Naturopathic medicine is a general practice field, though many naturopaths develop specialties and areas of emphasis. Such medicine is complementary to conventional medicine and dedicated to the study and celebration of holistic health and healing, covering all aspects of family health from prenatal to geriatric care. It blends centuries-old natural, non-toxic therapies with cutting-edge advances in medical science, and is committed to empowering patients to retain control over their health and wellbeing.
Naturopathic medicine concentrates on whole-patient wellness; the medicine is tailored to the patient and emphasizes prevention and self care. Naturopathic medicine attempts to locate and treat the underlying cause of the patient’s condition rather than focusing solely on symptomatic treatment.
Naturopathic physicians are primary care physicians clinically trained in natural therapeutics and whose philosophy is derived in part from the 2000-year-old Hippocratic teaching (vis mediatrix naturae) that nature is the healer of all diseases. Their practice is based on same bio-medical science foundation that conventional practice is; however, their treatment philosophies and approaches differ considerably.
While naturopathic physicians and conventional physicians share common diagnostic methods, naturopathic physicians treat patients using natural therapies such as physical manipulation, clinical nutrition, herbal medicine, homeopathy, counseling, acupuncture, and hydrotherapy. They choose treatment based on the individual patient, not based on the generality of symptoms.
Naturopathic physicians spend a great deal more time with their patients. Like conventional family doctors, many naturopathic physicians have the credentials to prescribe medication and make a full range of treatment decisions, but focus on developing a collaborative relationship with the patient, with the goal of empowering them to steer and improve their own health with greater independence from professional treatment.
Naturopathic physicians cooperate with all other branches of medical science, referring patients to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate. This approach has proven successful in treating both chronic and acute conditions.
With shared roots in the rigorous science of medical evidence and time-tested wisdom about the nature of health and healing, naturopathic medicine is guided by the following six principles of healing:
The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)
The human body is inherently able to restore and maintain health. The physician’s role is to support the body’s innate abilities with natural, non-toxic therapies, and to assist the patient in creating a healthy environment and lifestyle.
Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle Causam)
Symptoms are viewed as expressions of the body’s natural attempt to heal. Naturopathic physicians seek and treat the underlying cause of a disease. The origin of disease is removed or treated so the patient can recover.
First, Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere)
Naturopathic medicine uses therapies that are safe and effective. Since the goal is to identify and treat the cause, naturopathic physicians avoid, and consider harmful, treatments that obscure the cause by suppressing symptoms.
Treat the Whole Person (Tolle Totum)
The human body, mind, and spirit are fully integrated aspects of a person’s overall being. Each patient is a unique whole, and requires individualized and comprehensive consideration for healing to occur.
Doctor as Teacher (Docere)
The naturopathic physician’s most important role is to empower the patient to reclaim agency over his or her own health. The physician strives to instill the patient with hope and knowledge. Ultimately, it is the patient not the physician who achieves healing.
Prevention Beats Cure (Praevenire)
“The best defense is a strong offense,” as the adage goes. Naturopathic physicians shift the emphasis from fighting disease to building and maintaining good health. The ultimate goal of naturopathic medicine is prevention.
If you would like to know more about naturopathic medicine, read about the naturopathic scope of practice and professional life as a naturopathic physician. To find out more about becoming a naturopathic physician, read about our ND Degree Program. If you are ready to take the next step on the road to becoming a naturopathic physician, you can apply to the program, contact an admissions representative, or request information be sent to you.