Because most naturopathic doctors prescribe homeopathic remedies as part of their treatment plans, it can be difficult to understand how naturopathic and homeopathic medicine differs from one another. Perhaps the simplest explanation is that naturopathic doctors use homeopathic remedies, but homeopathic doctors only treat using homeopathy. Homeopathic medicine is a subset of naturopathic science.
Homeopathy originated in Germany about 200 years ago. It is a natural form of medicine that uses animal, plant or mineral substances (diluted down to minute potencies) to treat ailments and illnesses by stimulating the body's ability to heal itself.
Homeopathic medicine stuns many skeptics because of its inexplicable philosophy that like can heal like. For example, a homeopathic doctor might treat a measles patient by having him or her imbibe a tonic made from a substance that also produces rashes in healthy subjects. For some difficult to explain reason, this will prompt the body to fight the rash caused by the measles virus - even though the remedy used is actually an irritant that might cause a similar rash in a healthy body.
Naturopathic treatment will often incorporate homeopathic remedies into a health care plan, but naturopaths use much more than homeopathy to cure poor health and promote good health. Naturopathic remedies can involve botanical remedies (different from the homeopathic remedies) derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine, shamanistic medicine and other traditional uses of herbs to stimulate healing.
In addition to herbal medicine, naturopathic doctors may use acupuncture, acupressure, bodywork (massage, chiropractic adjustments, manipulation of muscles, soft tissue, pressure points and skeletal alignment), reflexology, dietary instructions and lifestyle recommendations. The naturopathic doctor takes whatever the environment can offer to stimulate the natural healing of the body.
While both naturopathic and homeopathic doctors take their cues from the natural world around them, using natural substances to promote good health and healing, homeopathy is much more limited in scope.
There are a number of alternative treatments available for people who are looking for cures to their health problems other than or instead of traditional treatments. Naturopathic medicine covers a wide range of alternative treatments and traditional treatments.
The word "holism" is rooted in the Greek "holos" meaning whole. It supports the idea that the universe cannot be broken down to the sum of its parts. Holistic medicine is therefore an approach to health, healing and wellness that aims to treat the patient as a complete entity without reducing him or her to mere symptoms, physical or otherwise.