What it Is-What it Can Do for You
All information adapted from AANP brochure of the same title
What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine blends centuries-old natural, non-toxic therapies with current advances in the study of health and human systems, covering all aspects of family health from prenatal to geriatric care.
A Naturopath (ND) is an expert in natural medicine. Naturopathic medicine concentrates on whole-patient wellness—the medicine is tailored to the patient and emphasizes prevention and self-care. Naturopathic medicine attempts to find the underlying cause of the patient's condition rather than focusing solely on symptomatic treatment. For example, congestion might be caused by a food allergy or an environmental factor—a naturopath would focus diagnosis and treatment on these casual factors. Naturopaths cooperate with all other branches of medical science referring patients to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropria
The History of Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic medicine has been a distinct American health care profession for over 100 years. In the late 1800s, practitioners from several medical disciplines combined to form the first naturopathic professional societies. By the early 20th century, more than 20 naturopathic medical colleges had been founded in the US, and naturopathic physicians were licensed in a majority of states. By the 1920s, naturopathic medical conventions attracted more than 10,000 practitioners.
Naturopathic medicine experienced a decline in the middle of the 20th century with the rise of technological medicine, pharmaceutical drugs and “quick fix” idea that drugs and surgery could eliminate all diseases. Over the last three decades, however, a health conscious public has increasingly sought alternatives to conventional medical philosophy.
The naturopathic profession is committed to on-going scientific research and development. Today’s practitioners add to the growing body of research by incorporating modern scientific methods that expand the understanding of the mechanisms of natural healing and therapeutics. Ongoing research immunology, diagnosis, clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, psychology, and other clinical sciences contribute to the development of naturopathic medicine.
What Treatments do Naturopaths Offer?
Naturopaths perform physical examinations, laboratory testing, gynecological exams, nutritional and dietary assessments, metabolic analysis, allergy testing, X-ray examinations, and other diagnostic tests. They are the only physicians clinically trained in the use of a wide variety of natural therapeutics. They combine and adapt these treatments to the needs of the individual based on a cogent philosophy that acknowledges the patient as a participant.
Naturopathic medicine is effective in treating most health problems, both acute and chronic. Some of the therapies used by naturopaths are described below:
Clinical Nutrition is a cornerstone of naturopathic medicine. It refers to both the practice of using food to maintain health and the therapeutic use of food to treat illness. Scientific research has shown that many medical conditions can be treated as effectively with food and nutritional supplements as they can by other means, with fewer complications and side effects.
Homeopathy is a powerful system of medicine that is more than 200 years old. This medical system uses highly diluted substances to cure illness. Homeopathic remedies act to enhance the body’s innate immune response and rarely have side effects. Some conditions that do not respond well to conventional medicine will respond to homeopathic therapies.
Botanical Medicine is the use of plants as medicine. Many plant substances are powerful medicines that are safe and effective when used properly. A resurgence of scientific research in Europe and Asia is demonstrating that some plant substances are superior to synthetic drugs in clinical conditions.
Counseling and Stress Management. Mental attitudes and emotional states can be important elements in healing illness. Naturopaths’ training includes counseling, nutritional balancing, stress management, hypnotherapy, biofeedback and other methods.
The Principles of Naturopathy
The Healing Power of Nature. Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing process in the person which is ordered and intelligent. Naturopaths act to identify and remove obstacles to healing and recovery, and to facilitate and augment this inherent self-healing process.
Identify and Treat the Causes. The naturopath seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness, rather than to merely eliminate or suppress symptoms.
First Do No Harm. Naturopaths follow three precepts to avoid harming the patient:
- Utilize methods and medical substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat.
- Avoid when possible the harmful suppression of symptoms.
- Acknowledge, respect and work with the individual’s self-healing process.
Doctor As Teacher. Naturopaths educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship.
Treat the Whole Person. Naturopaths treat each patient by taking into account individual physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development.
Prevention. Naturopaths emphasize the prevention of disease—assessing risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease and making appropriate interventions in partnership with their patients to prevent illness. Naturopathic medicine is committed to the creations of a healthy world in which humanity may thrive.
How is a Licensable Naturopath Trained?
Naturopathic medical colleges are four-year, graduate level medical schools with admissions requirements comparable to those of other medical schools. The Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree (ND) is awarded after classroom, clinic and practical study. NDs are trained in medical sciences including:
Throughout the four years, there is training in naturopathic therapeutics, including therapeutic nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, natural childbirth, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, naturopathic manipulative therapy, and other therapies.
The accrediting agency for naturopathic medical schools and programs in North America is the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME).
There are presently five colleges accredited by the CNME in North America:
How are Naturopaths Regulated?
Currently, 16 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands have licensing or registration laws for naturopathic doctors. In these states, naturopathic doctors are required to graduate from a four-year, residential naturopathic medical school and pass an extensive postdoctoral board examination in order to receive a license. Licensed naturopathic physicians must fulfill state-mandated continuing education requirements annually, and have a specific scope of practice defined by their state’s law. The jurisdictions that currently have regulatory boards permitting the practice of naturopathic medicine are as follows:
Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands
In its efforts to promote public health, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) provides referrals to licensable naturopathic doctors throughout the country. To locate a naturopathic physician in the United States go to www.naturopathic.org.