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 pediatric to prenatal to geriatric care.
A Naturopathic doctor (ND) is a primary care general practitioner trained as 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 strives 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 naturopathic doctor would focus on these causal factors. Naturopathic doctors cooperate with all other branches of medical science referring patients to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate.
Naturopathic physicians use food, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other nutritional supplements to stimulate a healing response and correct deficiencies caused by dietary or absorption limitations.
Medicinal plants and plant extracts from all over the world are used according to traditional and modern scientific principles. Naturopathic physicians are the only licensed health care providers fully trained in the use of botanical medicine.
This powerful system of medicine is based on the "law of similars" (like cures like). Specially prepared dilutions of substances are carefully matched with the patient to stimulate the body's innate healing forces.
Naturopathic physicians use the application of hydrotherapy, exercise therapy, massage, and manipulation of the bones, joints, muscles, and soft tissues.
Addressing all aspects of a person's life, including attitude, diet, exercise, habits, and coping with and avoiding occupational stress and environmental hazards. An ND is trained to support patients in releasing emotional issues that limit optimal health.
Naturopathic Physicians are Guided by Six Principles
This set of principles, emphasized throughout a naturopathic physician's training, outlines the philosophy guiding the naturopathic approach to health and healing and forms the foundation of this distinct health care practice.
Harness the Healing Power of Nature - Vis Medicatrix Naturae
The naturopathic physician works to restore and support the powerful and inherent healing abilities of the body, mind and spirit. Naturopathic medicine harnesses the vast potential of the natural world to stimulate the process of healing and prevent further disease from occurring.
First Do No Harm - Primum Non Nocere
The naturopathic physician chooses remedies and therapies that are safe and effective, to increase overall health and decrease harmful side effects.
Identify and Treat the Cause - Tolle Causam
The primary goal of the naturopathic physician is to determine and treat the underlying causes of illness, rather than simply managing the symptoms.
Treat the Whole Person - Holism
Each person is unique and requires individualized care. In treating the cause of any condition, the naturopathic physician takes into account not only a person's physical symptoms, but also the person who has the symptoms. Disease affects the entire person, not just a specific organ or system. Thoughts, feelings, lifestyle, family history, environmental stresses, nutritional status and general physical state are all carefully evaluated and addressed.
Educate - Docere
The naturopathic physician helps people understand health and illness, to give them the tools to live in balance and become responsible for their own health.
Maintain Health and Wellness
The naturopathic physician applies all of the above principles in a proactive form of prevention against the development of more serious chronic or degenerative diseases. Health is more than just the absence of disease. Optimum health entails daily functioning on the highest possible levels, and is characterized by positive emotions, thoughts and actions. The capacity for wellness is inherent in everyone.
A Little History
In the early part of the 20th century there were many naturopathic medical schools in the US as well as thousands of naturopathic physicians, and scores of thousands of patients using naturopathic therapies around the country. But by mid-century the rise of "technological medicine" and the discovery and increased use of "miracle drugs" like antibiotics were associated with the temporary decline of naturopathic medicine and most other methods of natural healing.
By the 1970's, the American public was becoming increasingly disenchanted with what had become "conventional medicine." The profound clinical limitations and its out-of-control costs were becoming obvious and the side effects of prescription drugs often took precedence over their benefits. Thus, millions of Americans were inspired to look for options and alternatives. Naturopathy, and all of complementary and alternative medicine, began to enter an era of rejuvenation.
Naturopathic Medicine Today
Today, more people than ever are seeking naturopathic medical care and naturopathic medical schools are growing at record rates to accommodate the increased demand for naturopathic education. Presently, there are three accredited four-year naturopathic medical programs and one pending accreditation in the United States, one program in Canada, which is accredited. Naturopathic medicine has an independent accrediting agency, the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME), which is the recognized authority for establishing and maintaining the educational standards for profession. A nationally standardized licensing exam (NPLEX) has been established, which is used in nearly all of the states, which currently license NDs. Currently, fourteen states license NDs (Utah, Arizona, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, California, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Hampshire and Vermont), plus Washington DC, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and four Canadian provinces. In these jurisdictions, NDs practice as independent general practitioners, with the ability to diagnose and treat medical conditions, perform physical exams, and order laboratory testing. In these states, many health care consumers specifically choose NDs as their primary care providers.
The national organization representing naturopathic physicians, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), is the driving force for the development of the profession. The AANP is instrumental in the development of the profession’s educational and practice standards, and to expanding awareness of the vital role naturopathic medicine has to play in the future of the health care system in the United States.
Today, naturopathic physicians are experiencing greater recognition as health care practitioners who are experts in the field of natural and preventive medicine, providing leadership in natural medical research, enjoying increasing political influence, and looking forward to an unlimited future potential. Both the American public and policy makers are recognizing and contributing to the resurgence of the comprehensive system of health care practiced by NDs.
During the 1990’s several states received licensure, enrollment in naturopathic medical programs more than doubled, two new naturopathic medical programs were started, the first publicly funded natural health care clinic was initiated, a naturopathic institution was designated as a NIH Office of Alternative Medicine research center, and two naturopathic physicians were appointed by the federal Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to the NIH’s Alternative Medicine Program Advisory Council (AMPAC).
As we enter the twenty-first century, the naturopathic profession finds itself well positioned for a new era in health care. With more and more research supporting the therapies used by naturopathic physicians, and the public demand for greater choice and increased access to more natural approaches to their health care, naturopathic medicine is poised to make the transition from “alternative” medicine to truly “mainstream” medicine.
Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
American Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges
Council on Naturopathic Medical Education
Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians
Alliance for State Licensing
International Naturopathic Students' Association
Naturopathic Medical Schools
Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine
National College of Naturopathic Medicine
Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine
The University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine