medicine incorporates the elements of scientific modern medicine that advance the understanding of the mechanisms of natural healing and therapeutics. This is especially valuable in the fields of diagnosis, immunology, clinical nutrition, botanical medicine and other clinical sciences.

As an organized profession, naturopathic medicine is committed to ongoing research and development of its science. At the turn of the century, there were more than 20 naturopathic medical colleges, and naturopathic physicians were licensed in a majority of states.

Practitioners of a variety of medical disciplines who included natural therapeutics joined together to form the first naturopathic professional medical society. Naturopathic medical conventions in the 1920s attracted tens of thousands of practitioners.

With the rise and popularity of pharmaceutical drugs in the ’40s and ’50s, the idea that technological medicine and drugs could eliminate all disease, naturopathic medicine experienced a decline.

Although naturopathic medicine is turning 100 years old, its roots go back through history to the healing wisdom garnered by ancient cultures.

Hippocrates, the founding father of Western medicine, called the healing power of life the vis medicatrix naturae. More than 3,000 years ago, Chinese medicine referred to it as Chi. It is called prana in Indian Ayurveda and vital force in Egyptian and European homeopathy.

No matter what it is called, the living force which everyone recognizes as the defining quality of being alive and void when dead is what naturopathic medicine strives to harness as the healing power of nature.

NDs are highly trained general practitioners uniquely suited to work with patients seeking alternatives to conventional health care options. Naturopathic doctors cooperate with all other branches of medical science and refer patients to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate.

Using the least invasive, least harmful and most effective therapies gathered from around the world and from every culture, NDs practice the art, the heart and the essence of naturopathic medicine.

Author Liz Koch is the Way of Life Health Education Coordinator.

If You Go

WHAT: ‘Healthy Hearts: Leading Edge Perspectives and Products,’ lecture by Bobbi Spurr ND, PhD, PA.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Oct. 23.

WHERE: 1210 41st Ave. Capitola.

DETAILS: 464-4113.

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