Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care profession that emphasizes prevention, treatment, and optimal health. It is a comprehensive practice that includes modern and traditional, scientiﬁc and empirical methods which works to address the cause of disease, rather than treat or suppress its symptoms. A Naturopathic Doctor (ND) uses therapeutic methods and substances to restore balance and minimize side effects, encouraging individuals’ inherent self-healing process.
The patient is seen as a whole person, and the ND takes his or her physical, mental and emotional dimensions into account when diagnosing and developing a treatment plan.
The principles of naturopathic medicine
The following principles are the foundation of naturopathic medical practice:
- The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae): Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing process in people that is ordered and intelligent. Naturopathic physicians act to identify and remove obstacles to healing and recovery, and to facilitate and augment this inherent self-healing process.
- Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle Causam): The naturopathic physician seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness rather than to merely eliminate or suppress symptoms.
First Do No Harm (
Primum Non Nocere
: Naturopathic physicians follow three guidelines to avoid harming the patient.
- Utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat;
- Avoid the harmful suppression of symptoms when possible; and
- Acknowledge, respect, and work with individuals’ self-healing process.
- Doctor as Teacher (Docere): Naturopathic physicians educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship.
- Treat the Whole Person: Naturopathic physicians treat each patient by taking into account individual physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development.
- Prevention: Naturopathic physicians emphasize the prevention of disease by assessing risk factors, heredity, and susceptibility to disease, and by making appropriate interventions to prevent illness, in partnership with their patients.
Similar to conventional medical doctors, Naturopathic medical students undergo four years of medical training at the graduate level. Instruction includes general medical sciences, naturopathic principles, diagnosis and therapeutics, and includes supervised clinical experience. Upon completion of their training, they must pass board examinations to obtain a license to practice medicine.
Naturopathic physicians are trained to provide primary or specialty care, and have singular expertise in natural therapies and their various interactions. Their unique knowledge has inﬂuenced medical thought and approaches worldwide, and practitioners have advised at the National Institutes of Health, the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and the World Health Organization.