What Is Naturopathy?

From INC Newsletter #4 April/May 2008

This is not an easy question to answer nor one that can be answered in two sentences.  It can be approached from numerous perspectives such as how it differs from allopathic medicine (as practiced by an MD), the modalities (or treatments) used, or training & education involved to name just a few.  At the core of naturopathic medicine, though, is an understanding that the body is capable of defending and repairing itself.  Our job as caretaker of our body is to help it along when it needs a boost and reduce the stress on it throughout our daily life.  Most modern medicine focuses on treating the symptoms of an underlying problem.  Worse than not taking care of the actual problem, it masks the problem allowing it to fester.  The following article is one you can use to gain a better understanding of what Rachel and Lee do or can be used to describe your choice in medical treatment to curious friends and family members.  Additional information can be obtained at www.cand.ca or www.naturopathic.org.

Rachel Oppitz, ND

Naturopathic medicine combines traditional therapies with current advances in modern medicine.  It is appropriate for a range of health conditions affecting people of all ages.  Naturopathic Physicians study holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing health and wellness.
A licensable naturopath has attended an accredited four-year post-graduate naturopathic medical school.  The curriculum includes two years of basic sciences and two years of clinical sciences; similar to an M.D. (or allopath).  Naturopathic training includes the following diagnostic and treatment modalities:  radiology and other imaging techniques, clinical nutrition, detoxification and therapeutic fasting, botanical medicine, hygiene and public health measures, homeopathy, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, counseling, minor surgery, naturopathic obstetrics, naturopathic physical medicine, hydrotherapy, therapeutic exercise and IV therapy.  The practice of acupuncture and/or Chinese medicine and naturopathic obstetrics requires additional education and licensure.  A naturopathic physician takes rigorous national professional board exams so that he or she may be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care physician.
There are five fully accredited medical schools for naturopathic medicine in North America.  To practice in a licensed state or province and to be a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Medicine (AANP) or Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND), an ND must have graduated from an accredited medical school and passed the board exams.  There are currently 14 states, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands as well as four provinces that license naturopathic physicians.  The major opposition to licensing efforts has been from practitioners that have received their education and degrees from nonaccredited (usually correspondence) programs.  The heart of the issue is a shared use of professional title by practitioners with widely varying qualifications.  Our national association (AANP) has been vigilant in support of licensure that requires a four-year nationally accredited post-graduate medical education and professional board exams.  Minnesota does not currently license naturopaths and anyone with any degree of training may use the title in unlicensed states.  The Minnesota Association of Naturopathic Physicians (MnANP) is actively pursuing legislation for licensure of qualified naturopaths.  The absence of licensure laws in MN limits the naturopathic scope of practice and prevents coverage by health insurance policies. 
Naturopathic medicine is not "alternative" medicine, but truly integrative medicine providing a comprehensive approach to the best of traditional and conventional medicine.  NDs welcome and encourage people to become educated and involved in their healthcare decisions, because knowledgeable patients are more successful in attaining their health goals.
Editors note:  shortly after this article was published, Governor Pawlenty signed the naturopathic registration bill to take affect July, 2009!  It recognizes naturopaths as doctors, itemizes educational requirements, and defines their scope of practice.  It is a huge first-step towards full licensure.