Naturopathy is a drugless form of healing that does not use any form of medication

Bookend between Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday on October 2 and Naturopathy Day on November 18 this year, the National Institute of Naturopathy (NIN), Pune, has been conducting a series of Facebook live sessions to help people understand the principles of the practice. Gandhi was a proponent: he practised this form of drugless healing himself and often self-experimented, wrote a book called Nature Cure, and helped set up Nisargopachar Ashram at Urulikanchan near Pune that is a naturopathy centre. The invisible letter in AYUSH, because it goes along with yoga, naturopathy hasn’t got the press that Ayurveda has.

Dr Satya Lakshmi, Director, NIN, says, “The idea is to make Mahatma Gandhi’s commitment to nature cure and his approach to health known to people. We thought it hadn’t been given much importance in public discourse.” The institute will release a book on Naturopathy Day titled, Gandhi the Healer, which will be available for free download as an ebook from the NIN website ( Its contents are culled from various works published by Gandhi.

It is the art and science of healthy living that does not apply any form of medication. “We look at the body holistically, and believe that the accumulation of toxins is the root cause of all diseases. The treatment is detoxification,” says Dr Babina NM, Chief Medical Officer at Jindal Naturecure Institute in Bengaluru.

She says naturopaths believe that the body is made up of panchamahabhoota, the five elements of earth, water, fire, air, space. “So the main treatments correspond to these,” she says. For instance, earth treatments may include mud packs, water treatments may have a hip bath for pelvic disorders, fire treatments may include steam baths and hot oil packs, space treatments will have fasting, while air treatments centre on pranayama. “We believe in the body’s innate capacity to heal itself,” she says. Elimination forms a large part of the treatment, through four elimination organs: the skin, lung, kidney, and colon.

Most facilities insist you spend at least a week there, so you are put through a regimen and get a chance to experience what an ideal lifestyle means for you (since treatment is based on personalisation), so you can go home and practice the same. “Physiological and psychological rest is important during the treatment period,” says Babina, adding that it’s difficult to get that at home.

Naturopathy practitioners are trained through a five and half year BNYS — Bachelor of Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences, though there are also an array of diploma and certificate courses, with the established centres asking for degree course graduates. Most degree programmes have their own entrance exams. “Students study regular MBBS courses like anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, except pharmacology,” says Babina.

Its limitations are for emergency situations, like accidents or a heart attack. “We are only saying medicine shouldn’t become a part of life. We shouldn’t eat out daily and pop a pill,” says Dr Abhishek Devikar, the Medical Director at Nisargopachar Ashram. This focus on lifestyle changes brings many people to naturopathy, including those who are looking at lifestyle-related disorders, weight loss, those for whom all other streams of medicine have failed, and those who want to detoxify after heavy medication (like chemotherapy).

The reasons naturopathy has failed to take off are many, says Dr Devikar, including the lack of a central governing body to regulate the study and practice of the system, and the fact that it has no pharma products to market.

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