What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a comprehensive holistic medical system of primary healthcare, built on 6 principles that view the body as a complex system that is capable of healing itself if given the right tools to do so. It is a medical system that encompasses all the natural healing modalities and naturopathic doctors use them to promote the body’s own ability to heal. This whole-person approach to care treats acute and chronic diseases safely and effectively. Naturopathic doctors are happy to work in conjunction with other healthcare providers to provide the most optimal care for their patients.
Naturopathic doctors provide primary health care services and are trained through a 4 year (year round attendance) post graduate program at an accredited naturopathic medical school. Currently there are two colleges in Canada and five in the United States. Students are trained in the same basic medical sciences as medical doctors but also attain a thorough education in preventative medicine and natural therapeutics. Although the basic training is the same, they learn different philosophies and therapeutic approaches than their conventional colleagues. Upon successful completion of the 4 year program, students attain the designation N.D. or Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine. Students must sit for national board exams to become licensed naturopathic doctors within licensed provinces/states. In Ontario, students must also pass the provincial board exam.
The principles of Naturopathic Medicine
1) First, do no harm (Primum Non Noncere)
Naturopathic medicine uses therapies that are safe and effective, minimizes side effects, avoids the suppression of symptoms and respects the body’s natural healing process, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat illness.
2) Treat the cause (Tolle Causum)
Don’t cover up your symptoms, figure out why they are happening. Symptoms are the body’s way of communicating. A naturopathic doctor will help to find the cause of disease and correct the disturbance in order to promote a return to health, rather than suppressing or managing symptoms.
3) Treat the whole person (Tolle Totum)
The physiology of the body is complex. Don’t assume you can change one thing without affecting the rest of the body. One should look at how the whole person experiences the disease process, and not just the specific disease. Everyone is different. Your body has the innate ability to heal. Let’s figure out how to speed up the process.
4) Utilize the healing power of nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)
Not only does the body have its own innate ability to heal, but nature has also provided us with everything we need to heal the body. After removing any obstacles to cure, some of nature’s most gentle healing powers may be explored through your treatment.
5) Doctor as Teacher (Docere)
“Docere” the latin root for doctor means to teach. It is our job to educate our patients so that there is a clear understanding of why the changes we encourage are so important. We all need to take responsibility for our own health and naturopathic doctors encourage and provide the tools for their patients to do so.
6) Prevention is the best medicine (Praevenire)
If your vital force is strong, you are much less likely to get sick. Naturopathic doctors look for avenues that may be increasing your risk for disease, attempt to treat risk factors before disease develops and evaluate any genetic susceptibility to disease. This way, action is taken as soon as possible, making it more likely for you to enjoy a state of wellbeing!
What is the legal status of Naturopathic Medicine?
Currently, naturopathic doctors are licensed or registered as health care providers in British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. In the United States, Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are also licensed. Legal provisions allow the practice of naturopathic medicine in several other states. Our boards and colleges continue to attempt to gain licensure elsewhere in both Canada and the USA. Canada has nine provincial and territorial professional associations. Forty-two states and territories in the United States have professional associations for naturopathic medicine.