Mary & Michael Morton
(Excerpted from Five Steps to Selecting the Best Alternative
YOU KNOW THAT:
1983 the World Health Organization recommended the integration
of naturopathic medicine into conventional health care systems.2
1994 Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, a naturopathic
medical school, was awarded almost $1 million in research funds
from the National Institutes of Health's Office of Alternative
Medicine to research alternative therapies for patients with
HIV and AIDS.3
of accredited naturopathic medical colleges are required to
have more hours of study in basic sciences and clinical sciences
than graduates of Yale or Stanford medical schools.4
"anti-cancer" diet recognized by the National Cancer
Institute was first published in a naturopathic medical textbook
in the 1940s.5
of accredited naturopathic medical colleges receive more formal
training in therapeutic nutrition than M.D.'s, osteopathic physicians,
or registered dietitians.6
government of Germany now requires conventional doctors and
pharmacists to receive training in naturopathic techniques because
they have been found to be so cost-effective.7
there are over one thousand licensed practicing naturopathic
physicians (N.D.'s) in the United States.8
of August 1996, twelve states in the U.S. and five provinces
of Canada now license naturopathic doctors as primary-care physicians.
(It is projected that all fifty states will license naturopathic
physicians by the year 2010.)9
accredited colleges educate and train naturopathic doctors in
County Council in Seattle, Washington, established the nation's
first government-subsidized naturopathic
origin of naturopathy can be traced back to the ancient healing
arts of a variety of cultures. Still, as a formal system of
medicine and healing, it was developed in the United States
nearly one hundred years ago by Benjamin Lust.
heal in harmony with the natural functions of the body
without harm is the underlying principle of the naturopathic
system of medicine. The intent is to support the natural healing
potential of the human body as validated by modern scientific
research. It is this combination of the healing power of nature
and scientific methods that makes naturopathic medicine an important
system of medicine for today's health care.
medicine's basic principles are:
Utilize the healing power of nature
First, do no harm
Find the cause
Treat the whole person
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) more fully
describes these tenets as:
the Healing Power of Nature: Vis Medicatrix Naturae:
Nature acts powerfully through the healing mechanisms of the body
and mind to maintain and restore health. Naturopathic physicians
work to restore and support these inherent healing systems when
they have broken down, by using methods, medicines, and techniques
that are in harmony with natural processes.
Do No Harm: Prinum Non Nocere: Naturopathic
physicians prefer noninvasive treatments, which minimize the risks
of harmful side effects. They are trained to know which patients
they can treat safely, and which ones they need to refer to other
health care practitioners.
the Cause: Tolle Causam: Every illness
has an underlying cause, often an aspect of the lifestyle, diet,
or habits of the individual. A naturopathic physician is trained
to find and remove the underlying cause of a disease.
the Whole Person: Health or disease results from a complex
interaction of physical, emotional, dietary, genetic, environmental,
lifestyle, and other factors. Naturopathic physicians treat the
whole person, taking these factors into account.
Medicine: The naturopathic approach to health care can prevent
minor illnesses from developing into more serious, chronic, or
degenerative diseases. Patients are taught the principles with
which to live a healthy life; by following these principles, they
can prevent major illnesses.12
all, naturopathic physicians respect the natural healing power
present in all systems of the human body and they attempt to focus
and mobilize that power in their treatment process. N.D.'s have
found that this natural healing power, if effectively mobilized,
can destroy invading organisms, cast off toxins, as well as rebuild
strength and vitality. Dr. Stephen Speidel, an N.D. practicing
in Poulsbo, Washington, says, "A good example of how we in
naturopathic medicine use the healing force in the body is what
we do or don't do when a child has a fever. Often times a fever
is a way that the body rids itself of a bacteria that only grows
in certain temperatures.
parents say, 'My God, my child has a fever. We have to stop that
fever. Give him aspirin or Tylenol.' I tell them, 'Imagine that
your child has a helper, which is the immune system.' If you take
the aspirin, it's like taking a sledge hammer to your child's
immune system and saying, 'Be quiet and sit down!' And it will.
You'll win. That helper will be quiet and sit down. But your child
will stay sicker longer. There are a number of studies that show
antihistamines prolong the course of a cold. But if the fever
or cold is allowed to run its course, the body eliminates the
problem and the child gets healthy.13
role of a fever as healing process may seem strange to many health
care consumers who are used to using medications to eliminate
its presence. Yet, many systems of healing and medicine throughout
the world since ancient times have recognized the healing wisdom
of letting a fever run its course.
the principles of naturopathic medicine differ significantly from
conventional medicine's. In conventional medicine, relieving symptoms
is the primary focus. For example, in conventional medical treatment,
in the aforementioned case, the fever would be controlled or stopped
by drugs. Actually in most health care situations, the elimination
of symptoms is achieved through the use of drugs and, in some
may surprise some people to know that N.D.'s and M.D.'s have some
areas of common ground, namely their education. M.D.'s are schooled
in basic sciences and clinical sciences to prepare them for the
various illnesses and emergencies they will face during their
practice. N.D.'s are also well trained in all these sciences in
their education. But, unlike M.D.'s, they are also trained in
a variety of traditional natural therapeutics, including botanical
medicine, clinical nutrition, homeopathy, acupuncture, traditional
Chinese medicine, hydrotherapy, and naturopathic manipulative
learn how to integrate this diverse knowledge by combining their
conventional medical education with the goal of providing superior
health care in their practices. They weave their conventional
medical knowledge with the principles of naturopathic medicine
and its treatments to create a natural health care program tailored
for each individual patient.
the past few years, naturopathic medicine has won the respect
of federal and state government bodies, members of the conventional
medical community, educators, celebrities, the media, and an ever-increasing
number of American health care consumers. A main reason for naturopathic
medicine's rise in popularity is its common-sense use of simple
yet tremendously effective natural treatments. These treatments
Clinical nutrition has been one of the main cornerstones of naturopathic
medicine since its inception. Studies from around the world, in
a variety of medical traditions, have validated the benefits of
naturopathic's nutritional principles. A vast number of documented
cases of physical problems, including heart disease and diabetes,
have been helped by nutrition, without unpleasant side effects
theory suggests that most illnesses are caused by digestive disturbances,
which have led to a toxic environment in the body. As the body
is overwhelmed by toxins it cannot eliminate, the health or strength
of the body breaks down and symptoms of various illnesses surface.
Nutritional changes are a main component to changing the diseased
situation because today's processed foods and poor eating habits
are the source of many of the body's toxins.
treat chronic illnesses, many times nutritional changes are the
first step toward healing in naturopathic medicine. For example,
simple vegetable soups are often recommended because, as they
are easy to digest and assimilate, they provide the body with
vitamin and mineral nutrients without adding toxins to the body.
If nutritional therapy is the first cornerstone of naturopathic
medicine, then hydrotherapy is the second. Hydrotherapy improves
digestive function by bringing additional blood (and all of its
healing components) to the inner organs. The most common form
of hydrotherapy is called the "constitutional," where
two towels dipped in hot water, then squeezed, are placed on the
front of the patient for five minutes. The hot towels are replaced
with one cold towel for ten minutes. The same procedure is done
on the back of the patient. During the hot portion of the hydrotherapy,
the upper blood vessels are dilated while the deeper ones constrict.
The cold portion of the treatment constricts the outer blood vessels
but dilates the internal ones. The combination drives more blood
to both the inner and outer systems, allowing the body to bring
more healing nutrients to its organs and to carry away toxins.
Lust, considered the founder of naturopathic medicine, was cured
of tuberculosis through hydrotherapy. According to Jared Zeff,
N.D., L.Ac., former academic dean of the National College of Naturopathic
Medicine, hydrotherapy is often used to treat terminal illnesses,
such as cancer, as well as simple colds and infections.14
Zeff shares an example of how nutrition and hydrotherapy can be
used together to heal an arthritic condition:
man came to him with severe arthritis. This gentleman had artificial
knees, artificial finger joints, and artificial hip joints, and
he still had severe pain and swelling throughout his entire body.
Dr. Zeff recommended that he eat nothing in the next week except
vegetable soup (no potatoes) and to do hydrotherapy daily. Within
a few days, the man's arthritis pain had greatly decreased and
his swelling had decreased by 50 percent.
physicians often find that simple dietary changes and hydrotherapy
effectively treat many illnesses.
Homeopathy is used by many naturopaths and is a primary treatment
in their practices. Based on the "law of similars,"
it uses minuscule doses of naturally occurring substances to treat
illness. Naturopaths have found that homeopathy fits well into
their philosophical principles, since it stimulates the body's
own immune system without producing unpleasant side effects. It
is also documented to be effective for many illnesses, including
migraines, headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, acute diarrhea, flu,
history of homeopathy's use spans two hundred years. Many countries
embrace it as a viable healing treatment, including England, whose
Royal family retains the services of a homeopath for their personal
Herbs are used by naturopathic physicians as medicine. As such,
they can be extremely powerful and beneficial when used in the
right dosage and in the correct combination with other herbs.
herbs are the main ingredient for some of the drugs used in conventional
medicine, N.D.'s use herbs in a different manner than M.D.'s use
them. Most drugs prescribed by M.D.'s are intended to impose an
external order on the body. For example, a medicine prescribed
to lower blood pressure forces the body to lower the pressure
but doesn't correct the reason why the body has increased the
pressure in the first place. Therefore, many patients taking blood
pressure medicine as prescribed by a conventional medical doctor
must continue to take blood pressure medication for the rest of
their lives. Regrettably, the patient also endures the probable
side effects: impotency, sexual dysfunction, and nervousness.
contrast, an N.D.'s goal is not to impose an outside order but
to correct the underlying problem. In the case of a weakened heart,
an N.D. would accomplish this by using herbs that nourish and
strengthen the heart, such as hawthorne berry, or herbs that disperse
congestion or toxins in the body, such as dandelion root. When
strengthening and detoxification occur, a patient's vitality becomes
stronger, the root cause of the illness is addressed, and a permanent
recovery becomes possible.
the following story of a woman unable to move from the neck down:
She sought the help of Dr. Zeff for an unusual type of arthritis
called CNS Sjogrens Syndrome. Her symptoms included severe joint
pain as well as an autoimmune lesion on the brain stem. She had
the use of many of her muscles but was too weak to make them work
for her. Also, her condition was irregular. One day, several months
ago, she was able to walk, but for only three hours. This one
fact indicated to Dr. Zeff that, unlike patients with multiple
sclerosis, she didn't have nerve damage, and therefore had the
possibility of recovery.
Dr. Zeff's examination, he found that her temperature was consistently
94 degrees, which he considered to be the key to her recovery.
Dr. Zeff concluded that in order for her to heal, her body temperature
must go up. So he prescribed for her a combination of herbs that
were warming and improved blood flow. After a couple of weeks,
her temperature had risen to 96 and some days to 97 degrees. The
rise in temperature has resulted in more control of her hands,
greater ability to move her knees, and twice she has been able
to drive her own wheelchair. Dr. Zeff's goal with this patient
is to maintain a higher temperature to support her body's ability
to correct the under-lying causes of her condition.
The treatments and diagnostic techniques as well as the fundamentals
of Chinese medicine are a part of all naturopathic physician's
training at the accredited medical colleges. Some naturopaths
do advanced training and become licensed practitioners of Chinese
medicine, using Chinese herbs, acupuncture, and acupressure in
example, Dr. Zeff is also a licensed practitioner of Chinese medicine,
and recently used acupuncture to help in a difficult case. A man
came to Dr. Zeff with significant pain in his abdomen, which was
the site of a "bathrobe fire" ten years before. The
man had been through a number of conventional medical diagnostic
regimens to find out why he was still in pain. No matter what
they tried, the M.D.'s could not determine what exactly was causing
his pain. Dr. Zeff talked with this man for about an hour and,
from his conversation and examinations, surmised that the scarring
from the burn had disrupted the flow of chi along the meridians
in the area. As a result of this diagnosis, Dr. Zeff treated the
man with acupuncture in order to normalize the flow of chi in
the affected area.
the man had reclined on the treatment table, Dr. Zeff inserted
five acupuncture needles, two in each foot and one in a point
on the abdomen. After the insertion of the needles, the man first
reported that the needle in the abdomen hurt. Then he said he
felt movement and activity in the area. Then, after ten minutes,
he said that he felt no pain the first time in ten years.
techniques of Chinese medicine can bring impressive and surprising
results to many health care challenges and is considered an exceptional
treatment for acute and chronic pain.
Natural childbirth is offered by some naturopathic physicians
in either a home or a clinic environment. N.D.'s are trained in
natural prenatal and postnatal care involving noninvasive, nonpharmaceutical
treatments. Through their treatments and techniques, N.D.'s continuously
screen to make sure the mother and child are in a low-risk state.
One important screening involves monitoring the mother's diet
and supplements to ensure that the mother's inner nutrients are
sufficient to create a healthy, normal baby. Naturopathic theory
suggests that adequate nutrient levels in the mother minimize
physicians believe counseling is an important component of their
jobs as facilitators for childbirth care. Dr. Zeff says that he
requires the mother and partner to invite him and his assistant
to dinner. "One factor that we found that can significantly
disrupt a birth is the emotional state of the mother," he
says. "If, during our dinner time with the mother/couple,
we notice any significant stress, then we know that counseling
will be needed to minimize the mother's emotional distress so
that she can relax during labor and have a normal birth."15
use many different treatments during the various stages of gestation
and birth, including some that most conventional doctors are unfamiliar
with. For instance, some N.D.'s use homeopathy before labor begins
to help a breach baby turn to the correct "head-down"
position. In some cases, the homeopathic remedy Pulsatilla is
used when the baby is not yet in the right position for delivery.
Naturopathic physicians have seen that within twelve hours of
giving a dose of Pulsatilla to the mother, the baby turns by itself.
Another remedy used by naturopathic physicians is a preparation
of the herb cottonroot. This herb, usually given to the mother
in tincture form, helps bring the placenta down if she has not
delivered it within a normal time.
N.D.'s are well trained in most birthing situations, they are
also quick to refer mothers to the appropriate M.D. or hospital
if a risk is present that disqualifies the mother and child from
a natural childbirth experience.
and Stress Management
Naturopathic physicians believe the patient's emotional and psychological
makeup can greatly influence the patient's ability to heal. Therefore,
they are trained in many psychological techniques, including counseling,
stress management, hypnotherapy, biofeedback, and nutritional
Most people would be surprised to know that minor surgery is a
part of some naturopathic physicians' practices. In addition to
natural treatments of illnesses, N.D.'s are also trained to mend
surface wounds; to remove unwanted foreign masses, cysts, and
other superficial bodies with local anesthesia; as well as to
perform circumcisions, skin lesion removal, hemorrhoid surgery,
and setting of fractures.
Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient system of holistic medicine and
healing from India. Its focus is on treating the whole person
with diet, nutrition, and lifestyle recommendations. One of the
key components of this system of healing is an appreciation of
the role that one's vital energy, called "prana," plays
in the healing process. Bastyr University now offers a specialization
in this ancient system of medicine. As a result, some N.D.'s have
earned specialty degrees in ayurvedic medicine and have incorporated
it into their practices.
Naturopathic physicians use a combination of manipulative therapies,
which move soft tissue as well as skeletal bones. These are collectively
called naturopathic manipulative therapy and in some ways are
similar to the techniques used by osteopathic physicians, chiropractors,
massage therapists, and body workers in that structure is realigned
to support the innate healing process of the body.
all naturopathic doctors use this as a major component of their
practice. However, when other treatments fail to bring the desired
response, then manipulative therapies can be helpful.
gentleman who had tried a wide range of treatments to correct
the weakness and pain he felt in his own right arm went to his
N.D. for manipulative treatments. The N.D. found that the man
had a combination of muscle spasm from stress and spinal misalignment.
As a result, the nerve flow necessary for normal muscular activity
was being blocked. The N.D. treated this man with manipulative
therapy. The result: the gentleman felt better than he had in
of the spinal vertebrae as well as other skeletal structures can
be the cause of pain or even illness in some cases. The return
of vertebrae, bones, and joints to their optimal position can
eliminate pain in as little as one treatment.
had just arrived for a visit at the home of Rosalynd, an ill friend.
"Don't fill that prescription!" I remember her exclaiming
to her husband. She had just returned from her M.D.'s office.
Her voice riddled with frustration and anger, she continued, "I've
got cancer! Why would I use a lotion made with a carcinogen?!?"
was literally fighting for her life. Yet she couldn't get a decent
night's sleep because of the tremendous itching she felt from
the psoriasis that covered her upper body. To relieve her discomfort
from psoriasis, her M.D. had prescribed a lotion containing coal
tar derivatives. Many studies had verified that these derivatives
can cause cancer and Rosalynd was well aware of it. Unfortunately,
the prescribed lotion was her M.D.'s best solution.
her husband got ready for work, I calmed her down by assuring
her that we certainly wouldn't call the pharmacist to fill that
particular prescription and suggested that we think about another
solution to her psoriasis. Then Rosalynd and I remembered a doctor
she had seen before, Konrad Kail, N.D., a well-respected naturopathic
physician and at that time the newly elected president of the
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP). We hoped
he might have a better option.
phoned Dr. Kail and reminded him of Rosalynd's case. I described
the difficulty she was having sleeping from the itching of the
psoriasis and asked for his advice. He was well aware that she
was battling cancer and that her immune system was compromised.
He was also aware that she had chosen to work with a European
M.D. whose unique chemical treatment for cancer was unfamiliar
to him. Dr. Kail decided to respect Rosalynd's choice to work
with her M.D. on her cancer and therefore to treat only the symptom
of her psoriasis not the underlying cause of her illnesses.
relieve her itchy skin, he suggested a lotion that he developed
that had helped many of his other patients. I asked him for a
list of the ingredients, which he gladly shared with me (the main
ingredient being jojoba beans). He added, "You can be sure
there are no carcinogens in this lotion." Rosalynd began
using Dr. Kail's lotion. The following week she showed me that
the lotion was working. I noticed that the large red scaly patches
of skin on her arms and back were now smoother and a more natural
color. When I asked her how she was feeling, she smiled and reported
she was no longer kept awake by the terrible itching the psoriasis
had caused. Three weeks later, Rosalynd proudly showed me that
the psoriasis was completely gone.
think it's possible that had Rosalynd's M.D. known of a nontoxic
remedy, he would have offered it. I learned from this experience
that most traditional medical schools do not teach nontoxic, noninvasive
treatments. As a result, most M.D.'s are unaware of effective
options like the herbal lotion prescribed by Dr. Kail. Fortunately
I now know about naturopathic physicians. They are experts in
nontoxic, noninvasive treatments and when I have a health care
problem, I call them first.
Condition that Respond Well to Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic medicine is beneficial for a wide range of physical
illnesses and conditions. Naturopaths claim that their ability
to determine the underlying cause of the illness and to stimulate
the body's own healing ability is why their medicine can be so
effective where other systems of medicine are not.
area where modern naturopathic medicine has been very effective
is in the natural treatment of women's health problems. One series
of clinical research studies for women suffering from cervical
dysplasia (abnormal Pap smears) produced results in which of the
forty-three women in the study, thirty-eight returned to normal
Pap smears and normal tissue biopsy by using naturopathic medical
treatments. Naturopathic medical formulas are also effectively
being used as a natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy
excellent example of naturopathic medical principles in action
is the recent success of Dean Ornish, M.D., director of the Preventive
Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, in his work
with heart disease. Dr. Ornish found that his patients with chronic
coronary heart disease could actually reverse their conditions
without drugs or surgery, a concept that before his study was
not only discounted, but unheard of by the conventional medical
profession. This extraordinary feat was accomplished through an
extremely low-fat diet, stress reduction through meditation and
yoga practices, modest exercise, and weekly participation in an
emotional support group.17
Ornish's success validated naturopathic medicine's basic tenets
and treatment approaches. Not only that, healing through nutrition,
exercise, and stress management has now been recognized by many
insurance companies, who reimburse for Dr. Ornish's program as
an alternative to expensive and risky heart bypass surgery.
area where naturopathic medicine has proven to be effective is
in preventative medicine and health maintenance. "I think
the best position for N.D.'s is in the family practice,"
Dr. Kail says. "Naturopaths are the only physicians who have
primary skills in health/risk analysis and disease prevention.
We find that people do want more time with their physician, to
be educated, to be given less toxic therapies. Most people are
as yet unaware that naturopaths provide just those things."
Kail says some of the benefits of using a naturopathic doctor
are safer medicine, quicker recovery time, and, especially, prevention
of future illness. "I tell my patients what they can do at
home to keep themselves healthy," he says. "If we do
our job right, then they don't have to see a [conventional] doctor
as much. That saves money."17
given that naturopaths are trained in natural childbirth, with
their noninvasive and natural treatments, N.D.'s are able to avoid
many of the complications associated with childbirth. The result
is that births overseen by N.D.'s require far fewer cesarean sections
than with conventional medical care.
medicine, although effective, does have its limitations. "The
areas of expertise and efficacy of naturopathic medicine are not
the same as conventional medicine," Dr. Zeff explains. "Conventional
medicine excels in acute trauma care. We do not. If I were in
an automobile accident, I'd want them to take me to a hospital
where they can patch me up. The areas where I would not go to
a naturopath are acute trauma, childbirth emergency, and orthopedic
problems that require orthopedic surgery."19
medicine has been shown to be an effective approach for the treatment
of ear inflammations, infections, and respiratory illnesses, as
well as degenerative illnesses. Recently the National Institutes
of Health took note of naturopathic medicine's success with terminal
diseases and granted Bastyr University almost $1 million to research
the effects of alternative therapies on HIV and AIDS patients.
Leanna Standish, N.D., Ph.D., research director at Bastyr University
of Natural Health Sciences and advisor to the Office of Alternative
Medicine, states that initial research has found enhanced immune
response and a decline in the progression of AIDS, when compared
to the control study who only received conventional medical therapy.20
patients need help in health maintenance or a reversal of a devastating
disease, naturopathic medicine is a viable option worthy of consideration.
If you decide to try the skills and expertise of a naturopathic
physician, use the following questions to help you make your decision.
to Step Two: Get Good Referrals
The best referral source for licensed naturopathic physicians
who have graduated from an accredited four-year naturopathic medical
college is the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
(AANP). For a small fee, they will send you a list of qualified
members who have satisfied their stringent requirements.
to Step Three: Screen the Candidates
Once you have a few naturopathic physicians to investigate, call
their offices and ask to speak to someone on the staff. Asking
well-targeted questions can assist you in determining if this
is a good doctor for you. Here are a few suggestions:
your practitioner is a well-trained, licensed N.D. assures a dependable
level of competence. Someone who does not have that background
can certainly be a risky choice and must be thoroughly investigated
before beginning treatment.
the naturopath have experience with my condition?
Find out how many patients with your health care problem this
doctor has successfully helped. The higher the number of successes
by the naturopath, the better for you. Ask to talk to some of
those patients. Make sure all your questions about their background,
training, and expertise have been answered to your satisfaction
before beginning treatment.
is the doctor's specialty?
In most cases, in naturopathic medicine the answer to this question
will be given in the types of treatment the N.D. specializes in
rather than in specific physical conditions. Dr. Zeff explains,
"We don't tend to specialize in systems like medical conventional
doctors do, but we tend to create affinities for various therapeutic
methods."21 For instance, due to Dr. Kail's training
in conventional medicine, he tends to prescribe antibiotics to
avoid bacterial complications, while Dr. Jared Zeff, who is also
a licensed acupuncturist, tends to use more alternative treatments.
the doctor use health care techniques not taught in his or her
formal training at medical school? If so, what are they, what
training has the doctor had in them, and how long have they used
them in practice?
medical education includes a wide variety of alternative health
care modalities, but not all. Make sure your doctor is well trained
in any technique that he or she may recommend for your recovery.
Check for credit hours, board certifications, and certificates
my insurance cover naturopathic care?
There are about seventy health insurance companies that cover
naturopathic medical fees at this time. Most naturopathic offices
carry a list of insurance carriers that cover naturopathic medicine
and should be able to verify whether your insurance company will
reimburse you for their services.
this N.D. licensed?
At this writing, there are twelve states that license N.D.'s as
primary-care providers: Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida,
Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont,
and Washington. It is believed that by the year 2010, all fifty
states will license naturopathic physicians.
to Step Four: Interview the Candidate
During an interview with a naturopathic physician, find out the
personal philosophy of the naturopath. "I would need to know
that I could trust the doctor and if they were well trained,"
Dr. Zeff suggests. "I would talk to them about what their
ideas are about the nature of disease, the nature of my problem,
and what approach they would take to improve it. I would ask how
long I could expect improvement to take and what kinds of costs
are involved. The most important thing is to get a sense of who
this person is, what they have to offer, as well as their credentials.
You are an individual. So choose someone who fits with you."24
you're looking for an N.D. who is caring and capable, you may
find your search fairly easy since naturopathic physicians value
the healing power that can happen in the relationship between
doctor and patient. Most take the time and effort to develop a
good rapport with their patients.
to Expect During a Naturopathic Medical Appointment
Naturopathic physicians use specific treatment(s) that can include
homeopathy, Ayurveda, and Chinese medicine, or the traditional
naturopathic approach of nutrition, herbology, and hydrotherapy
in their practices. These "specialties," in addition
to the specific health condition of the patient, make a session
with each naturopath a unique experience. However, there are some
standard procedures that all naturopathic physicians use.
Most N.D.'s send questionnaires to new patients that ask many
personal health history questions. During a first visit, which
usually lasts about an hour and a half, these questionnaires are
reviewed. In addition, the N.D. will ask many lifestyle questions
regarding diet, vitamin and mineral supplements taken, sleep patterns,
work conditions, smoking habits, and sugar and coffee intake.
In addition, some standard medical diagnostic tests are administered,
such as a physical exam, and blood and urine tests.
naturopathic physicians also add to the first visit tests such
as the Heidelberg test, which measures digestive dysfunction through
gauging stomach acidity, and the urine indican test, which measures
levels of toxemia.
Kail, both an N.D. and a physician's assistant, describes some
differences between a visit to an M.D. and an N.D. "I found
the N.D.'s do the same basic diagnosis as the M.D.'s," he
says. "Naturopathic physicians go a step further and add
more examinations than the typical medical doctors. For instance,
digestion analysis, spinal screening, disease prevention, diet,
and stress factors."25
an N.D. has made a diagnosis, the treatments prescribed will be
based on the N.D.'s adherence to the fundamental principles of
naturopathic medicine and to their specialty. Sometimes N.D.'s
will give their patients a choice of treatments if they have a
preference. "If I see a patient who has pain in his arms
because his neck is out of alignment," Dr. Kail says, "I
explain to them that we can do spinal adjustments, acupuncture,
homeopathy, or we can do all three. Then I wait for their choice."26
follow-up visits with an N.D. last between thirty and forty-five
minutes and involve a continuation of the treatment plan as well
as an evaluation of progress.
According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
[AANP], sessions with naturopathic physicians are about half the
cost of visiting an M.D. Because naturopaths primarily rely on
their own diagnostic skills, costs for extensive tests are usually
minimal. This can substantially reduce the cost of naturopathic
naturopathic physicians are well trained in preventative medicine.
Many insurance companies are realizing the long-term savings of
keeping their plan members healthy. Naturopathic physicians excel
at preventative medical techniques and can pass those long-term
savings on to you.
office visits are usually between $75 and $100 and follow-ups
are in the range of $35 - $50. The prescribed supplements are
usually vitamin, mineral, herbal, and/or homeopathic. Each of
these supplements are far less expensive than prescriptions filled
at the pharmacy. However, in the states of Arizona, Oregon, and
Washington, N.D.'s are licensed to prescribe antibiotics, thyroid
medicine, progesterone, as well as other drugs that may end up
costing you more.
As mentioned above, a growing number of insurance companies have
recognized the value of preventative health care, a specialty
of naturopathic medicine. For this reason, naturopathic medicine
is being covered by more and more insurance plans. If you are
fortunate enough to live in the states of Connecticut or Washington,
naturopathic medical coverage is mandatory by law from all health
a list of insurance carriers that cover naturopathic medicine,
call the AANP or your local naturopathic physician's office. Many
N.D.'s carry a list of insurance providers who cover their services.
insurance plan that has given special attention to naturopathic
coverage is American Western Life Insurance Company of Foster
City, California. Their "Wellness" medical director,
Marcel Hernandez, is an N.D. American Western Life provides a
twenty-four-hour hot line where you can talk directly to a licensed
naturopathic physician at any time, day or night. In addition,
they cover all naturopathic treatments, including homeopathy,
nutritional counseling, Ayurveda, massage, and physical therapy.
Education, Training and Licensing
Naturopathic physicians are well educated in the basic clinical
sciences as well as natural and alternative diagnostic and treatment
methods. According to the American Association of Naturopathic
Physicians, "Naturopathic physicians (N.D.'s) are general
practitioners trained as specialists in natural medicine. They
are educated in the conventional medical sciences, but they are
not orthodox medical doctors (M.D.'s). Naturopathic physicians
treat disease and restore health using therapies from the sciences
of clinical nutrition, herbal medicine, homeopathy, physical medicine,
exercise therapy, counseling, acupuncture, natural childbirth,
and hydrotherapy. They tailor these approaches to the needs of
an individual patient."27
of accredited four-year naturopathic medical schools are justifiably
proud of their education. "Essentially, naturopathic medical
training is similar to conventional medical training," Dr.
Zeff explains. "The first two years are virtually the same
as any medical school: anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry,
etc. They are taught at the same level as any other medical school.
If you look at the number of hours in our classroom situation,
you'll find in most cases the number of hours we spend exceeds
most medical schools." He adds, "We are required fifteen
hundred hours of clinical education as a minimum to graduate from
the school. This is under the supervision of naturopathic doctors."28
Medical educators and legislators have been impressed with the
high standard of education required of naturopathic physicians.
There are currently twelve states in the U.S. and five provinces
in Canada that license naturopathic doctors as primary care physicians:
Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Montana,
New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Alberta, British
Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. All other states
in the U.S. have licensable, trained naturopaths practicing. In
these states, many N.D.'s who graduated from an accredited four-year
college opt to apply for licenses in other health care modalities,
such as acupuncture or chiropractic, in order to stay protected
by law. Others choose to practice without protection of the law.
In most states, naturopathic medicine is "alegal" (neither
"legal" nor "illegal"). In these states, naturopathic
medicine is neither protected nor regulated. Regrettably, this
can be somewhat confusing for the health care consumer.
Massey, N.D., says, "When I was in North Carolina, there
must have been thirty people practicing as N.D.'s. Only four of
them had been to four-year medical schools. You could pay $25
and set up a tax I.D. number and start practicing immediately.
You'd have to kill somebody before they'd come after you for practicing
without a license. It isn't fair to the public to be duped by
these people with the phony initials after their names."29
to protect yourself and your health, call the American Association
of Naturopathic Physicians. They represent the largest contingency
of licensed naturopathic physicians who have graduated from an
naturopathic physicians are filling an important need as primary
health care providers who are experts in nontoxic, noninvasive
treatments. As highly skilled and well educated about the human
body as graduates of Stanford or Yale medical schools, they bring
the best of ancient natural treatments and scientific research
to their medicine. Naturopathic medicine could serve you as well
as the growing number of Americans who are calling their naturopathic
physician first for their health care needs.
Senator Claiborne Pell. Personal letter to Mrs. Hillary Rodham
Clinton, March 31, 1993.
2. Burton Goldberg. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide
(Future Medicine Publishing, 1993), 360.
3. Bastyr University press release, October 4, 1994.
4. "Naturopathic and Major Medical Schools, Comparative Curricula."
Document from the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.
5. "Twenty Questions About Naturopathic Medicine." Document
from the American Association of Naturopathic Medicine.
6. "Naturopathic and Major Medical Schools: Comparative Curricula."
Document from the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.
7. William Collinge. The American Holistic Health Association
Complete Guide to Alternative Medicine (Warner Books, 1996), 125.
8. NIH. Alternative Medicine: Expanding Medical Horizons (U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1993), 88.
9. American Association of Naturopathic Physicians brochure.
11. Bastyr University press release, February 27, 1995.
12. American Association of Naturopathic Physicians brochure.
13. Stephen Speidel, N.D. Personal interview, Summer 1990.
14. Jared Zeff, N.D., L.Ac., Personal interview, June 1996.
16. NIH. Alternative Medicine: Expanding Medical Horizons (U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1993), 89.
17. Dean Ornish, M.D. Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing
Heart Disease (Ivy Books, 1996).
18. Konrad Kail, N.D. Personal interview, Fall 1990.
19. Jared Zeff, N.D., L.Ac. Personal interview, June 1996.
20. "NIH Exploratory Study Coordination Centers for Alternative
Medical Research." NIH Office of Alternative Medicine press
release, June 1995.
21. Jared Zeff, N.D., L.Ac. Personal interview, June 1996.
22. Jim Massey, N.D. Personal interview, August 1990.
23. Yvonne Sklar. Personal correspondence, July 1996.
24. Jared Zeff, N.D., L.Ac. Personal interview, June 1996.
25. Konrad Kail, N.D. Personal interview, Fall 1990.
27. American Association of Naturopathic Physicians brochure.
28. Jared Zeff, N.D., L.Ac. Personal interview, June 1996.
29. Jim Massey, N.D. Personal interview, Summer 1990.