Categories: Health & Fitness

Naturopathy: origin, principle, interest for health

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It was in 1997 that naturopathy was recognized by the European Parliament as unconventional medicine. In 2001, the WHO (World Health Organization) recognized it as a practice of traditional medicine (source 1), in the same way as Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.

What is the definition and origin of naturopathy?

The WHO defines naturopathy as a set of care methods aimed at strengthening the body’s defenses by means considered natural and organic“. The medical Larousse defines it as “a set of practices aimed at helping the body to heal itself, by exclusively natural means”.

Since the beginning of humanity, humans have healed themselves through nature and plants. But practitioners consider that naturopathy is an ancestral medicine that draws its origin from ancient Greece with Hippocrates, father of all traditional Western medicine. In the West, the concept of naturopathy appears at the end of the19th century in the United States, before spreading to other countries.

According to the founder of modern French naturopathy, Pierre-Valentin Marchesseau, the term “naturopathy” has the meaning“the disease studied according to nature”. It comes from Latin nature and Greek pathos.

What is the principle and purpose of naturopathy?

Naturopathy is alternative medicine which uses only natural means to stimulate self-healing processes and strengthen the body’s immune defense mechanisms.

Naturotherapy is medicine holistic (Holism is a global approach to the individual that takes into consideration all aspects of the person, physical and mental but also emotional and spiritual.). She acts like a preventive medicine who seeks to act on the cause and not on the symptom.

His approach combines three concepts:

  • Vitalism (the natural power proper to life called “life force”) ;
  • humor (the balance of biological humors as can be found in Ayurveda or Chinese medicine);
  • Causalism looking for the root cause of our illnesses.

Still according to the Larousse, naturopathy “is based on a theory that the life force of the body allows it to defend and heal spontaneously. It therefore consists of strengthen the body’s defense reactions through various hygiene measures (dietetics, fasting, bodybuilding, relaxation, massages, hydrotherapy, thalassotherapy, etc.) aided only by natural agents (plants, water, sun, etc.), medical treatment should only be used in the event of an emergency”.

What does a naturopath do? Why consult it?

The work of the naturopath therefore aims to stimulate the body’s natural self-healing mechanisms.

In naturopathy, the practitioner must respect two fundamental operating rules : do no harm and consider each patient as a unique case that requires special and individual attention. He does not perform any medical procedure in the sense of diagnosing or treating illnesses because this is the responsibility of a doctor.

You can consult a naturopath at any age, in prevention or for improve their lifestyle, physical and/or mental well-being or his health problems.

In addition to strengthening his immune system and improving his health in general, can consult him with the aim of improving his quality of life in the context of certain chronic pathologies (allergies, digestive disorders, skin problems, etc.) or for support weight lossA hormonal change (pregnancy, menopause, stopping the pill, etc.) or stress and anxiety management.

Naturopathic support can also help reduce the side effects of certain heavy medical treatments, for example.

How is naturopathy practiced?

Naturopathy sets up three cures (in chronological order): detoxification cure, revitalization cure and evolutionary stabilization cure. Within these cures, practitioners use four major techniques and a few other minor ones chosen according to the patient and the skills, experiences and personal results of the naturopath.

These techniques, ten in number, gather within each of them a diversity of means.

The major techniques used in naturopathy

  • I’feed : dietetics (restrictive diets, mono-diets and fasting) and nutrition (micronutrition, nutritherapy);
  • THE exercises : organ gymnastics, bodybuilding, yoga, qi gong…;
  • I’hydrology : water at the service of detoxification (derivative baths, full or local baths, hammam) or revitalization through the various cures using water (thermal baths, thalassotherapy);
  • There psychology : including both relaxation techniques and techniques aimed at maintaining mental and emotional balance.

Minor techniques used in naturopathy

  • There phytologythat is to say the use of plants in various forms: essential oils (aromatherapy), floral elixirs (Bach, Deva, etc.);
  • There palmistrywhich includes massages (Western, Californian… and lymphatic drainage) and manipulations (chiropractic, etiopathy, osteopathy…);
  • There reflexologyto mobilize the sympathetic nervous system (sympathicotherapy, spinal percussion, plantar reflexology, etc.);
  • There magnetologybased among other things on the use of magnetic fields;
  • I’actinologywhich uses light rays (sun, etc.);
  • There chromotherapy : color therapy;
  • There pulmonology : the art of learning to breathe.

Naturopathy is a global health system which includes a number of unconventional or alternative practices.

Contraindications and dangers to naturopathy

There are no contraindications to the practice of naturopathy in itself.. However, in the context of naturotherapy, the use of certain phytotherapy or aromatherapy remedies is not recommended for some people. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your naturopathic practitioner.

You should know that naturopathy is a disparaged discipline, in particular because of abuses and dubious practices. Confronted with this, an AFNOR standard structuring the profession “should see the light of day in 2024”indicated the Union of Naturopathic Professionals (SPN) in a press release published in May 2023. The SPF specifies that “several criteria of the profession will be standardized: ethics, practice of professions, training, professional installation, the equipment, the professional posture, the limits, terms and definitions of exercise. The different practices, which are an integral part of the profession, will also be clearly identified”.

How does a session with the naturopath take place?

Any good naturopathic practitioner will begin with a detoxification cure necessarily involving the four major techniques. Some care, which is based in particular on natural techniques minormay be the subject of special consultations.

The role of the naturopathic assessment

The session is based on the naturopathic assessment. This balance sheet includes:

  • A discreet review the patient’s morphology which provides information on the subject’s vitality, strengths and weaknesses;
  • A use of different techniquesaccording to the health practitioner: examination of the iris, pulse taking, Lecher antenna, energy balance, kinesiology, etc.;
  • A detailed questioning of the patient: lifestyle, living environment, professional and leisure activity, eating habits, psychological behaviour, etc.;
  • A physical examination (optional).

Based on his observations, the naturopath provides lifestyle advice and can advise from the first session, if necessary, nutritional supplements.

How to choose your naturopath?

In France, practitioners distinguish between naturotherapists (who can also be doctors by training), naturopathic hygienists and vitalist health practitioners. The profession of naturopath is not yet regulated, so many people appropriate the title without really having the skills. Recently, faced with the excesses present within the profession, the union of naturopaths itself asked the government to legislate to avoid charlatanism.

In order to fight against these excesses, you can:

  • Call on a practitioner whose course has been validated by a national professional body (Organization of Natural Medicine and Health Education, Omnes). This validation can be checked by asking the practitioner for his registration number with Omnes or the RNF (Register of Naturopaths of France). Omnes has also created a private label for its members, which guarantees compliance with a certain number of criteria (initial quality training, official declaration of activity and professional insurance, annual monitoring of continuing education). You can also choose a practitioner directly in or. These two directories are complementary;
  • Consult the list of professionals (not listed at Omnes) recognized by the World Federation of Naturopaths in Quebec. This site does not bring together any naturotherapist, but naturopathic hygienists and vitalist health practitioners who attach great importance to behavioral reform based on four fundamental hygienes (food, emunctorial, muscular and nervous/emotional).

How to become a naturopath? What education/training?

Depending on the country, unconventional medicines are recognized or only tolerated. In France, only the professional titles of osteopath and chiropractor have been recognized by the law of March 4, 2002. There is therefore no no state diploma for the profession of naturopath. Many naturopaths are medical professionals who have undergone additional training to practice this profession.

Only the CFFPA (vocational training and agricultural promotion center) of Hyères offers as part of continuing education a title accredited by the Ministry of Agriculture (naturopathic advisor at bac + 2 level with training over 12 months).

Otherwise, there is about ten schools in France who train in the profession of naturopath. Some of them are approved by the FENA (French Federation of Naturopathy).

What is the duration and price of a naturopathic session?

A naturopathic session lasts between 30 minutes and two hours, sometimes more depending on the case. Its average price is between 50 and 80 euros according to practitioners and regions.

Social Security does not cover this complementary medicine. But some complementary health do so, for all or part of the services justified by a qualified naturopath registered with the RNF (Register of naturopaths of France) or with Omnes (Organization of natural medicine and health education) or with the Federation European Union of vitalist naturopathy.

Books on naturopathy

The Big Book of Naturopathy, Christian Brun, ed. Eyrolles: the book presents the main principles of naturopathy, disorders and their naturopathic strategies.
daily naturopathy, Dominick Léaud-Zachoval, ed. Quintessenc: a book accessible to all, full of advice to stay healthy on a daily basis thanks to natural remedies.


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