Experts - Naturopathic Medicine

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Naturopathic Medicine is the comprehensive practice based on educating patients to take responsibility over lifestyle, diet, and habits. It is based on the premise that the body can ‘heal itself’ and uses the body’s intrinsic ability to do so. Naturopaths prefer to use natural remedies like herbs, essential oils and foods, rather than synthetic drugs or invasive surgery, it is a blend of centuries-old natural, non-toxic therapies, combined with modern advances and understanding of health and the human body. Naturopathic medicine covers all aspects of family health from pre-natal and newborn care, to geriatric treatments. It focuses on ‘whole’ patient wellness, the treatment is tailored to the specific patient and emphasizes self-care and illness prevention.

Naturopaths aim to find and identify underlying causes for illness, rather than simply treating the symptoms, and they tend to cooperate with other branches of more traditional medicine, referring patients to other expert practitioners and healers as required or appropriate. Naturopathic practitioners emphasize a holistic approach to patient case, and sometimes recommend that their patients use conventional medicine along with their own prescribed naturopathic remedies.

Naturopathy is practiced in many countries, but is subject to different regulatory standards depending upon which country you are in. The scope of practice for Naturopathic doctors varies amongst different jurisdictions, and Naturopathic doctors who are trained at an accredited North American School are entitled to use the designation ND or NMD. However, it is important to note, that in unregulated jurisdictions, naturopaths may use the ND designation or other titles anyway!

History of naturopathic medicine
The first naturopathic college in the United States, was the American School of Naturopathy, founded by Benedict Lust in New York in 1905. Lust had been trained in Germany by Father Sebastian Kneipp. Naturopathy has been around for centuries however and Hippocrates is seen by many as the first advocate of naturopathic medicine (before the term officially existed).
Naturopathy took a dip in popularity in the 1930s, as penicillin and synthetic drugs like antibiotics and corticosteroids were developed and became available for use. Naturopathy began it’s modern renewal in 1956 when the National College of Naturopathic Medicine was opened in Portland, Oregon. It offered 4 year naturopathic medical training. Today there are 6 accredited naturopathic medical schools in North America.

There are six core values to naturopathy, of which there are multiple versions, and mission statements from Naturopathic schools, but they basically cover the following:
1. First, do no harm; provide the most effective health care available with the least risk to patients at all times (Primum Non Nocere).
2. Recognize, respect and promote the self-healing power of nature inherent in each individual human being. (Vis Medicatrix Naturae).
3. Identify and remove the causes of illness, rather than eliminate or suppress symptoms (Tolle Causum).
4. Educate, inspire rational hope and encourage self-responsibility for health (Doctor as Teacher).
5. Treat each person by considering all individual health factors and influences. (Treat the Whole Person).
6. Emphasize the condition of health to promote well-being and to prevent diseases for the individual, each community and our world. (Health Promotion, the Best Prevention)

The focus of a naturopath is on ‘natural’ health, and as a result there are not specific methods that practitioners utilize in the treatment of their patients – they tend instead to use a wide variety of natural & alternative treatment modalities. The main treatments utilized however, are, acupuncture / oriental medicine, botanical medicine, homeopathy, nutrition, physical medicine (may include sports medicine, manipulative therapy etc), nature cure (exposure to natural elements such as sunshine and fresh air) and psychological counselling (meditation & relaxation). Some naturopaths also use color therapy, iridology, kinesiology and reflexology as other treatment options.

There are two groups in North America calling themselves “naturopaths”. There are traditional naturopaths, who are not primary care physicians, and then there are naturopathic doctors, who have been trained in traditional medical practices along with training in the traditional naturopathic approach.