I am often asked by patients what the difference is between homeopathic and naturopathic treatment. Many people think that homeopathy and naturopathy are one and the same thing. Naturopathy is a ‘broad spectrum’ descriptor in which practitioners are more likely to prescribe multiple treatment approaches like supplements, herbs and dietary adjustments. Conversely, homeopathy is a single system of medicine in which practitioners focus totally on the application of homeopathic medicines. The following are some explanations to help you understand the difference.
Naturopathy is an umbrella term for many natural therapies, which include herbal medicine, massage, nutrition, iridology, and can include homeopathy. Naturopathy’s origin is in ‘nature cures’, when fasting and a diet of raw, whole foods and hydrotherapy was practised. Over time, various therapeutic disciplines have been added to become what is now known as ‘Naturopathy.’
The Naturopathic Consultation
When you visit a naturopath your treatment is likely to include dietary advice, vitamins and minerals and herbal medicines. Therefore, naturopaths are often considered to be the ‘General Practitioners’ of natural therapies. When naturopaths include homeopathic medicines in their treatment, it is often for acute symptoms, as one part of the whole treatment programme. The philosophy of naturopathy is based on providing an environment which supports recovery from illness. Herbs are preparations made from plants, called tinctures or fluid extracts, are usually dark in colour and have a strong and sometimes bitter taste.
Homeopathy is a scientific system of medicine, which grew out of the orthodox medicine of the 18th century. It matches a medicine to the patient’s symptoms. The unique characteristic of homeopathy is the specific selection of a medicine to correspond with the patient’s symptoms according to specialised homeopathic case taking. Homeopaths often consider diet and life-style as naturopaths do, but it is the prescribed homeopathic medicine, which is used to directly treat a patient’s condition. The homeopath can be thought of as a specialist in the study and prescription of homeopathic medicine.
The Homeopathic Consultation
When you visit a homeopath your consultation involves gathering detailed information about the patterns of your symptoms. Your treatment will be a homeopathic medicine prescribed according to how closely the medicine picture ‘matches’ your particular symptoms. Prescriptions are highly individualised – several patients with headaches may all receive different medicines to treat their headache, based on the headache symptoms. These symptoms are things like the type of pain – sharp or dull, the time of day the pain is present, things that make the headache worse, (heat, movement,) and things that make the headache better (walking in the fresh air, cold compress).
The philosophy of homeopathy is to find a medicine based on the law of similars, or ‘what a substance can cause, it can cure’. For example, a homeopathic medicine made from the honeybee is used to treat the symptoms of bee stings and swellings, which resemble beestings.
Homeopathic medicines come in the form of drops or small white pills, which have a slightly sweet taste. The medicines have been diluted and potentized from the source material, which means they are non-toxic and have no colour. Homeopathic medicines are often thought to be ‘herbs’. Homeopathic and herbal medicines are quite different, even though the origin of some homeopathic medicines is herbs. The two differ considerably in their prescribing methods and medicine preparation. Homeopathy uses highly diluted medicines, where western and Chinese herbal medicines are made directly from plant substances.
Homeopathy offers a specific treatment for each patient’s illness, whereas Naturopathy provides the supportive framework for recovery. When patients undergo homeopathic treatment their symptoms permanently improve and their quality of life increases tremendously.