Naturopathy is really just a common sense approach to health. The basic principle of naturopathy is that we all have healing abilities within us. Our body’s functions will always attempt to overcome an illness and restore balance. The general idea is to shift responsibility for health back to ourselves as far as possible, and to promote prevention rather than cure.
Why use naturopathy?
Increasingly, ill-health is recognised as arising from factors such as lifestyle. We also live in a world where pollution has a real effect on our health, making it all the more important to advocate more consciously for our own health and wellbeing.
Exercise is a major form of self-help, obviously within limits of individual comfort. Both posture and correct breathing are an integral part of this, as effort without correct breathing can lead to strain. It is important to ensure that adequate rest or relaxation is taken too. The importance of regular exercise to keep our whole body fit, active and healthy is now well-recognised.
The application of water by various methods, or hydrotherapy treatment, is another very useful part of naturopathy. The concept of using hot or cold water dates back at least to the Ancient Greeks, and is seen around the world in other cultures, for example, that of Native Americans.
Hydrotherapy treatment had a major revival in Europe in the nineteenth century, with the Bavarian monk Sebastian Kneipp. To this day, there are many Kneipp centres in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, which are still very popular.
One of the simplest methods to use at home is to use a compress, or fomentation, made by wringing out a small towel in water and placing over the required area . By alternating hot and cold compresses, – normally about 3-5 minutes if hot and up to 1 minute if cold – the local circulation can be strongly stimulated. For people who are considerably overweight it is often better just to use a cool compress, as this is less taxing on the heart. A shower can be used to similar effect by changing the temperature, or cool splashes of water after a warm bath may be used.
A specific form of treatment in hydrotherapy clinics is the use of sitz baths, a kind of hip bath, which works on the pelvic and abdominal areas, by sitting firstly in a hot bath then transferring to a cold one for a short time, as indicated above.
Other natural therapies
As well as these approaches to health and healing, natural therapies range from those that work mainly via the body, such as massage, osteopathy, chiropractic and physiotherapy, through those that deal with energy balance, such as acupuncture, reflexology and shiatsu, to those that approach from the mental or emotional level, such as hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and group work.
Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each attempts to help to restore balance from its own perspective. Some of them are not so easily applied for self-help, but it is useful to know that there is a wide choice of natural treatments that may help you to help yourself.