Naturopathic medicine is a holistic practice of medicine that blends natural therapies with current scientific advances in health. It covers all aspects of health, from prenatal to geriatrics, and emphasizes whole-person wellness. The medicine is tailored to the individual and promotes self-care and prevention. There are 7 guiding principles that define naturopathic medicine:
The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)
Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent ability in the body which is ordered and intelligent. Naturopathic physicians act to identify and remove obstacles to recovery and to facilitate and augment this healing ability.
Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle Causam)
The naturopathic physician seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness, rather than to eliminate or merely suppress symptoms.
First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere)
Naturopathic medicine follows three principles to avoid harming the patient:
- Utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects.
- Avoid, when possible, the harmful suppression of symptoms.
- Acknowledge and respect the individual's healing process, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat illness.
Doctor as Teacher (Docere)
Naturopathic physicians educate the patient and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also acknowledge the therapeutic value inherent in the doctor-patient relationship.
Treat the Whole Person
Naturopathic physicians treat each individual by taking into account physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social and other factors. In addition, rather than treating specific symptoms or specific areas of the body, naturopathic physicians adopt a whole person approach to healing.
Naturopathic physicians emphasize disease prevention, assessment of risk factors and hereditary susceptibility to disease and making appropriate interventions to prevent illness. Naturopathic medicine strives to create a healthy world in which humanity may thrive.
Wellness follows the establishment and maintenance of optimum health and balance. Wellness is a state of being healthy, characterized by positive emotion, thought and action. Wellness is inherent in everyone, no matter what diseases are being experienced.
Education of a Naturopathic Physician
Naturopathic medical colleges are four year, graduate level medical schools. Candidates must complete appropriate undergraduate premedical coursework in order to be considered. The Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree (N.D.) is awarded after classroom, clinical, and practical study. Similar to a traditional medical doctor, naturopathic physicians are trained in a wide range of medical sciences. In addition, a naturopathic physician is required to complete 4 years of training in naturopathic philosophy, clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, counseling, physical medicine, and other natural therapies.
The accrediting agency for naturopathic medical schools and programs in North America is the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education, CNME. There are presently four colleges accredited by the CNME in the United States: Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA and San Diego, CA; Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences in Tempe, AZ; National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, OR; National University of Health Sciences in Illinois; and University of Bridgeport College of Natural Medicine in Bridgeport, CT. In Canada, the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Ontario and the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in BC are also accredited.
Licensing of a Naturopathic Physician
Licensing of naturopathic physicians is currently regulated at a state level. Rigorous, professional board exams (NPLEX) must be passed after completion of the basic science curriculum and following clinical training in order to receive a license in a particular state. A licensed N.D. belongs to a state regulatory body that oversees the standards of practice, complaints, and discipline. They must fulfill state-mandated continuing education requirement annually. Currently, 16 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S territories of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico offer licensing for naturopathic physicians. There are many other states in the process of passing licensure legislation. In states where naturopathic doctors are not yet licensed, they still have a broad range of capabilities. There are certain limitations on the prescription of drugs and in other scope of practice areas.
A naturopathic physician is distinct from a traditional “naturopath” in training and scope. Although many naturopaths are gifted healers, they do not have the same education and training as a licensed naturopathic physician. Please ask for credentials if you are seeking a naturopathic physician who has been trained by an accredited institution and is backed by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.