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About Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic medicine is a vital, growing branch of health care that blends time-honored traditions with modern medical science.

The term “Naturopathy” was coined in the late 1800’s to describe the American and European health movements that emphasized natural methods in the treatment of disease.

The guiding principle of naturopathic medicine is found in the Latin phrase “Vis medicatrix naturae” … “Let nature be the force of your medicine.” These medicines include general diet, vitamins, minerals, botanical preparations, homeopathic remedies and natural prescription medicines such as antibiotics and hormones.

Treatment programs may also include physiotherapy (hydrotherapy, heat, electricity, light, massage and manipulation), lifestyle changes and counseling. Ultimately your doctor will help you find a program that supports and encourages your body’s own healing process.

The 6 Principles of Naturopathic Medicine

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 our profession:

1) 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.

2) 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.

3) 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.

4) 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.

5) 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.

6) 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.

What type of education do Naturopathic doctors receive?

The Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine is a four-year graduate program. To become a naturopathic doctor you must graduate from one of the 5 accredited Naturopathic medical schools. They are….

These school train holistic primary care physicians and prepare them to sit for examination in states and provinces that license N.D.s (naturopathic physicians).

What Modalities do Naturopathic Doctors use?

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 side effects.

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 levels.

Mind/Body Medicine: Mental attitudes and emotional states may influence, or even cause, physical illness. Counselling, nutritional balancing, stress management, hypnotherapy, biofeedback, and other therapies are used to help patients heal psychologically.

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.

Minor Surgery: Naturopathic physicians do in-office minor surgery, including repair of superficial wounds and removal of foreign bodies, cysts, and superficial lesions.

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 of physiology.

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.