Naturopathic medicine is a distinct health care system that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. It believes that nature is the best healer, and emphasizes the use of natural therapies -such as nutrition, lifestyle counseling, and botanical medicine- to aid the healing process. Its’ practice is based upon the restoration and maintenance of wellness in all aspects of life (physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual).
Naturopathic physicians are trained to diagnose, treat, and aid patients with acute and chronic medical conditions while addressing the underlying cause(s). They work according to a set of basic principles and use the Naturopathic Therapeutic Order to help facilitate the body’s inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health. NDs provide care to all stages of human life from pediatrics to geriatric care, and practice in settings ranging from private clinics to integrative clinics, urgent care clinics, and hospitals.
The naturopathic approach also focuses on patient education and self care. Naturopathic medicine can be used in conjunction with conventional medical therapeutics to help support the patient’s healing process. NDs work in collaborations with MDs, DOs, DCs, and other healthcare practitioners, and they refer patients for emergency and other situations when necessary. NDs provide a broad spectrum of therapies ranging from nutrition and lifestyle counseling to supplements, pharmaceuticals, and minor surgery procedures. Therapies are tailored to patients and their needs at that moment in time.
The Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
The foundation of naturopathic medical education and naturopathic patient care are based on a set of core principles. NDs believe and practice on treating the individual, stimulate and support the body’s inherent ability to heal itself, identify the root cause(s), address the healing process in a safe and least force necessary, educate and encourage responsibility for wellness, and prevent dis-ease whenever possible.
Naturopathic Therapeutic Order
The Naturopathic Medicine Therapeutic Order builds upon the core principles to help aid the clinical practice of naturopathic medicine, and strongly emphasizes the importance of the determinants of health to be incorporated in the care of patients.
Naturopathic Education & Licensure
Naturopathic physicians attend an accredited four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school. They are educated on the standard medical curriculum with extensive additional training in clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, physical medicine, hydrotherapy, and counseling. A naturopathic physician must pass rigorous professional board exams before becoming licensed by a state or jurisdiction.
Licensure varies by state to state. There are 25 jurisdictions in the United States and 5 provinces in Canada that have laws regulating the practice of naturopathic physicians. Scope of practice also varies in these states/provinces, and pre-licensed locations have specific parameters and restrictions. Efforts are underway to further expand naturopathic medicine elsewhere.
For more information on naturopathic medicine, medical education, and licensure, please visit the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges.
Even though Naturopathic Principles are as old as history, they are as new as tomorrow because nature and truth never change. Any system that cured people years ago will help people today, and we can now scientifically validate and explain the clinical success of these approaches.