So, what is Naturopathic Medicine?
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) defines naturopathic medicine as a distinct primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ inherent self-healing process. The practice of naturopathic medicine includes modern and traditional approaches as well as scientific and empirical methods. “Naturopathic practice includes the following diagnostic and therapeutic modalities: clinical and laboratory diagnostic testing, nutritional medicine, botanical medicine, naturopathic physical medicine, public health measures, hygiene, counseling, minor surgery, homeopathy, acupuncture, prescription medication, intravenous and injection therapy, and naturopathic obstetrics.”
There are fundamental principals, which represent the groundwork of naturopathic medical practice. These principals affirm the healing power of nature and seek to identify and treat underlying causes of illness. Naturopathic physicians utilize methods, which minimize risk of harm and emphasize prevention of disease. In addition, the principals of practice require naturopathic physicians to educate patients and encourage active involvement in their health. “Naturopathic physicians treat each individual patient by taking into account physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development.”
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are primary care physicians who have attended a four-year accredited naturopathic medical school, are clinically trained, and work in all aspects of family health — from pediatric to geriatric care. Because NDs view natural remedies as complementary as well as primary, they cooperate with other medical professionals, referring patients to (and receiving patients from) conventional medical doctors, surgeons and other specialists when appropriate.
Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
The Healing Power of Nature - Vis Medicatrix Naturae
Naturopathic medicine recognizes the body's inherent ability to heal itself. Naturopathic physicians identify and remove obstacles to recovery to facilitate this healing ability in patients.
Identify and Treat the Causes - Tolle Causam
The naturopathic physician seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness, rather than eliminate or merely suppress symptoms.
First Do No Harm - Primum Non Nocere
Naturopathic medicine follows three principles to avoid harming the patient:
Use 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 - Tolle totum
Naturopathic physicians treat each individual by taking into account physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental and social factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual path.
Prevention - Praevenire
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, regardless of disease (or shall we say dis-ease). If wellness is recognized and experienced by an individual, it will more quickly heal a given dis-ease than direct treatment of the dis-ease alone.
How does naturopathic medicine compare to conventional medicine?
A naturopathic doctor is educated in all of the same basic sciences as a medical doctor (MD) and uses the Western medical sciences as a foundation for diagnosis and treatment. Just like MDs, naturopathic physicians must pass rigorous professional board exams before they can be licensed by a state or jurisdiction. And, for at least the final two years of the medical program, naturopathic medical students intern in clinical settings under the close supervision of licensed professionals.
NDs, however, also study holistic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and promoting wellness. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, NDs are trained in clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, physical medicine and counseling. Another distinguishing feature is the treatment philosophy: Naturopathic doctors see the physician as someone who facilitates healing by identifying and removing barriers to health.
Legal Status for Naturopathic Physicians
Naturopathic doctors are licensed or registered as health care providers in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Legal provisions allow the practice of naturopathic medicine in several other states. Naturopathic doctors are also recognized in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.
Efforts to gain licensure elsewhere are currently under way. Forty-two states and territories in the United States have professional associations for naturopathic medicine. Canada has 11 provincial and territorial professional associations