Twenty Questions About Naturopathic Medicine

  1. Is naturopathic medicine new?
  2. No. Naturopathic medicine in the U.S has grown out of medical traditions from throughout the world, both ancient and modern. The majority of states have licensed naturopathic medicine at different times since its formation as a distinct American medical profession in 1902. Naturopathic medicine continues to grow and evolve, incorporating advances in diverse medical disciplines throughout the world.

  3. How is naturopathic medicine different from conventional medicine?
  4. The main difference is in philosophical approach. Naturopathic physicians treat patients by restoring overall health rather than suppressing a few key symptoms. Naturopathic physicians are more concerned with finding the underlying cause of a condition and applying treatments that work in alliance with the natural healing mechanisms of the body rather than against them. Naturopathic treatments result less frequently in adverse side effects, or in the chronic conditions that inevitably arise when the cause of disease is left untreated.

  5. In what ways are naturopathic and conventional physicians alike?
  6. The academic training in medical sciences of naturopathic and conventional physicians is similar. Both study modern physical, clinical and laboratory diagnosis. Both can diagnose a disease and predict its course. Naturopathic physicians also perform minor surgery, and prescribe some drugs. Both naturopathic and conventional physicians refer patients to other health care practitioners when appropriate.

  7. What treatments does a naturopathic physician employ?
  8. Naturopathic physicians use therapies such as clinical nutrition, dietary and lifestyle modification, counseling, medical herbalism, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, exercise therapy, oriental medicine, natural childbirth, minor surgery, and limited drug therapy. They apply these according to the naturopathic principles mentioned in question two.

  9. How are these treatments applied?
  10. Naturopathic physicians consider the whole patient when treating illness. They work with the patient to determine the true cause of the illness, and apply their therapies in a way to restore overall health. They use therapies which themselves have little potential to cause harm. They may at times use palliative treatments or suppress symptoms, but only in he overall context of overall health restoration. Conventional doctors could conceivably adopt some naturopathic remedies, but MDs are not trained to apply them in a naturopathic way.

  11. Are naturopathic physicians opposed to drugs and surgery?
  12. No. Naturopathic physicians are not opposed to invasive or suppressive measures when these methods are necessary. They make referrals for such treatment when appropriate. Naturopathic medicine has both safer and less expensive alternatives to many kinds of non-emergency surgery.

  13. What is the education of a naturopathic physician?
  14. Naturopathic physicians (ND) receive undergraduate training in standard premedical courses, followed by four years of graduate level medical studies. The first two years – like those of an orthodox MD – are in basic medical sciences. The second two years emphasize clinical training in naturopathic therapeutics, described in question number four. Naturopathic physicians are clinically trained in a primary care outpatient setting rather than in a hospital. Their training leads to an ND degree – Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine.

  15. Are naturopathic medical programs accredited?
  16. Yes. The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) is the accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Students attending programs accredited or recognized as candidates for accreditation by the CNME are eligible for federal educational loans.

  17. Where are naturopathic physicians licensed?
  18. Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington all license naturopathic physicians. However, doctors of Naturopathic Medicine practice in all states, sometimes under other medical licenses and sometimes with a scope of practice substantially less than their training. There are 24 state naturopathic medical associations in the U.S.

    The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) supports legislation to license ND’s in all states in order to distinguish properly trained physicians from lesser trained individuals who may present a danger to the public.

  19. Are there other kinds of "NDs" in the U.S.?
  20. Yes. Unfortunately, some people obtain questionable ND degrees from brief correspondence courses, short seminars, or from schools that give credit for life experience but which do not require clinical training. Such degrees are usually not recognized by state degree-authorizing bodies. State naturopathic licensing boards currently require graduation from a four-year naturopathic medical college for licensing.

    AANP membership is limited to individuals who are eligible for licensing in states which issue licenses.

  21. Is naturopathic medicine covered by insurance?
  22. Yes. More than 90 insurance carriers cover naturopathic medicine in the U.S. and Canada. State legislatures in Connecticut and Alaska have mandated insurance reimbursement for medically necessary and appropriate naturopathic medical services.

  23. Is naturopathic medicine cost-effective?
  24. Yes. Because naturopathic physicians have alternatives to some expensive high-tech procedures, and because their preventive approach reduces the incidence of high-cost chronic conditions, naturopathic practice reduces both immediate and long-tem health care costs.

  25. Is naturopathic medicine safe?
  26. Yes. The safety records in states with review boards is excellent. Naturopathic physicians can purchase malpractice insurance at extremely low rates. As indicated by such rates, the chance of being injured through malpractice is low

  27. Is naturopathic medicine scientific?
  28. Yes. Naturopathic medicine has its own unique body of knowledge, evolved and refined for centuries. It also incorporates scientific advances from medical disciplines throughout the world.

    Many of the individual therapies of naturopathic medical practice have been scientifically validated, especially in the areas of clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, immunology and hydrotherapy. The trend is that those naturopathic methods which are tested are validated. More detailed information is available from the AANP.

    The research departments of naturopathic medical colleges also conduct ongoing research, exploring experimental models appropriate to the eclectic and individualized approach of naturopathic practice. They have also produced state-of-the-art double-blind and placebo-controlled studies, published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

  29. Has conventional medicine adopted methods from the naturopathic body of knowledge?
  30. Yes. Especially in the areas of nutrition, diet, exercise therapy, and mind-body correlations. The dangers of fats, oils and refined sugars; the benefits of fiber, whole foods, and some medicinal plants; the value of exercise; and the influence of mental and emotional attitudes on health are all part of the naturopathic body of knowledge. Some of this knowledge has been incorporated into conventional medicine in the last few years.

  31. What is the status of naturopathic medicine in other countries?
  32. No exact counterpart to American naturopathic medicine exists in other countries. (Standards are higher in the U.S.). Naturopathic methods and approaches are growing in popularity worldwide, especially in Europe and Asia, among both conventional and alternative practitioners. These methods often have government support and insurance reimbursement.

  33. What is the position of naturopathic medicine on immunization?
  34. Immunization is part of the naturopathic medical curriculum, and vaccination is included in the scope of practice in some naturopathic licensing laws in the U.S. In practice, most naturopathic physicians follow a policy of informing the patient of the possible risks and benefits of each type of immunization, and allowing the patient to decide. This practice is similar to that recommended by the U.S. Center for Disease Control. The naturopathic physician may also recommend for or against immunization on the basis of an individual’s medical history and overall health status.

  35. How do ND’s interact with other health professionals?
  36. ND’s refer to other health care providers such as MD’s, MD specialists, DO’s, psychotherapists, acupuncturists, and chiropractors when appropriate. Most naturopathic practices have extensive cross-referrals to and from other practitioners.

  37. Do naturopathic physicians practice natural childbirth?
  38. All ND’s are trained in basic obstetrics. Some elect to get the further training necessary for licensing to practice home birth. Licensing laws vary from state to state.

  39. Do naturopathic physicians practice acupuncture and oriental medicine?

Sometimes. Laws vary from state to state. All ND’s take courses in oriental medicine. Some get extra training and may be licensed separately as acupuncturists.

Source: American Association of Naturopathic Physicians