The VGII conference was focused on clinical practice, with a recurring metaphor where Naturopathy was likened to a carriage being drawn by six horses. Returning a patient to robust health often needs the combined strength of six horses, meaning that using various modalities offers the best opportunity to achieve this, especially in chronic, deep-seated conditions. This theme was restated many times throughout the conference. Presentations were delivered by one main presenter, but there was always a team teaching on each topic. Valuable insights were also offered from different experienced practitioner perspectives. All questions were welcomed. ‘Thinking like a naturopath’ and understanding naturopathic rationales were central to each session across the whole conference.
There were many highlights at the conference. A standout was the premier of “The True History of Medicine – How Healthcare became Sickcare ” directed by Dr Rick Kirshner – Naturopathic Physician. This movie goes into significant detail and captures how mainstream medicine evolved and some reasons why Naturopathy has struggled to become the dominant approach to healthcare. Joining the NMI will grant you access to the movie.
Setting Intention as we conduct our clinical practice was a reminder to me that this is specified in our naturopathic tradition. Lindlahr talks about Mental Therapeutics and the use of ‘positive affirmations’. Setting an intention assists the practitioner in creating the focus for their best work with the patient, and also creates the mindset for the client in relation to their healing. This non-physical aspect of the healing encounter can be as powerful as the physical aspect of renewal and repair.
Laboratory Diagnostics was another focus. Interestingly, early naturopaths did not have access to external pathology testing, so they developed some of their own tests. Nowadays this is different, but some clinics still use Urinary Indican for basic diagnosis of dysbiosis, and Bolen Blood Clot Analysis for general assessment of inflammation. Some of the tests discussed included Organic Acid testing, including Mold testing (yeast, mold and fungi); Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis; Chapmans’ Reflexes (see picture below), which are reflex points to identify stressed organs; the Carroll Method for identifying food intolerances; as well as Blood Type testing and other types of food intolerance testing. No matter which testing method is used, identifying a patient’s food intolerances reduces exposure and toxaemia.
Nutrition and Therapeutic Dietetics – This looks at dietary adequacy, balance and depleted nutrients that need to be supplemented. It is most important to always go back to basics. Minerals, as well as other essential nutrients, create the tissue scaffolding. Quality of clean food and appropriate food for the individual, and removing offending foods and dietary reactivity, are other necessities.
These factors are aspects of points 3 and 4 (italicised) in Lindlahr’s instructions (Nature Cure, Chapter III):
- Establish normal surroundings and natural habits of life in accordance with Nature’s laws
- Economise Vital force
- Build up the blood on a natural basis, that is, supply the blood with its natural constituents in the right proportions
- Promote the elimination of waste material and poisons without in any way injuring the human body
- Correct mechanical lesions
- Arouse the individual in the highest possible degree to the consciousness of personal responsibility and to necessity of intelligent personal effort and self-help.
Homeopathy has always been a part of naturopathic practice. The discussion included the use of the polychrests, as well as the place for Schuessler Cell Salts. There were some basics on choosing a remedy, potency, and the dosage. Isopathy and Homeoprophylaxis were also included in the discussion. This modality was one of the gaps I identified for Australian naturopaths. ANPA will be addressing this in 2018 with a series of webinar trainings. There was a profound collective clinical sharing from the elders and teaching teams. Many amazing clinical pearls about the use of homeopathy were shared to encourage practitioners to go back and confidently use the remedies.
Botanical Medicine was another highlight. The reverence for the plant medicines and the role they play in practice were clear. Dosages are different from what many of us use in Australia; instead of millilitres, medicines are prescribed in drams and drops. I will convert some of these for our future use. Remedies covered were botanicals for cardiovascular, gut, liver, lymph, respiratory and kidney health, as well as for anxiety. Speakers discussed creating a formula with a primary, secondary and synergist herb in the mixture. Some of these botanicals even go back to the Eclectics, and were created by Dr O.G. Carroll. There were also capsules, with various mixes or single dry herbs such as wormwood, cape aloe, gentian, skullcap and valerian. Some elders produce their own tinctures from wildcrafted herbs gathered in local areas.
Naturopathic Hydrotherapy, especially Constitutional Hydrotherapy (CH), stood out for me as a unique naturopathic modality that we need to recapture in Australia. CH promotes the vital force, builds up the blood and lymph, and promotes the elimination of waste materials. Demonstrations on this technique were presented by Dr Letitia Dick-Kronenberg, who now runs the oldest naturopathic clinic in the US. Her mentor and teacher, her father Dr Harold Dick, learnt from Dr O.G. Carroll (1879 – 1962). Dr Carroll refined constitutional hydrotherapy into a short therapy that would take an hour, compared to the older approaches that could take as long as a day to perform. This technique uses a series of hot and cold towels on the chest (shoulders to waist) and the back of the patient. These towels are then covered with a wool blanket. The temperature and vitality of the patient guides how the series of hot and cold towels are offered, and all these stages are for specific amounts of time. Additionally, a sine wave machine is used to improve circulation of blood and lymph via neural stimulation. Constitutional Hydrotherapy has many applications, including pain, increasing the vital force, respiratory conditions, inflammatory bowel diseases, colds, flu, PMS, arthritis, diabetes and psoriasis. Nowadays, patients require many more treatments than in the time of Dr Carroll. What could be accomplished in 15 sessions may now take many more, because patients are far more toxic.
Naturopathic hydrotherapy also covered approaches for fever management, cold sock treatments, poultices and the supporting therapies using Carroll herbal capsules. There is much to learn about this special therapy, and I hope we can start the process of recapturing and teaching this integral part of naturopathic practice here in Australia. Australian naturopathic elders may have some of this special knowledge, so I will be reaching out to them to start sharing this with our members.
Physical Medicine is where we have a gap in our training and scope of practice in Australia. We cannot offer spinal manipulation, but there are techniques which can be learnt that address the same issues. These include the Bowen or Dorn techniques, and Craniosacral techniques which was another supportive therapy demonstrated in this practical session.
What made this conference work so well was how at the end of each session, all team teachers would take questions from the audience. I had never seen such extraordinary openness to teaching, learning and sharing. All attendees were learning from each other.
I came away from the experience encouraged that work has begun to preserve the deep wisdom of traditional naturopathic practice alive, and keep it flourishing into the future.
I strongly encourage all naturopaths to go to the links below and sign up as an Associate Member of the NMI. I advise you to start listening to the weekly Vital Conversations, and access educational webinars and the streaming of the Vital Gatherings. Vital Gathering I focused on Naturopathic Philosophy. Vital Gathering II focused on clinical practice. Australian naturopaths, in spite of different education standards and some gaps, will derive great benefit from listening to the deep wisdom and reflections on naturopathic philosophy and practice. I do want to honour Dr Jim Sensenig, Dr Letitia Dick-Kronenberg, Dr Jarred Zeff, Dr Aviva Wertkin, Dr Rick Kirshner, Dr Eli Camp and many more for creating a place of devotion, love, sharing and learning about classical Naturopathy.
Staying true to our heritage protects the future of Naturopathy. We must know where we have come from to know where we are going in the future.