Power of the elements

The science of naturopathy uses the therapeutic powers of individual components of nature to magnify its healing effect

Alongside a huge variety of flora and fauna, our bodies too are a part of nature made up of its five elements - air, earth, fire, water, and ether or space. This reality has given rise to naturopathy, an interesting scientific medical discipline that believes that all diseases of the body are born of an imbalance in its five constituents. Hence, naturopathy draws on the inherent characteristics of each of these elements to heal the body. For instance, earth has cooling properties, so is commonly used in mud packs that form an essential part of traditional naturopathy.

Restorative powers of water

The fact that two-thirds of the human body consists of water, and water has many useful properties ensures it plays an important role in naturopathy. For example, water is a soothing element, so an underwater massage with a jet of water is ideal to relax a body and invigorate a tired body.

As an element, water is easily heated or cooled. Further, the alternating exposure to hot and cold is an effective means to enhance the circulation of blood in the body. Naturopathy uses water to boost the circulatory system by the simple technique of alternatively immersing the body [fully or partially] in hot and cold water. Contrast baths of the feet or arms, the alternate application of hot and cold compresses on various parts of the body and either hot, cold or neutral baths or immersions are different treatments based on this property of water.

But water is also an excellent cleansing agent. So naturopathy combines these properties of water in a steam and cold shower treatment. Exposure to steam [hot water] in a steam room is followed by a cold shower. While steam cleanses the pores, cold shower balances the heat effect as well as enhances the flow of blood in the body.

Modern naturopathy

Modern naturopathy goes a step further by using machines to tap into the curative powers of the elements. For example, during colon irrigation therapy, a gentle jet of clean filtered water is introduced into the colon via the anus. The three-part six-foot long colon, known to be home to 22 known toxins, stale bile, bacteria and encrusted matter, slowly gets cleansed as the jet of water cleans out faecal matter and makes its way further inward.

Often misunderstood as just another enema, colon irrigation is a potent treatment that rids the body of toxins as well boosts the digestive system. Unlike an enema that only reaches the rectum - the last part of the colon - three approximately 40 minute sessions of colon therapy thoroughly clean out the entire colon.

Other machine-based therapies adopted by naturopathy are sauna baths prescribed for a wide range of diseases and infra-red treatments for painful joints or to the abdomen to stimulate digestion. Modern naturopathy also has to thank its early adopters in the West who devised cleansing concoctions. A mixture having olive oil and lime juice as its key ingredients is, for instance, used to purge the gall bladder/liver of sludge comprising small gall stones. Although immensely useful for persons with a disposition towards stone formation, this mixture must only be taken after a preparatory period of fasting/semi-fasting supervised by an experienced naturopath.

Natural properties of foods

Most people perceive a vegetarian diet as natural. But even within the realm of fruits, vegetables and cereals, naturopathy advocates a strict dietary code that is contrary to the accepted norm of starting a meal with salad and finishing it off with fruit. In order to enhance digestion, naturopaths recommend that carbohydrates from fruit and cereals be eaten separately. Meals may therefore consist of either a fruit, salad and raw sprouts platter; or cooked cereal with vegetables and pulses. Clear soup is a neutral item that may be had with either raw or cooked food.

Naturopathy also prescribes small quantities of potent juices to treat various ailments. For instance, a juice of ginger and lemon in equal parts with salt is recommended for indigestion, while ginger juice with honey is advised for sinusitis. Herbal teas are also an essential component of naturopathy. Fenugreek [methi] tea, for example, is useful to treat infections, diabetes mellitus and rheumatoid arthritis. It requires one teaspoon of fenugreek seeds to be soaked in a cup of water overnight. The seeds and water may be boiled the next day, after which the seeds are strained. Honey or jaggery may be added to taste, only if the patients' condition permits.

The properties of food items also see their being used as ingredients for various treatments. For instance, mustard is known for its heat effect. Naturopathy therefore makes use of a pack containing a mixture of cooked mustard powder and rice flour to alleviate painful conditions like joints, and improve circulation. A castor oil pack requires a cloth soaked in castor oil to be applied directly on the skin, covered with a sheet of plastic and then a hot water bottle be placed over the plastic to heat the pack. This is used to stimulate digestion, among other things.

Health and happiness, as you would have experienced, are inextricably linked. Naturopathy extends this belief to suggest that living "naturally" is the key to health and happiness, which makes sense as health and happiness are our natural states too. So here's to finding health and happiness, the naturopathy way!

Is naturopathy a good option for you?

To benefit from naturopathy, be open to learning and adopting a new way of life. If you're looking for a quick-fix remedy or an invigorating indulgence, like an oil massage that'll work its wonder without making any significant lifestyle changes, naturopathy is not for you.

But if you are willing to accept that you may have been eating or exercising inappropriately - whether out of ignorance or sheer carelessness - and are open to adopting a healthier lifestyle, then naturopathy is truly an option you should consider.

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