Naturopathic medicine is a system of medicine based on the healing power of nature, prevention, and non-invasive, natural therapeutics.
Naturopathic doctors are trained at accredited, 4-year, residential naturopathic medical colleges and pass a postdoctoral board examination (NPLEX) to become licensed. The training includes conventional medical sciences: anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, microbiology, pathology, immunology, clinical and physical diagnosis, diagnostic imaging, cardiology, pediatrics, gynecology, urology, gastroenterology, and laboratory diagnosis. There is also extensive training in natural therapeutics: naturopathic medicine philosophy, clinical nutrition, detoxification, nutritional supplementation, IV therapeutics, herbal medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, naturopathic manipulative therapeutics, and counseling.
Naturopathic doctors are able to use the conventional medical training to understand imbalances or disease in the body. With a holistic approach, naturopathic doctors strive to understand the cause of disease by understanding the body, mind, and spirit of each patient. They are then able to support the body’s own healing abilities with the application of natural therapeutics. Also, through dietary and lifestyle counseling, the naturopathic doctor is able to empower the patient to make changes that address disease and more importantly prevent disease.
Naturopathic doctors are guided by 6 principles of naturopathic philosophy (listed to the right).
The roots of naturopathic medicine as a system of medicine can be traced to the 1800s and early 1900s as part of Nature Cure in Germany and Austria. The roots go even deeper to all ancient healing traditions in different cultures. Nature Cure practitioners recommended nourishing foods, air baths, sunlight, hydrotherapy, medicinal herbs, and physical activity to improve health. The Nature Cure movement spread from Germany throughout Europe. The simple, non-invasive treatments were effective and easily employed by people of all walks of life.
Benedict Lust, a German immigrant, introduced naturopathic medicine to the United States in the early 1900s. He founded the American School of Naturopathy in New York. Naturopathic medicine flourished into the 1920s with many naturopathic schools and doctors throughout the United States. It began to decline in the 1950s with the rise of pharmaceutical medications. In the 1970s, interest in naturopathic medicine rebounded as some people became disenchanted with the promise of pharmaceutical medications and rising healthcare costs.