What is Naturopathy?
Naturopathic Medicine is a unique and distinct system of health care that emphasizes the use of prevention and natural therapeutics. The doctors who practice naturopathic medicine, called naturopathic physicians (NDs), are trained to serve as primary care general practitioners who are experts in the prevention, diagnosis, management, and treatment of both acute and chronic health conditions.
Naturopathic physicians are trained at accredited, four-year, post-graduate, residential naturopathic medical programs. The training consists of comprehensive study of the conventional medical sciences, including anatomy, physiology, pathology, microbiology, immunology, clinical and physical diagnosis, laboratory diagnosis, cardiology, gastroenterology, gynecology, etc, as well as detailed study of a wide variety of natural therapies.
Naturopathic physicians are guided by six principles: First, Do No Harm; The Healing Power of Nature; Find the Cause; Treat the Whole Person; Preventive Medicine; and, Doctor as Teacher. This set of principles, emphasized throughout a naturopathic physician's training, outlines the philosophy guiding the naturopathic approach to health and healing and forms the foundation of this distinct health care practice.
Naturopathic physicians use a variety of natural and non-invasive therapies, including clinical nutrition, homeopathy, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, physical medicine, and counseling. Many naturopathic physicians have additional training and certification in acupuncture and natural child birth. Naturopathic treatments are effective in treating a wide variety of conditions without the need for additional intervention. Naturopathic physicians are also able to function within an integrated framework, and naturopathic therapies can be used to complement treatments used by conventionally trained medical doctors. The result is a patient-centered approach that strives to provide the most appropriate treatment for an individual's needs.
In the United States, the naturopathic medical profession's infrastructure includes accredited educational institutions, professional licensing, national standards of practice, peer review, and a commitment to state-of-the-art scientific research.
Naturopathic medicine in the United States came into existence just over 100 years ago, developed by a man named Benedict Lust in New York state. While the profession by name is just a century old, the natural therapies and philosophy on which naturopathic medicine are based have been effectively used to treat diseases since ancient times. The use of herbal remedies, dietary interventions, hydrotherapy, and lifestyle changes have been used throughout history and in nearly every culture to inhabit the Earth. Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived 2400 years ago, first formulated the concept of vis medicatrix naturae -- "the healing power of nature". This concept has long been at the core of medicine in many cultures around the world and remains one of the central themes of naturopathic philosophy today.
Naturopathic medicine was popular and widely available throughout the United States well into the early part of the 20th century. In 1920, there were many naturopathic medical schools, thousands of naturopathic physicians, and scores of thousands of patients using naturopathic therapies around the country. But by mid-century the rise of "technological medicine" and the discovery and increased use of "miracle drugs" like antibiotics were associated with the temporary decline of naturopathic medicine and most other methods of natural healing.
By the 1970's, however, the American public was becoming increasingly disenchanted with what had become "conventional medicine." The profound clinical limitations and its out-of-control costs were becoming obvious, and millions of Americans were inspired to look for options and alternatives. Naturopathy, and all of complementary and alternative medicine, began to enter an era of rejuvenation.
Today, more people than ever are seeking naturopathic medical care and naturopathic medical schools are growing at record rates to accomodate the increased demand for naturopathic education. Presently, there are three accredited four-year naturopathic medical programs in the United States, and one program in Canada which is a candidate for accreditation. 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, eleven 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.
The national organization representing naturopathic physicians, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), is the driving force for the development of the profession. The AANP is instrumental in the development of the professional's educational and practice standards, and to expanding awareness of the vital role naturopathic medicine has to play in the future of the health care system in the United States.
Today, naturopathic physicians are experiencing greater recognition as health care practitioners who are experts in the field of natural and preventive medicine, providing leadership in natural medical research, enjoying increasing political influence, and looking forward to an unlimited future potential. Both the American public and policy makers are recognizing and contributing to the resurgence of the comprehensive system of health care practiced by NDs.
The 1990's has been a decade of great achievement for the naturopathic profession: several states received licensure, enrollment in naturopathic medical programs more than doubled, two new naturopathic medical programs were started, the first publicly funded natural health care clinic was initiated, a naturopathic institution was designated as a NIH Office of Alternative Medicine research center, and two naturopathic physicians were appointed by the federal Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to the NIH's Alternative Medicine Program Advisory Council (AMPAC).
In the twenty-first century, the naturopathic profession finds itself well positioned for a new era in health care. With more and more research supporting the therapies used by naturopathic physicians, and the public demand for greater choice and increased access to more natural approaches to their health care, naturopathic medicine is poised to make the transition from "alternative" medicine to truly "mainstream" medicine.
Excerpted from the website of the California Association of Naturopathic Physicians (CANP). 5714 Folsom Blvd., #284, Sacramento, CA 95819 Phone: (800) 521-1200
Consulting a Naturopathic Doctor
According to The Council on Naturopathic Registration and Accreditation, Inc. naturopathic doctors are trained specialists in a separate and distinct healing art which uses non-invasive natural medicine. They are not orthodox medical doctors (M.D.s). Naturopathic doctors (N.D.s) are conventionally trained in subjects such as anatomy, physiology, counseling, dietary evaluations, nutrition, herbology, acupressure, muscle relaxation and structural normalization, homeopathy, iridology, exercise therapy, hydrotherapy, oxygen therapy and thermal therapy. Some practitioners are also trained in additional specialties such as acupuncture or natural childbirth.Naturopathic doctors tailor the healing modality to the needs of the individual with methods which are effective for both chronic and acute problems. Naturopathic doctors cooperate with all branches of medical science, referring individuals to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate.In practice, naturopathic doctors perform lifestyle analysis, laboratory testing, nutritional and dietary assessments, metabolic analysis and other evaluative procedures. They are trained to use a wide variety of natural methods which involve the individual in the healing process. Naturopathy is based upon a belief in the body's innate God-given natural ability to heal itself when given an appropriate internal and external healing environment. Naturopaths are not involved in the practice of medicine and do not use drugs or pharmaceuticals, nor do they perform abortions or surgery (other than minor first aid). They have traditionally been referred to as "drugless doctors." In reality, naturopathy deals with wellness and relief from conditions which are the result of stress whether from mental, nutritional, environmental or physical factors.Naturopathic doctors (N.D.s) have participated in a specialized course of study and received degrees in naturopathy. Some states license naturopaths and regulate the profession. In those states, the naturopaths must also have passed a national or state board examination and their practice is subject to review by a State Board of Examiners. Several naturopathic, professional organizations also require the candidate to pass a proficiency test in naturopathy in order to join their organization.
Naturopathy: A brief history
Dr. Benedict Lust founded the American School of Naturopathy in New York City and graduated its first class in 1902. A number of other schools were organized and by the 1930's there were more than twenty naturopathic colleges and over 10,000 practitioners. The allopathic medical schools which had the backing of the pharmaceutical industry flourished with large endowments and the political clout which comes with wealth. Due to lack of funding, naturopathic education began to decline and only recently has the disenchantment with pharmaceutically trained doctors led people to once again begin exploring and embracing natural, God-given, simple, effective remedies found in naturopathy. The Naturopathic Philosophy advocates a number of principles: Naturopathy promotes health through education and non-invasive natural agents.
1. Do no harm
Primum non nocere is taken from the Hippocratic Oath. Certainly anybody who is sick does not need any therapy or treatment which can harm him/her. Since prescription medication has such a potential to make a well man sick, many wonder how it can be expected to make a sick man well. Traditional naturopathy embraces only therapies or procedures which are designed to enhance healing and produce wellness.
2. Recognize the healing power of nature
Vis medicatrix naturae. The human body is created with the capacity to heal itself and to maintain homeostasis. There is a healing power in nature and this principal is the basis for all of naturopathy. Naturopathy is a system designed to work in harmony with nature in the restoration and support for the inherent natural healing systems of the body.
3. Identify the cause
Tolle causam. In allopathic medicine the name of the disease is actually the name of the symptom in Greek. For example, the term "arthritis" is made up of two Greek roots "arthro" which means having to do with the joint and "itis" meaning pain or inflammation. Allopathic doctors seek to treat the joint pain by reducing the joint pain. This can be done with the use of pain killers, nerve blockers or any number of procedures. Naturopaths are committed to removing the joint pain by finding and removing the cause. Perhaps this may prove to be a calcium and/or mineral deficiency caused by either a primary or secondary nutritional deficiency. Or perhaps the cause could be from an injury or possibly from an over acid condition in the body. For naturopaths, the correction of the cause is the most plausible way of eliminating the symptoms and restoring health to the person.
4. Involve the total person
Naturopathic doctors are aware that a person can have a physical, spiritual or emotional illness. The chosen therapy is determined by what kind of problem the person is experiencing. You can not be well or healthy if you have a spiritual or mental problem even if you appear perfectly fit. Naturopaths use various counseling, stress management and bio-feedback techniques for those experiencing emotional or spiritual problems. Most naturopathic practitioners are capable of also using Biblical counseling as restorative therapy. Reading the writings of the fathers of naturopathy, you will find they were Godly people who recognized the Creator and gave Him the honor for all healing.
5. Teach rather than treat
Naturopathic philosophy places the responsibility for wellness with the individual. Man is the steward of his body and the doctor is the teacher or advisor to the individual on how to maintain health. One recognizes that a headache is not an aspirin deficiency but rather the result of some imbalance within the body. Some principle of health has been violated and the body is responding with pain. Naturopaths should evaluate the connotation and advise or teach their clients what lifestyle, nutritional, emotional or dietary changes should be made to alleviate the condition. The condition is alleviated by the clients making those changes and not by some outside agency.
6. Identify the source
Man is fearfully and wonderfully made. Other than in trauma-type injuries, seldom does the body have isolated mono-factoral conditions but rather experiences "dis-ease" as a consequence of a number of health debilitating events. Germs are considered the culprit for many conditions found by allopathic physicians. Naturopaths understand germs are a normal part of the economy of the earth and that they are put here by the Creator to destroy sick, weakened and devitilized tissues. Thus, germs are attracted to the depleted tissues in the body. In order to reverse the disease process, the body needs to have its tissues revitalized. This explains why when two people are exposed to the same germs only one person gets sick (the person with the devitalized tissues).
7. Prevent disease
It is admirable that there is an effective system based on natural restorative methods. However, it is preferable for the body not to experience imbalances and their resulting consequences. Naturopaths are prepared to advise clients on simple disease prevention principles which are designed to produce health and avoid the destructive consequences which occur as the result of violating those principles.
What to expect
When you consult a naturopathic doctor for counsel, you will find a person committed to the holistic approach to health. The doctor will gather a medical history, inquire about your diet, discuss any stress you are experiencing, give various non-invasive tests designed to evaluate body conditions and advise you concerning your condition.You will experience techniques which are consistent with traditional naturopathy and its philosophy. These will enable your body to correct problems now and prevent them from occurring in the future.To be sure of the training of your naturopathic doctor and his/her adherence to natural healing principles, ask your doctor if he/she is a "Registered Naturopathic Doctor."In a society focused on an allopathic mindset, naturopaths can provide people with more options in the treatment of disease and pain. These options, along with being non-invasive, are all natural and, in actuality, are more historical methods in the pursuit of good health. Note: Currently, 14 states, Puerto Rico, Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands have licensing laws for naturopathic doctors. Kansas has enacted a registration law for naturopathic doctors. In these states, naturopathic doctors are required to graduate from a four-year, residential naturopathic medical school and pass an extensive postdoctoral board examination in order to receive a license. Licensed naturopathic physicians must fulfill state-mandated continuing education requirements annually, and have a specific scope of practice defined by their state's laws. The jurisdictions that currently have regulatory boards permitting the practice of naturopathic medicine are as follows: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington D.C. and Washington.
Credit for this information goes to: The Council on Naturopathic Registration and Accreditation, Inc. The CNRA was created as a nonprofit organization for the purpose of promoting traditional naturopathic techniques, recognizing trained and degreed practioners, as well as certifying to the public the credentials of naturopathic doctors. Suite 1600, 3509 Connecticut Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20008-2402