What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a unique system of primary health care that emphasizes disease prevention and the promotion of optimal health utilizing safe and effective natural therapies. Naturopathic medicine stimulates the body’s innate self-healing process by blending centuries old knowledge of natural therapies with current scientific advances in medicine. It is commonly labeled by the dominant school of medicine as “complementary and alternative medicines” but actually functions as a primary healthcare system that is able to meet the needs of today’s culturally diverse, modern society. Its scope of practice includes all aspects of family medicine, from pediatrics to geriatrics. Naturopathic doctors are able to work in integrated settings with other health care providers resulting in a patient-centered approach that seeks to provide the most comprehensive and appropriate treatment to meet the individual’s needs.
Since naturopathic doctors are experts in the use of natural therapies, they are continuously being asked to serve on advisory panels for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. They have also served on The White House Commission on CAM, as researchers and members of the advisory boards for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), and the Medicare coverage Advisory Committee.
The principles of Naturopathic Medicine
First Do No Harm - primum non nocere
Naturopathic medicine uses therapies that are safe and effective.
The Healing Power of Nature - vis medicatrix naturae
The human body possesses the inherent ability to restore health. The physician’s role is to facilitate this process with the aid of natural, nontoxic therapies.
Discover and Treat the Cause - tolle causam
Naturopathic physicians seek and treat the underlying cause of a disease. Symptoms are viewed as expressions of the body’s natural attempt to heal. The origin of disease is removed or treated so the patient can recover.
Treat the Whole Person - tolle totum
The multiple factors in health and disease are considered while treating the whole person. Physicians provide flexible treatment programs to meet individual health care needs.
The Physician is a Teacher - docere
The physician’s major role is to educate, empower, and motivate patients to take responsibility for their own health. Creating a healthy cooperative relationship with the patient has a strong therapeutic value.
Prevention is the best ``cure`` - praevenire
Naturopathic physicians are preventive medicine specialists. Physicians assess patient risk factors and heredity susceptibility and intervene appropriately to reduce risk and prevent illness. Prevention of disease is best accomplished through education and a lifestyle that supports health.
Doctors of naturopathic medicine are trained as primary care providers in which their scope of practice includes physical and clinical diagnosis, laboratory diagnosis and diagnostic imaging, pharmacology, nutrition, homeopathy, botanical medicine, physical medicine, emergency medicine, psychology, acupuncture and oriental medicine, and minor surgery. They work with all other health providers such as MD’s, DO’s, ARNP’s, DC’s, LAc’s, for a more complete, well rounded healthcare system.
Naturopathic physicians combine the wisdom of nature with the rigors of modern science. Steeped in traditional healing methods, principles and practices, naturopathic medicine focuses on holistic, proactive prevention and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. By using protocols that minimize the risk of harm, naturopathic physicians help facilitate the body’s inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health. It is the naturopathic physician’s role to identify and remove barriers to good health by helping to create a healing internal and external environment. Naturopathic physicians work in private practices, hospitals, clinics and community health centers. NDs practice throughout the United States and Canada. Qualified naturopathic physicians undergo rigorous training before they become licensed health-care practitioners. Visit our Professional Education page to learn about naturopathic education.
Naturopathic Doctors (ND) attend a four-year nationally accredited graduate medical school. For admission to a naturopathic medical school, a bachelors degree and medical pre-requisite classes are required, very similar to that of conventional medical doctors (MD) and osteopathic doctors (DO). ND’s are educated in all the same basic sciences as an MD/DO, and also study non-toxic, holistic therapies with a strong emphasis on prevention and wellness. All ND’s complete over 1400 hours of clinical training in a variety of primary care settings. Naturopathic physicians must take and pass extensive post-doctoral national board exams (NPLEX) in order to receive a license. Naturopathic physicians must fulfill state mandated continuing education requirements annually, and they have a specific scope of practice defined by the law in their state or province.
NDs treat all medical conditions and can provide both individual and family health care. Among the most common ailments they treat are allergies, chronic pain, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, obesity, respiratory conditions, heart disease, fertility problems, menopause, adrenal fatigue, cancer, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. NDs can perform minor surgeries, such as removing cysts or stitching up superficial wounds. However, they do not practice major surgery. NDs are trained to utilize prescription drugs, although the emphasis of naturopathic medicine is the use of natural healing agents.
What to expect when you see a Naturopathic Doctor?
A naturopathic physician will take time with you. During your first appointment, your doctor will take your health history, find out about your diet, stress levels, lifestyle stressors, and discuss why you’re there. What is important to YOU. He may perform an examination and order diagnostic tests. Naturopathic physicians keep themselves up-to-date on the latest scientific research and incorporate this evidence into their treatments. The naturopathic physician will work with you to set up a customized health management strategy.
1. A patient seeing a Naturopathic doctor can expect to spend considerable time in the office. Not only is critical information collected about factors that may have set the stage for (or may be contributing to) the present problems, but a comprehensive understanding of the patient’s habits of daily living, prior illnesses and traumas, environmental exposures, and genetic influences must be gained. Your first visit may last one to two hours and follow-up visits range from 30 to 60 minutes, although this varies depending on the ND. Naturopathic physicians need sufficient time to ask questions and understand the patient’s health goals. NDs also need time to gather information, do an appropriate examination and teach his or her patients about managing their condition and improving their health.
2. Patients may be asked to complete questionnaires on a variety of topics, such as toxic exposures at home and at work/school, a diet history, and characteristics of chronic and acute symptoms. Answers provide the clinician with in-depth health-related information that is difficult to gather by interview alone.
3. Laboratory tests are often recommended, including tests both familiar (e.g., CBC) and less conventional (e.g., stool analysis, vitamin/mineral assessments). These tests help determine which key biological processes are functioning properly and which are not—essential information for the development of a customized, comprehensive treatment plan to restore health.
4. Treatments may include homeopathic remedies, botanical medicines, nutritional supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs, rejuvenation programs, counseling on lifestyle, exercise, and stress-management techniques. Drugs may be used, but only as a last resort, not a go to treatment.
5. The patient is an active partner with the Naturopathic doctor, taking a leading role in improving health and changing the outcome of disease. We exercise shared decision making. Besides taking the time to carefully and fully assess a patient’s root problem, NDs speak and understand the language of conventional medicine. They can diagnose the way MDs do—yet, they bring to the patient a whole new arsenal of treatments and insights. Instead of waiting for a disease to emerge, we will work to head it off before it happens.
For more information about Naturopathic medicine visit the
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians