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First, do no harm: Primum non nocere

Have you heard of first, do no harm? It is common in medicine, it is also a naturopathic principle. This article explains further on its relevance.
A stop sign representing first, do no harm
© Courtesy of Pixabay 2023.

“As to diseases, make a habit of two things – to help, or at least, to do no harm” – Hippocrates

Have you heard of the term “first, do no harm” before?

Most encounters with this principle stem from its origins in Hippocrates – the father of modern medicine – and the misconception that it is part of the Hippocratic oath Abbasi, 2019. In contemporary practice, this principle is used by several health care professionals such as conventional doctors. This principle is also used in naturopathic medicine. It is used in naturopathic medicine in two ways. One to ensure that the naturopathic approach to care involves no harm or risk to the patient. This may include adhering to patients’ values and needs. The other way this principle is used in naturopathic medicine is by using the less force of natural treatments World Naturopathic Federation, 2017.

Applying first, do no harm

In naturopathic medicine, there are several ways that naturopaths consider when utilising and applying this principle in naturopathic care. Firstly, naturopaths consider their tools of the trade or what is called their scope of practice. Using herbal medicine, nutritional medicine, dietary advice, lifestyle recommendations, massage and mind-body medicine to name a few. Naturopaths approach care in a manner that supports optimal health and well-being and reducing the risk of harmful effects. In order to do so, naturopaths apply the least possible force or treatment to access a differential diagnoses, treat illness, and restore the vital force. By supporting the vital force, naturopaths also focus on supporting the normal healing process of the human body. The body has many mechanisms to support and heal itself, however, sometimes it needs a guiding hand. If the body is overburdened with illness (such as an acute viral infection or acute injury), encouraging the normal healing processes is needed. To do so, naturopaths try and avoid suppressing symptoms, as suppressing symptoms may interfere with the normal innate healing processes. These previous two points made align with one of the core naturopathic principles which is the healing power of nature – Vis medicatrix naturae. All naturopathic medicine approaches must align and work in conjunction with the healing power of nature – Vis medicatrix naturae. This includes clinical assessment, the generation of differential diagnoses, treatment planning and the administration of interventions.

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Fundamentals of Naturopathic Medicine

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