About 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 the profession:
The healing power of nature — vis medicatrix naturae
Identify and treat the cause — tolle causam
First do no harm — primum no nocere
Treat the whole person — in perturbato animo sicut in corpore sanitas esse non potest
The physician as teacher — docere
Prevention — principiis obsta: sero medicina curatur
The roots of naturopathic medicine go back thousands of years, drawing on the healing wisdom of many cultures including Indian (Ayurvedic), Chinese (Taoist), Greek (Hippocratic), Arabian, Egyptian, and European (monastic medicine) traditions. With the age of scientific inquiry, medicine took on exciting dimensions and developed new tools for fighting disease. In fact, many older time-tested healing and health maintenance methods were discarded at a rapid rate as doctors began treating disease almost solely with surgery and drugs. Some practitioners in Europe and America, however, perceived that valuable, empirically proven natural therapies were being lost, and struggled to retain the practice of promoting health through stimulation of the vital force and the rational use of natural agents.
As a distinct American health care profession, naturopathic medicine is 100 years old, tracing its origins to Dr. Benedict Lust. Dr. Lust came to the United States from Germany to practice and teach the hydrotherapy techniques popularized by Sebastian Kneipp in Europe.
Naturopathic medical conventions in the 1920s attracted more than 10,000 naturopathic physicians. There were more than 20 naturopathic medical colleges, and NDs were licensed in a majority of states. Naturopathic medicine experienced a decline in the 1940s and ’50s with the rise of pharmaceutical drugs, technological medicine, and the idea that drugs could eliminate all disease. As one after another ND degree program closed down, National College of Naturopathic Medicine was founded to keep the medicine alive. The drop–off in popularity was so steep that during its first 20 years, National College of Naturopathic Medicine graduated only 70 students. From its founding in 1956 until 1979, when three of its alumni founded John Bastyr College (now Bastyr University) in Seattle, it was the only naturopathic college in the U.S.
While naturopathic medicine has been present in the United States for a century, National College of Natural Medicine, the oldest accredited naturopathic medical school in North America, celebrated its 50–year anniversary in 2006. NCNM has been at the center of the profession, preserving and extending the legacy of naturopathic medicine, founded by those who started practice in the 1920s and ’30s, and training those who would follow them generations later. The profession has experienced a resurgence in the past two decades as a health–conscious public has sought alternatives for conditions that conventional medicine has not adequately addressed.
Since the late 1970s, three more naturopathic colleges have opened, and National College of Natural Medicine’s enrollment has quadrupled. This growth is in direct response to the changing needs of our society; not only is the public demanding a medical model in which the individual plays a more active role in her/his health and healing process, but doctors also want a medical model that is more patient–centered and holistic.
NCNM is alma mater to more than 1,800 naturopathic physicians who practice in nearly every state and province and many foreign countries. Many are nationally recognized spokespersons and teachers as well as successful physicians who have gone on to found new naturopathic colleges. National College of Natural Medicine alumni have also founded professional associations to promote and expand naturopathic medicine. This is an exciting time to join the profession and help make history in the field of naturopathic medicine.
The scope of practice of naturopathic physicians (NDs) varies by jurisdiction. Currently, eleven states, Puerto Rico, and five Canadian provinces license naturopathic physicians. Several of these jurisdictions regard NDs as primary care physicians and provide them with the scope of diagnostic and therapeutic privileges necessary to be the doctor first seen by the patient for general health care, for advice on keeping healthy, and for the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic conditions. In those jurisdictions in which NDs are not licensed, the scope of practice excludes the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
The naturopathic physician is defined by the U.S. Department of Labor as one who
The therapeutic modalities used by NDs are described below. It should be noted that the state of Utah requires a one–year residency before licensing NDs. Like other physicians, recently graduated NDs are encouraged to seek additional clinical experience under the supervision of a licensed physician, in the form of residencies and mentorships.
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. NDs 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. Counseling, nutritional balancing, stress management, hypnotherapy, biofeedback, and other therapies are used to help patients heal psychologically.
Minor Surgery: Naturopathic physicians do in–office minor surgery, including repair of superficial wounds and removal of foreign bodies, cysts, and superficial lesions.
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.
Oriental Medicine: Within the ND 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. NDs also use ultrasound, diathermy, exercise, massage, water, heat and cold, and gentle electrical therapies.
Naturopathic practice also includes the use of any medical substances which contain elements that are components of bodily tissues or can be utilized by the body for the maintenance of life and the repair of tissues. All methods of diagnostic testing and imaging are used, including x–ray and ultrasound. The current scope of practice excludes major surgery and the use of many synthetic drugs.
“Scope of practice” is specifically defined by the legislation in the various states and provinces that license or regulate naturopathic medicine, and practice varies significantly among states, provinces, and countries.