|Principles of Healing
The practice of naturopathic medicine emerges from six
principles of healing. These principles are based on the objective
observation of the nature of health and disease and are examined
continually in light of scientific analysis.
These principles stand as the distinguishing marks of the profession:
The healing power of nature -- vis medicatrix naturae
The body has the inherent ability to establish, maintain,
and restore health. The healing process is ordered and intelligent;
nature heals through the response of the life force. The physician’s
role is to facilitate and augment this process, to identify and
remove obstacles to health and recovery, and to support the creation
of a healthy internal and external environment.
Identify and treat the cause -- tolle causam
Illness does not occur without cause. Underlying causes of
disease must be discovered and removed or treated before a person
can recover completely from illness. Symptoms are expressions
of the body’s attempt to heal, but are not the cause of
disease; therefore, naturopathic medicine addresses itself primarily
to the underlying causes of disease, rather than to the symptoms.
Causes may occur on many levels, including physical, mental-emotional,
and spiritual. The physician must evaluate fundamental underlying
causes on all levels, directing treatment at root causes as well
as seeking relief of symptoms.
First do no harm -- primum no nocere
The process of healing includes the generation of symptoms,
which are, in fact, expressions of the life force attempting to
heal itself. Therapeutic actions should be complementary to and
synergistic with this healing process. The physician’s actions
can support or antagonize the actions of vis medicatrix naturae;
therefore, methods designed to suppress symptoms without removing
underlying causes are considered harmful and are avoided or minimized.
Treat the whole person -- in perturbato animo sicut in corpore
sanitas esse non potest
Health and disease are conditions of the whole organism,
involving a complex interaction of physical, spiritual, mental,
emotional, genetic, environmental, and social factors. The physician
must treat the whole person by taking all of these factors into
account. The harmonious functioning of all aspects of the individual
is essential to recovery from and prevention of disease, and requires
a personalized and comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment.
The physician as teacher -- docere
Beyond an accurate diagnosis and appropriate prescription,
the physician must work to create a healthy, sensitive interpersonal
relationship with the patient. A cooperative doctor-patient relationship
has inherent therapeutic value. The physician’s major role
is to educate and encourage the patient to take responsibility
for his or her own health. The physician is a catalyst for healthful
change, empowering and motivating the patient to assume responsibility.
It is the patient, not the doctor, who ultimately creates or accomplishes
healing. The physician must strive to inspire hope as well as
understanding. The physician must also make a commitment to her/his
personal and spiritual development.
Prevention -- principiis obsta: sero medicina curatur
The ultimate goal of naturopathic medicine is prevention.
This is accomplished through education and promotion of lifestyle
habits that foster good health. The physician assesses risk factors
and hereditary susceptibility to disease and makes appropriate
interventions to avoid further harm and risk to the patient. The
emphasis is on building health rather than on fighting disease.
Because it is difficult to be healthy in an unhealthy world, it
is the responsibility of both physician and patient to create
a healthier environment in which to live.
History of Naturopathic Medicine
The roots of naturopathic medicine go back thousands
of years, drawing on the healing wisdom of many cultures including
Indian (Ayurvedic), Chinese (Taoist), Greek (Hippocratic), Arabian,
Egyptian, and European (monastic medicine) traditions.
With the age of scientific inquiry, medicine took on exciting
dimensions and developed new tools for fighting disease. In fact,
many older time-tested healing and health maintenance methods
were discarded at a rapid rate as doctors began treating disease
almost solely with surgery and drugs.
Some practitioners in Europe and America, however, perceived
that valuable, empirically proven natural therapies were being
lost, and struggled to retain the practice of promoting health
through stimulation of the vital force and the rational use of
As a distinct American health care profession, naturopathic medicine
is 100 years old, tracing its origins to Dr. Benedict Lust and
Dr. Robert Foster. Dr. Lust came to the United States from Germany
to practice and teach the hydrotherapy techniques popularized
by Sebastian Kneipp in Europe.
A committee of Kneipp practitioners met in 1900 and determined
that the practice should be expanded to incorporate all natural
methods of healing, including botanical medicines, nutritional
therapy, physiotherapy, psychology (mind-body connection), homeopathy
and the manipulative therapies. They called their profession “Naturopathy.”
The first school of naturopathy was founded by Dr. Lust in New
York City and graduated its first class in 1902. During the same
period, Dr. Foster founded a similar institution in Idaho that
trained the early naturopathic pioneers responsible for establishing
licensing laws in Oregon and Washington states.
Naturopathic medical conventions in the 1920s attracted more
than 10,000 naturopathic physicians. There were more than 20 naturopathic
medical colleges, and N.D.s were licensed in a majority of states.
Naturopathic medicine experienced a decline in the 1940s and ’50s
with the rise of pharmaceutical drugs, technological medicine,
and the idea that drugs could eliminate all disease. As one after
another N.D. degree program closed down, National College of Naturopathic
Medicine was founded to keep the medicine alive. The drop-off
in popularity was so steep that during its first 20 years, National
College of Naturopathic Medicine graduated only 70 students. From
its founding in 1956 until 1979, when three of its alumni founded
John Bastyr College (now Bastyr University) in Seattle, it was
the only naturopathic college in the U.S.
While naturopathic medicine has been present in the United States
for a century, National College of Naturopathic Medicine, the
oldest accredited naturopathic medical school in North America,
is less than half as old. NCNM has been at the center of the profession,
preserving and extending the legacy of naturopathic medicine,
founded by those who started practice in the 1920s and ’30s,
and training those who would follow them generations later. The
profession has experienced a resurgence in the past two decades
as a health-conscious public has sought alternatives for conditions
that conventional medicine has not adequately addressed.
Since the late 1970s, three more naturopathic colleges have opened,
and National College of Naturopathic Medicine’s enrollment
has quadrupled. This growth is in direct response to the changing
needs of our society; not only is the public demanding a medical
model in which the individual plays a more active role in her/his
health and healing process, but doctors also want a medical model
that is more patient-centered and holistic.
NCNM is alma mater to more than 1200 naturopathic physicians
who practice in nearly every state and province and many foreign
countries. Many are nationally recognized spokespersons and teachers
as well as successful physicians who have gone on to found new
naturopathic colleges. National College of Naturopathic Medicine
alumni have also founded professional associations to promote
and expand naturopathic medicine. This is an exciting time to
join the profession and help make history in the field of naturopathic
Scope of Practice
The scope of practice of naturopathic physicians (N.D.s)
varies by jurisdiction. Currently, eleven states, Puerto Rico,
and five Canadian provinces license naturopathic physicians. Several
of these jurisdictions regard N.D.s as primary care physicians
and provide them with the scope of diagnostic and therapeutic
privileges necessary to be the doctor first seen by the patient
for general health care, for advice on keeping healthy, and for
the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic conditions. In
those jurisdictions in which N.D.s are not licensed, the scope
of practice excludes the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
The naturopathic physician is defined by the U.S. Department
of Labor as one who “diagnoses, treats, and cares for patients,
using a system of practice that bases its treatment of all physiological
functions and abnormal conditions on natural laws governing the
body, utilizes physiological, psychological and mechanical methods,
such as air, water, heat, earth, phytotherapy (treatment by use
of plants), electrotherapy, physiotherapy, minor surgery, mechanotherapy,
naturopathic corrections and manipulation, and all natural methods
or modalities, together with natural medicines, natural processed
foods, herbs, and natural remedies.
Excludes major surgery, therapeutic use of x-ray and radium,
and prescribing of drugs, except those assimilable substances
containing elements or compounds which are compounds of body tissues
and are physiologically compatible to body processes for maintenance
The therapeutic modalities used by N.D.s are described below.
It should be noted that the state of Utah requires a one-year
residency before licensing N.D.s. Like other physicians, recently
graduated N.D.s are encouraged to seek additional clinical experience
under the supervision of a licensed physician, in the form of
residencies and mentorships.
Botanical Medicine: Many plant substances are powerful medicines.
Where isolated chemically derived drugs may address only a single
problem, botanical medicines are able to address a variety of
problems simultaneously. When properly utilized, most botanical
medicines can be applied effectively with minimal likelihood of
Clinical Nutrition: Food is the best medicine and is a cornerstone
of naturopathic practice. Many medical conditions can be treated
more effectively with foods and nutritional supplements than they
can by other means, with fewer complications and side effects.
N.D.s use diet, natural hygiene, fasting, and nutritional supplementation
in their practices.
Homeopathic Medicine: Homeopathic medicine is based on the principle
of “like cures like.” Clinical observation indicates
that it works on a subtle, yet powerful, energetic level, gently
acting to promote healing on the physical, mental, and spiritual
Mind/Body Medicine: Mental attitudes and emotional states may
influence, or even cause, physical illness. Counseling, nutritional
balancing, stress management, hypnotherapy, biofeedback, and other
therapies are used to help patients heal psychologically.
Minor Surgery: Naturopathic physicians do in-office minor surgery,
including repair of superficial wounds and removal of foreign
bodies, cysts, and superficial lesions.
Naturopathic Obstetrics/midwifery: Naturopathic physicians provide
natural childbirth care in an out-of-hospital setting. They offer
prenatal and postnatal care using modern diagnostic techniques
combined with ancient midwifery wisdom. The naturopathic approach
strengthens healthy body functions so that complications associated
with pregnancy may be prevented.
Oriental Medicine: Within the N.D. program, Oriental medicine
is a healing philosophy that is complementary to naturopathic
medicine. Oriental medical theory offers an important understanding
of the unity of the body and mind and adds to the Western understanding
Physical Medicine: Naturopathic medicine has its own methods
of therapeutic manipulation of soft tissue, muscles, bones, and
spine. N.D.s also use ultrasound, diathermy, exercise, massage,
water, heat and cold, and gentle electrical therapies.
Naturopathic practice also includes the use of any medical substances
which contain elements that are components of bodily tissues or
can be utilized by the body for the maintenance of life and the
repair of tissues. All methods of diagnostic testing and imaging
are used, including x-ray and ultrasound. The current scope of
practice excludes major surgery and the use of many synthetic
“Scope of practice” is specifically defined by the
legislation in the various states and provinces that license or
regulate naturopathic medicine, and practice varies significantly
among states, provinces, and countries.
Program of Study for Naturopathic Doctors
The N.D. degree course of study at National College of
Naturopathic Medicine is an intensive four-year doctoral program
that prepares candidates for state board licensing examinations
and the general practice of naturopathic medicine. Upon graduation,
alumni are eligible to sit for board examinations in states and
provinces that license naturopathic physicians. The core, or required,
curriculum provides the foundation and skills necessary for naturopathic
First year comprises the study of the normal structure and function
of the body with a solid introduction to naturopathic theory,
philosophy, and therapeutics.
Second year focuses on the study of disease and diagnosis with
the beginning of the botanical, therapeutic manipulation, clinical
nutrition, and homeopathic medicine sequences. To enter into the
clinical training of the third year, students must pass all basic
sciences and diagnostic courses as well as a clinic entrance examination.
Third year continues with focus on the botanical, manipulation,
clinical nutrition, and homeopathic medicine sequences, begins
the organ systems courses (which emphasize case management), and
gives major emphasis to clinical training. Students must pass
a clinical primary status exam to proceed in the clinic.
Fourth year continues the organ systems courses. The major focus
of the fourth year is practical clinical training, working side
by side with licensed physicians caring for patients. A clinic
proficiency exam ensures clinical competency prior to graduation.
Because the program is rigorous and the course load heavy, students
may choose to complete the N.D. degree in five rather than four
years. In some cases, students may be required to be in the five-year
track. The student may take no more than seven years to complete
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