Naturopathic medicine is a vital, growing branch of health care that blends time-honored
traditions with modern medical science.
The term “Naturopathy” was coined in the late 1800’s to describe the American and
European health movements that emphasized natural methods in the treatment of disease.
The guiding principle of naturopathic medicine is found in the Latin phrase “Vis
medicatrix naturae” … “Let nature be the force of your medicine.” These medicines
include general diet, vitamins, minerals, botanical preparations, homeopathic remedies
and natural prescription medicines such as antibiotics and hormones.
Treatment programs may also include physiotherapy (hydrotherapy, heat, electricity,
light, massage and manipulation), lifestyle changes and counseling. Ultimately your
doctor will help you find a program that supports and encourages your body’s own
The 6 Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
The practice of naturopathic medicine emerges from six principles of healing. These
principles are based on the objective observation of the nature of health and disease
and are examined continually in light of scientific analysis.
These principles stand as the distinguishing marks of our profession:
1) The healing power of nature -- vis medicatrix naturae
The body has the inherent ability to establish, maintain, and restore health. The
healing process is ordered and intelligent; nature heals through the response of
the life force. The physician’s role is to facilitate and augment this process,
to identify and remove obstacles to health and recovery, and to support the creation
of a healthy internal and external environment.
2) Identify and treat the cause -- tolle causam
Illness does not occur without cause. Underlying causes of disease must be
discovered and removed or treated before a person can recover completely from illness.
Symptoms are expressions of the body’s attempt to heal, but are not the cause of
disease; therefore, naturopathic medicine addresses itself primarily to the underlying
causes of disease, rather than to the symptoms. Causes may occur on many levels,
including physical, mental-emotional, and spiritual. The physician must evaluate
fundamental underlying causes on all levels, directing treatment at root causes
as well as seeking relief of symptoms.
3) First do no harm -- primum no nocere
The process of healing includes the generation of symptoms, which are, in
fact, expressions of the life force attempting to heal itself. Therapeutic actions
should be complementary to and synergistic with this healing process. The physician’s
actions can support or antagonize the actions of vis medicatrix naturae; therefore,
methods designed to suppress symptoms without removing underlying causes are considered
harmful and are avoided or minimized.
4) Treat the whole person -- in perturbato animo sicut in
corpore sanitas esse non potest
Health and disease are conditions of the whole organism, involving a complex
interaction of physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and
social factors. The physician must treat the whole person by taking all of these
factors into account. The harmonious functioning of all aspects of the individual
is essential to recovery from and prevention of disease, and requires a personalized
and comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment.
5) The physician as teacher -- docere
Beyond an accurate diagnosis and appropriate prescription, the physician
must work to create a healthy, sensitive interpersonal relationship with the patient.
A cooperative doctor-patient relationship has inherent therapeutic value. The physician’s
major role is to educate and encourage the patient to take responsibility for his
or her own health. The physician is a catalyst for healthful change, empowering
and motivating the patient to assume responsibility. It is the patient, not the
doctor, who ultimately creates or accomplishes healing. The physician must strive
to inspire hope as well as understanding. The physician must also make a commitment
to her/his personal and spiritual development.
6) Prevention -- principiis obsta: sero medicina curatur
The ultimate goal of naturopathic medicine is prevention. This is accomplished
through education and promotion of lifestyle habits that foster good health. The
physician assesses risk factors and hereditary susceptibility to disease and makes
appropriate interventions to avoid further harm and risk to the patient. The emphasis
is on building health rather than on fighting disease. Because it is difficult to
be healthy in an unhealthy world, it is the responsibility of both physician and
patient to create a healthier environment in which to live.
What type of education do Naturopathic doctors receive?
The Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine is a four-year graduate program. To become a
naturopathic doctor you must graduate from one of the 5 accredited Naturopathic
medical schools. They are....
These school train holistic primary care physicians and prepare them to sit for
examination in states and provinces that license N.D.s (naturopathic physicians).
What Modalities do Naturopathic Doctors use?
Botanical Medicine: Many plant substances are powerful medicines. Where isolated
chemically derived drugs may address only a single problem, botanical medicines
are able to address a variety of problems simultaneously. When properly utilized,
most botanical medicines can be applied effectively with minimal likelihood of side
Clinical Nutrition: Food is the best medicine and is a cornerstone of naturopathic
practice. Many medical conditions can be treated more effectively with foods and
nutritional supplements than they can by other means, with fewer complications and
side effects. N.D.s use diet, natural hygiene, fasting, and nutritional supplementation
in their practices.
Homeopathic Medicine: Homeopathic medicine is based on the principle of “like
cures like.” Clinical observation indicates that it works on a subtle, yet powerful,
energetic level, gently acting to promote healing on the physical, mental, and spiritual
Mind/Body Medicine: Mental attitudes and emotional states may influence,
or even cause, physical illness. Counselling, nutritional balancing, stress management,
hypnotherapy, biofeedback, and other therapies are used to help patients heal psychologically.
Naturopathic Obstetrics/midwifery: Naturopathic physicians provide natural
childbirth care in an out-of-hospital setting. They offer prenatal and postnatal
care using modern diagnostic techniques combined with ancient midwifery wisdom.
The naturopathic approach strengthens healthy body functions so that complications
associated with pregnancy may be prevented.
Minor Surgery: Naturopathic physicians do in-office minor surgery, including
repair of superficial wounds and removal of foreign bodies, cysts, and superficial
Oriental Medicine: Within the N.D. program, Oriental medicine is a healing
philosophy that is complementary to naturopathic medicine. Oriental medical theory
offers an important understanding of the unity of the body and mind and adds to
the Western understanding of physiology.
Physical Medicine: Naturopathic medicine has its own methods of therapeutic
manipulation of soft tissue, muscles, bones, and spine. N.D.s also use ultrasound,
diathermy, exercise, massage, water, heat and cold, and gentle electrical therapies.