Naturopathic medicine combines ancient traditional healing techniques with modern scientific-based medicine to treat patients holistically. A naturopath focuses on the whole person and aims to get to the root cause of an illness rather than simply treat symptoms.
Naturopaths believe in preventing illness and use techniques to harness the body’s own healing ability. As part of this they may suggest herbal remedies, dietary changes, regular exercise and techniques to reduce stress such as massage and yoga.
Many of these remedies can be delivered alongside conventional medical treatment.
Safety is of the utmost importance and it is vital that patients consult a registered naturopath when seeking treatment.
Members of the General Council and Register of Naturopaths (GCRN) are trained to degree level and must follow a strict code of conduct and meet ethical standards of practice. The GCRN is the largest and oldest registering body for practitioners of naturopathy in the UK.
Tom Greenfield has been a member of the GCRN for 21 years. Here he shares his advice on how stay healthy this winter:
1. What are the top three natural remedies you would recommend to patients who want to stay healthy throughout winter?
a. Elderberry liquid is my favourite – it kills bacteria and viruses on contact, can be gathered from the wild berries in the autumn and tastes good, and the safety of black elder is seen by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as GRAS (generally recognised as safe)
This meta-analysis of several studies shows efficacy and safety in the use of elderberry as treatment of cold and influenza symptoms and this lab study shows the effects on various bacteria as well as the flu virus.
b. Larch arabinogalactan (powdered extract from the larch tree) – it is known to boost the immune system and protect against cold infections as well as being protective against some forms of cancer
c. This study on 199 people suffering frequent infection with colds found that larch arabinogalactan increased the body’s ability to protect them against this. This review of clinical trials found that larch arabinogalactan is capable of enhancing natural killer cells and macrophages (white blood cells) as well as the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines (cell-signalling molecules) to protect against infections.
d. Reduce intake of sugar and mucous-forming foods such as red meat, dairy products, bread, eggs, corn, soya at the first sign of illness and concentrate on vegetable soups – this supports the body’s immune system and allows for improved health of the microbiome by promoting healthy gut bacteria.
e. Some viral infections alter the metabolism of the body by increasing the transport of sugar and the activity of sugar metabolising genes in the body to help the virus to multiply https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30004655 and the amount of sugar intake as part of a standard. Western diet and as compared with a low fat plant diet can alter gut bacteria in one day https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20368178
1. What is the best natural remedy for a sore throat?
Bee propolis, but make sure you aren’t allergic to bees before using this – propolis is antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Propolis from different world regions can have different effects due to the different types of pollen harvested by the bees https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31146392
2. What are the best natural remedies for headache/migraine?
There are many different causes of headache and migraine, and it’s best to make sure that the cause is not due to an underlying illness. A registered naturopath will screen for diseases and can decide whether food intolerance might be playing a part. A physical therapy such as osteopathic manipulation, or acupuncture have been part of a successful treatment approach for many patients with headaches and migraines. Traditional herbal remedies include butterbur (previously available over
the counter, now only available from a registered herbalist) feverfew and gingko biloba https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25892430
3. What are the best natural remedies for aches and pains?
As with headaches this depends entirely on the individual and the reason for their aches and pains. If vitamin D levels are low (common in the UK), a supplement may help with general aches and pains, although this is currently a controversial topic due to the relatively low vitamin D levels used in some studies. Vitamin D may also help with any associated depression: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27860257
A magnesium supplement for people with magnesium deficiency (which is also very common in the UK) can be very helpful for both generalised muscle pain and also tension headaches: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11918431
and should particularly be considered in anyone suffering from cramps: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8754704. The citrate form is well absorbed, but the glycinate form of magnesium is less likely to result in loose stools at high doses.
There is also some emerging research on CBD oil for aches and pains: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31202200
4. What are the best natural remedies of upset tummies?
There are various causes of upset tummies, however a digestive enzyme tablet along with fasting on water only will often stop diarrhoea. This is based on observation of efficacy in clinical practice. If you are not taking prescribed medication it is generally safe to fast on water only for 24 hours, although you should consult a registered naturopath if you have not fasted before or would like support for a longer fast.
5. How important is good nutrition, exercise, sleep to help prevent disease?
These are all essential and form the foundation of naturopathic treatment. Poor nutrition, lack of exercise and lack of sleep are also contributors to many disorders and diseases that naturopaths can help with.
6. What are the benefits of treating the whole person rather than a single ailment?
One ailment may be a symptom of a generalised problem affecting various areas of health. Treating just one symptom is less likely to resolve the problem in the long term, whereas a holistic approach can support the person in addressing the cause. Learning more about your areas of constitutional weakness and how to strengthen them can result in an improved all round health, as well as helping with symptoms.
7. Naturopathy harnesses the power of nature to help the body heal itself and tries to get to the cause of a problem. How does this approach sit alongside conventional medical approaches?
Whereas conventional medical approaches are well-suited for the acute care of patients with serious injuries and conditions requiring complex surgery, patients are not typically treated as individuals, but according to whether their symptoms fit the pattern of being likely to respond to a particular pharmaceutical medication. A naturopathic approach is more likely to be helpful in diagnosis and treatment of chronic conditions and complex disorders with influences from environmental toxins or dietary factors. The healing power of nature can take time, dedication, and may require education of patients who are used to getting a pill for every ill.
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