The Cancer Clinic

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic physicians are naturopathic doctors (ND), or naturopathic medical doctors (NMD). After graduation from a four-year college or university, naturopaths are trained in four-year medical colleges just as other physicians are. The difference is that in naturopathic medical school, in addition to learning such basic medical sciences as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, immunology, histology, neuroscience and genetics, naturopaths also take classroom courses in the clinical sciences: obstetrics, gynecology, urology, cardiology, pulmonology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, rheumatology, oncology, gerontology, otorhinolaryngology and dermatology. Of course we aslo learn the naturopathic therapies. These include: clinical nutrition (that is nutrition as both a healing therapy and applied biochemistry), botanical medicine (nutritive and therapeutic herbs), homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine such as acupuncture and Chinese herbs, as well as environmental medicine, physical medicine and hydrotherapy. Naturopaths are trained both in the classroom and in a variety of clinical settings.

Throughout the naturopathic medical curriculum and professional careers naturopaths are required to take board exams to ensure that both the training and skills come up to the standards required across North America for the naturopathic profession. Just as for medical doctors and osteopaths, naturopathic physicians are required to take Continuing Education courses periodically in order to stay at peak competence.

In Arizona, naturopathic physicians are licensed to diagnose and treat disease with any combination of the therapies listed above. Thirteen other states, including the recent additions of California and Idaho, also license naturopathic physicians. So does every province in Canada. The difference with other doctors is this: a naturopath can help you feel much better and get rid of disease without drugs. How is this possible? The licensed naturopath receives more classroom hours in medical sciences and natural therapies and their application to patients than any other type of physician. By the time naturopathic students get to the clinical training part of their curriculum, they know how to apply herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture, nutrients, physical manipulation, temperature modulation and detoxification for various disease conditions. They then still have two more years of clinical training to apply and refine those skills.

Just be sure that you ask for a licensed ND (Naturopathic Doctor) or NMD (Naturopathic Medical Doctor), because licensed naturopaths are the ones who are both classroom and clinically trained to practice medicine using herbs, homeopathy, nutrition, traditional Chinese medicine, hydrotherapy and physical medicine, as well as environmental medicine.

For the most part, naturopathic medicine is still not covered by most medical insurance. There are exceptions. However, as many people have happily discovered, the out-of-pocket costs to a naturopath's patients are often much less than the out-of-pocket costs (that is deductibles and uncovered services and products) for fully insured people who go to conventional physicians and who need pharmaceuticals and/or hospital care. That is, a naturopath's tools, which are basically materials found in nature, plant materials mostly, are so much less expensive than patented prescription drugs that you end up paying less even without insurance. These savings are magnified as time goes on, considering the much greater relative improvement in overall health of the naturopathic patient over the conventional medical patient.

Naturopathic medicine is perhaps best described by its six defining principles:

  1. First do no harm
  2. Healing occurs by way of nature
  3. Treat the whole person
  4. Treat the cause
  5. Prevent disease
  6. Doctor as teacher

"First do no harm" was Hippocrates' instruction to physicians and may be thought of as an application of The Golden Rule. Whatever intervention a doctor can make in a patient's health and life, the only acceptable action is ones that will do no further damage to the patient's health. How much more sensible does it get than to remember the rule first learned as toddlers: "Don't hurt anybody."

Second, naturopaths rely on the healing power of nature to help restore patients to complete health. The really excellent naturopath is one who knows how to "work the modalities": that is to be able to draw from the vast materia medica of natural materials to help the sick get well and be able to apply them to the great variety and complication of illnesses that are common today.

Another principle is to treat the whole person. Naturopaths know better than to give you a medication that will heal the stomach while hurting the heart, or that will clear up the skin while skewing your hormones out of balance. Naturopaths are trained to respect the whole patient, not just the small part of the body with obvious symptoms. In other words, if you need medicine for your lungs, the job of the naturopath is to make sure that what you get is completely good for all of you.

The fourth principle is to treat the cause. This means if you have say arteriosclerosis, which has led to heart problems and high blood pressure, the naturopath does not treat the blood pressure right away. The naturopath goes to the cause of the problem and treats the hardening of the arteries, because when you clean out the arteries, the blood pressure comes down, and the heart is able to heal. So that way you solve all three problems instead of just one.

To prevent disease is another naturopathic principle, and one that is closest to the long-term naturopathic goal of helping patients to achieve a healthy life. This improved lifestyle is what enables the body to regain homeostasis, to strengthen the immune system and to better deflect the constant stresses and toxic conditions that an industrial society imposes. Our study and practice of environmental medicine teaches the importance of removing toxins from the immediate environment (and ideally the larger environment) as well as from the patient's body.

Perhaps the last principle is most important of all. In order to best help patients; it is even more important for a doctor to be a teacher than a healer. In accordance with the idea that if you give someone a fish he may eat that day, but if you teach him to fish he may eat for a lifetime, the doctor must teach how to heal. Ultimately, the most successful patients learn to take responsibility for their own health, with the doctor acting as a resource and tutor toward that goal.

The Naturopathyworks website serves to acknowledge time-honored and successful natural medicine treatments. Here you will find an introduction to some of the most effective and health-promoting natural treatments in use today, as well as a sampling of the research on these treatments showing that natural medicine does indeed work. We hope you find your visit to be an informative one!

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The information on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any diseases or illnesses. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. If you have a medical condition, consult your naturopathic physician. Consult your naturopathic physician or other qualified health care professional before making changes in diet or lifestyle.

2006, 2012 Colleen Huber unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved.