Naturopathic medicine is a distinct
system of primary health care - an art, science, philosophy and
practice of diagnosis, treatment and prevention of illness.
Naturopathic medicine is distinguished by the principles which underlie
and determine its practice. These principles are based upon the
objective observation of the nature of health and disease, and are
continually reexamined in the light of scientific advances. Methods
used are consistent with these principles and are chosen upon the basis
of patient individuality. Naturopathic physicians are primary health
care practitioners, whose diverse techniques include modern and
traditional, scientific and empirical methods.
Naturopaths base their practice on six timeless
principles founded on medical tradition and scientific evidence.
·Let nature heal. Our bodies have such a
powerful, innate instinct for self-healing. By finding and removing the
barriers to this self-healing—such as poor diet or unhealthy
habits—naturopathic physicians can nurture this process.
·Identify and treat causes. Naturopathic
physicians understand that symptoms will only return unless the root illness is
addressed. Rather than cover up symptoms, they seek to find and treat the cause
of these symptoms.
·First, do no harm. Naturopathic physicians
follow three precepts to ensure their patients’ safety:
low-risk procedures and healing compounds—such as dietary supplements, herbal
extracts and homeopathy—with few or no side effects.
possible, do not suppress symptoms, which are the body’s efforts to self-heal.
For example, the body may cook up a fever in reaction to a bacterial infection.
Fever creates an inhospitable environment for the harmful bacteria, thereby
destroying it. Of course, the naturopathic physician would not allow the fever
to get dangerously high.
each diagnosis and treatment plan to fit each patient. We all heal in different
ways and the naturopathic physician respects our differences.
·Educate patients. Naturopathic medicine
believes that doctors must be educators, as well as physicians. That’s why
naturopathic physicians teach their patients how to eat, exercise, relax and
nurture themselves physically and emotionally. They also encourage
self-responsibility and work closely with each patient.
·Treat the whole person. We each have a unique
physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, sexual and
spiritual makeup. The naturopathic physician knows that all these factors
affect our health. That’s why he or she includes them in a carefully tailored
·Prevent illness. "An ounce of prevention
is worth a pound of cure" has never been truer. Proactive medicine saves
money, pain, misery and lives. That’s why naturopathic physicians evaluate risk
factors, heredity and vulnerability to disease. By getting treatment for
greater wellness, we’re less likely to need treatment for future illness.
MD's and ND's have some areas of
common ground, namely their education. MD's are trained in basic sciences and
clinical sciences to prepare them for the various illnesses and emergencies
they will face during their practice. ND's are also trained in all these
sciences in their education. As with all physicians today, Naturopathic Doctors
are trained at accredited, four to five-year, post-graduate, medical
institutions. But unlike MD's, they are also trained in a variety of traditional
natural therapeutics, including botanical medicine, clinical nutrition,
homeopathy, hydrotherapy and naturopathic manipulative therapies. ND’s are
required a minimum of fifteen hundred hours of clinical education under the
supervision of licensed naturopathic doctors in order to graduate. ND's learn
how to integrate this diverse knowledge by weaving their conventional medical
knowledge with the principles of naturopathic medicine and its treatments to
create a natural health care program tailored for each individual patient.
Medical educators and legislators alike have been impressed with the high
standard of education required of naturopathic physicians.
A naturopathic physician is
required to take rigorous professional board exams in order to be licensed by a
state or jurisdiction as a primary care general practice physician.
Naturopathic medicine has an independent accrediting agency, the Council on
Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME), which is the recognized authority for
establishing and maintaining the educational standards for profession. A
nationally standardized licensing exam (NPLEX) has been established, which is
used in nearly all of the states which currently license NDs. Currently, 14
states license NDs (as does Puerto Rico and four Canadian provinces). In these
states, NDs practice as independent primary care general practitioners with the
ability to diagnose and treat medical conditions, perform physical exams and
order laboratory testing. In these states, many health care consumers
specifically choose NDs as their primary care providers. In states such as
South Dakota, which do not yet have licensure laws regulating naturopaths,
there are ample services that can be provided.