Holistic Therapies: What is Naturopathic Medicine?



Naturopathic Medicine or Naturopathy is an approach to medicine based on the human body's innate ability to heal itself; the healing power of nature. Naturopathic medicine encourages the use of non-invasive therapies and preventative care and is guided by the 6 principles of naturopathic medicine.

Naturopathy is an American healthcare profession. Naturopathic medicine was formally founded as a healthcare system, at the turn of the 20th century, by medical practitioners from various natural therapeutic disciplines. Today, there are thousands of licensed naturopathic doctors in the US and Canada.

As practiced today, naturopathic medicine uses modern diagnostic tools and treatments as well as traditional natural therapies - that may include pharmacy, botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, homeopathy, oriental medicine, hydrotherapy, and naturopathic spinal manipulation, IV therapeutics - including chelation and nutritional supplementation. These natural approaches are guided by modern scientific medical diagnostic science and standards of care.

The basis of naturopathic family physician practice is very similar to what American patients are familiar with. Visits usually consist of an intake and case history, a physical exam, and a consultation with a doctor to discuss treatment options. Lab tests may be ordered if the doctor needs additional information about a patient to help make a diagnosis.

What a patient may find different in a visit to a naturopathic doctor:

  • The amount of time the doctor spends with you- especially during a first-time visit. A naturopathic doctor does a more thorough intake process than you are probably used to, and may ask many questions about your eating and sleeping habits, your work, your personal and family life and your daily routines. This is part of a normal first-time visit to a naturopathic doctor, and may take up to an hour.

  • The naturopathic doctor's approaches to treatment may include some therapies that you haven't heard of before. Essentially, there are some tools in the naturopathic doctor's toolbox that are new to you. Please ask lots of questions about anything that you don't understand and consult the book review and links sections of this website for resources to educate yourself.

  • Individualized treatment plans are developed by naturopathic doctors for each patient, based on their particular health status, case history and needs. Your medicines and instructions for care may look very different from another patient with a similar complaint.

  • The doctor's focus on prevention through health promotion as opposed to disease management. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle modifications by changing your diet or daily routines as a way to prevent illness or lessen the effects of an existing health problem.

  • The frequency of contact with your doctor may be more than you are used to. Often having a 3 or more visits over the first month then tapering off as we get you on track with your care plan to you health goals. Naturopathic doctors partner with their patients to create an optimal health care plan for each individual. Custom tailored to your unique, healthy lifestyle needs - diet, exercise, time... Cost.

What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine blends centuries-old natural, non-toxic therapies with current advances in the study of health and human systems, covering all aspects of family health from prenatal to geriatric care. Naturopathic physicians cooperate with all other branches of medical science referring patients to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate. ~Taken from the American Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges

Scope of license and training
Naturopathic physicians are currently licensed in 17 states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. Each has licensing or regulation laws for naturopathic doctors. Students take the traditional pre-med courses, prior to entering a four year doctoral training program leading to eligibility for license in family practice. Many naturopathic doctors have additional training in natural childbirth and/or acupuncture.