Read an Excerpt
What Is Natural Medicine?
The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.
An evolution in the core principles of health care has been occurring over the last few decades. At the forefront of this change is naturopathic medicine—a system of medicine based on the belief that the human body has a remarkable innate healing ability. Naturopathic doctors (N.D.’s) view the patient as a complex, interrelated system—a whole person—and focus on promoting health through natural, nontoxic therapies such as nutrition, lifestyle modification, herbal remedies, psychological measures, and many others.
Naturopathic medicine is helping to usher in the emerging paradigm in medicine. A paradigm is a model used to explain events. As our understanding of the environment and the human body evolves, new paradigms are developed. For example, in physics the cause-and-effect views of Descartes and Newton were replaced by Einstein’s theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and approaches in theoretical physics that take into considerations the tremendous interconnectedness of the universe.
The new paradigm in medicine also focuses on the interconnectedness of body, mind, emotions, social factors, and the environment. While the old paradigm viewed the body basically as a machine that can be fixed best with drugs and surgery, the emerging new model considers these measures secondary to natural, noninvasive techniques that promote health by supporting the body’s own healing processes. The relationship between the physician and patient is also evolving. The era of the physician as a demigod is over. The era of self-empowerment is beginning.
Naturopathic Medicine: A Brief History
Naturopathy (the word means “nature cure”) is a method of healing that employs various natural means to empower an individual to achieve the highest level of health possible. Despite its philosophical links to many cultures, modern naturopathic medicine grew out of natural healing systems in 18th- and 19th-century Europe and the United States. The European tradition of “taking the cure” at natural springs or spas had gained a foothold in America by the middle of the 18th century. The custom helped make Germany and the United States especially receptive to the ideas of naturopathy. Among the movement’s earliest promoters were Sebastian Kneipp, a priest who credited his recovery from tuberculosis to bathing in the Danube; and Benedict Lust, a physician who trained at the water-cure clinic that Kneipp had founded in Europe. Lust arrived in the United States in the 1890s and began using the term naturopathy to describe an eclectic compilation of doctrines of natural healing.
In 1902, Lust founded the first naturopathic college of medicine in the United States in New York City. It taught a system of medicine that included the best of what was then known about nutritional therapy, natural diet, herbal medicine, homeopathy, spinal manipulation, exercise therapy, hydrotherapy, electrotherapy, stress reduction, and other natural therapies. The basic tenets of Lust’s view of naturopathy are summarized in his article “The Principles, Aim and Program of the Nature Cure”:1
The natural system for curing disease is based on a return to nature in regulating the diet, breathing, exercising, bathing and the employment of various forces to eliminate the poisonous products in the system, and so raise the vitality of the patient to a proper standard of health. . . .
THE PROGRAM OF NATUROPATHIC CURE
1. ELIMINATION OF EVIL HABITS, or the weeds of life, such as over-eating, alcoholic drinks, drugs, the use of tea, coffee and cocoa that contain poisons, meat eating, improper hours of living, waste of vital forces, lowered vitality, sexual and social aberrations, worry, etc.
2. CORRECTIVE HABITS. Correct breathing, correct exercise, right mental attitude. Moderation in the pursuit of health and wealth.
3. NEW PRINCIPLES OF LIVING. Proper fasting, selection of food, hydropathy, light and air baths, mud baths, osteopathy, chiropractic and other forms of mechano-therapy, mineral salts obtained in organic from, electropathy, heliopathy, steam or Turkish baths, sitz baths, etc. . . .
There is really but one healing force in existence and that is Nature herself, which means the inherent restorative power of the organism to overcome disease. Now the question is, can this power be appropriated and guided more readily by extrinsic or intrinsic methods? That is to say, is it more amenable to combat disease by irritating drugs, vaccines and serums employed by superstitious moderns, or by the bland intrinsic congenial forces of Natural Therapeutics, that are employed by this new school of medicine, that is Naturopathy, which is the only orthodox school of medicine? Are not these natural forces much more orthodox than the artificial resources of the druggist? The practical application of these natural agencies, duly suited to the individual case, are true signs that the art of healing has been elaborated by the aid of absolutely harmless, congenial treatments.
The early naturopaths, including Lust, attached great importance to a natural, healthful diet. So did many of their contemporaries. John Kellogg, a physician, Seventh-day Adventist, and vegetarian, ran the Battle Creek Sanitarium, which utilized natural therapies; his brother, Will, built and ran a factory in Battle Creek, Michigan, to produce health foods such as shredded wheat and granola biscuits. Driven both by personal convictions about the benefits of cereal fibers and by commercial interests, the Kellogg brothers, along with a former employee, C. W. Post, helped popularize naturopathic ideas about food.
Naturopathic medicine grew and flourished in the early part of the 20th century. However, in the mid-1930s several factors led to the medical profession’s establishing the foundation for its current virtual monopoly on health care: (1) the medical profession finally stopped using therapies such as bloodletting and mercury dosing, replacing them with new therapies that were more effective for treating symptoms and much less toxic; (2) foundations supported by the drug industry began heavily subsidizing medical schools and drug research; and (3) the medical profession became much more of a political force, resulting in the passing of legislation that severely restricted the viability of other health care systems.2
Naturopathy has experienced a tremendous resurgence since the mid-1970s when the profession was nearly extinct. This resurgence is largely related to increased public awareness about the role of diet and lifestyle in chronic diseases and the failure of modern medicine to deal effectively with these disorders. In addition, the 1978 founding of Bastyr University, with its focus on teaching science-based natural medicine and its landmark achievement of accreditation, played a major role.
The Philosophy of Naturopathic Medicine
Although the term naturopathy or naturopathic medicine was not used until the late 19th century, the philosophical roots of this medical system go back thousands of years. Drawing on the healing wisdom of many cultures, including India’s ayurveda, China’s Taoism, and Greece’s Hippocratic school of medicine, naturopathic medicine is a system founded on seven time-tested principles:
Principle 1: The healing power of nature (vis medicatrix naturae). Naturopathic physicians believe that the body has considerable power to heal itself. It is the role of the physician to facilitate and enhance this process with the aid of natural nontoxic therapies.
Principle 2: Identify and treat the cause (tolle causam). The naturopathic physician is trained to seek the underlying causes of a disease rather than simply suppress the symptoms, which are viewed as expressions of the body’s attempt to heal. The causes of disease can arise at the physical, mental-emotional, and spiritual levels.
Principle 3: First, do no harm (primum non nocere). The naturopathic physician seeks to do no harm with medical treatment by employing safe and effective natural therapies.
Principle 4: Treat the whole person (holism). Naturopathic physicians are trained to view an individual as a whole, a complex interaction of physical, mental-emotional, spiritual, social, and other factors.
Principle 5: The physician as teacher (docere). The naturopathic physician is foremost a teacher, educating, empowering, and motivating the patients to assume more personal responsibility for their health by adopting a healthful attitude, lifestyle, and diet.
Principle 6: Prevention is the best cure. Naturopathic physicians are specialists in preventive medicine. Prevention of disease and support of health are accomplished through education and life habits.
Principle 7: Establishing health and wellness. Establishing and maintaining optimal health and promoting wellness are the primary goals of the naturopathic physician. While health is defined as the state of optimal physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, wellness is defined as a state of health characterized by a positive emotional state. The naturopathic physician strives to increase the level of wellness regardless of the disease or level of health. Even in cases of severe disease, a high level of wellness can often be achieved.
Naturopathic physicians’ primary focus is on promoting health and preventing disease. In addition to providing recommendations on lifestyle, diet, and exercise, naturopathic physicians may elect to utilize a variety of therapeutic modalities to promote health. Some naturopathic physicians choose to emphasize a particular therapeutic modality, while others are more eclectic and utilize a number of modalities; some naturopaths elect to focus on particular medical fields such as pediatrics, natural childbirth, physical medicine, and so on.
Naturopathic medicine is inclusive, in that it incorporates a variety of healing techniques. The current treatments naturopathic physicians are trained in include clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, Oriental medicine and acupuncture, hydrotherapy, physical medicine including massage and therapeutic manipulation, counseling and other psychotherapies, and minor surgery. In addition, in many states licensed naturopathic physicians can prescribe pharmaceutical drugs.
Clinical nutrition, or the use of diet as a therapy, serves as the foundation of naturopathic medicine. There is an ever-increasing body of knowledge that supports the use of whole foods and nutritional supplements in the maintenance of health and treatment of disease.
Plants have been used as medicines since antiquity. Naturopathic physicians are professionally trained in herbal medicine and know both the historical uses of plants and modern pharmacological mechanisms.
The term homeopathy is derived from the Greek words homeo, meaning “similar,” and pathos, meaning “disease.” Homeopathy is a system of medicine that treats a disease with a dilute, potentized agent, or drug, that will produce the same symptoms as the disease when given to a healthy individual, the fundamental principle being that like cures like. Homeopathic medicines are derived from a variety of plant, mineral, and chemical substances.
Traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture are part of an ancient system of medicine involving techniques used to enhance the flow of vital energy (chi). Acupuncture involves the stimulation of certain specific points on the body along chi pathways called meridians. Acupuncture points can be stimulated by the insertion and withdrawing of needles, by the application of heat (moxibustion), by massage, by the application of laser light or electrical current, or by a combination of these methods.
Hydrotherapy may be defined as the use of water in any of its forms (hot, cold, ice, steam, etc.) and methods of application (sitz bath, douche, spa or hot tub, whirlpool, sauna, shower, immersion bath, pack, poultice, foot-bath, fomentation, wrap, colonic irrigation, etc.) in the maintenance of health or treatment of disease. It is one of the ancient methods of treatment. Hydrotherapy has been used by many different peoples, including the Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Hebrews, Hindus, and Chinese.
Physical medicine refers to the use of physical measures in the treatment of an individual. This includes the use of physiotherapy equipment such as ultrasound, diathermy, and other electromagnetic energy agents; therapeutic exercise; massage; joint mobilization (manipulative) and immobilization techniques; and hydrotherapy.
Counseling and lifestyle modification techniques are essential to the naturopathic physician. A naturopath is formally trained in the following counseling areas:
1. Interviewing and responding skills, active listening, the assessment of body language, and other contact skills necessary for the therapeutic relationship
2. Recognition and understanding of prevalent psychological issues, including developmental problems, abnormal behavior, addictions, stress, problematic sexuality, etc.
3. Various treatment measures, including hypnosis and guided imagery, counseling techniques, correction of underlying organic factors, and family therapy
Naturopathic Primary Care
The modern naturopathic physician provides all phases of primary health care. That is, naturopathic physicians are trained to be the doctor first seen by the patient for general (nonemergency) health care. Clinical assessment generally follows the conventional medical model, with a medical history, physical exam, laboratory evaluation, and other well-accepted diagnostic procedures, but the clinical assessment may be influenced by nonconventional diagnostic techniques such as tests for nutrient deficiencies, toxin load, and physiological function.
A typical first office visit with a naturopathic doctor often takes one hour. Since naturopathic physicians consider one of their primary goals to be teaching the patient how to live healthfully, the time devoted to discussing and explaining principles of health maintenance and medical aspects is one of the aspects that set naturopaths apart from many other health care providers.
The patient-physician relationship begins with a thorough medical history and interview process designed to explore all aspects of a patient’s lifestyle. The physician will perform standard diagnostic procedures if these are needed, including physical exam and blood and urine analysis. Once a good understanding of the patient’s health and disease status is established (making a diagnosis of a disease is only one part of this process), the doctor and patient work together to establish a treatment and health-promotion program.
Because many naturopathic physicians function as primary health care providers, standard medical monitoring, follow-up, and exams are critical to good patient care. Patients are encouraged to receive regular yearly checkups, including a full physical. When therapies are used, outcomes are assessed using conventional tools (e.g., patient interview, physical exam, laboratory tests, radiological imaging, etc.).
Contrasting Naturopathy to Allopathy
You may be asking how naturopathic physicians view health differently from conventional medical doctors. First of all, by definition and philosophy most conventional medical doctors practice allopathic medicine. Allopathy refers to conventional medicine as practiced by a graduate of a medical school or college granting the degree of doctor of medicine (M.D.). It is a system of medicine that focuses primarily on treating disease rather than on promoting health.
The fundamental difference between naturopathy and allopathy is that the allopathic physician tends to view good health primarily as a physical state in which there is no obvious disease present. In contrast, naturopathic physicians recognize true health as the state of optimal physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. The key difference between naturopathic and allopathic physicians is apparent if we look at how each type of doctor views not only health but also disease.
To illustrate the differences, let’s take a look at how each views and addresses the “infection equation.” The infection equation is like a mathematical equation, such as 1 + 2 = 3. In the infection equation, what determines the outcome is the interaction of the host’s immune system with the infecting organism. A naturopathic doctor tends to use treatments designed to enhance the immune system, while most conventional doctors tend to use treatments designed to kill the invading organism. Conventional medicine has been obsessed with infective agents rather than host defense factors. This obsession really began with Louis Pasteur, the 19th-century physician and researcher who played a major role in the development of the germ theory. This theory holds that different diseases are caused by different infectious organisms, with the patient as a passive victim. Much of Pasteur’s life was dedicated to finding substances that would kill the infecting organisms. Pasteur and others since him who pioneered effective treatments of infectious diseases have given us a great deal, for which we all should be thankful. However, there is more to the infection equation.
Another 19th-century French scientist, Claude Bernard, also made major contributions to medical understanding. Bernard, however, had a different view of health and disease. Bernard believed that the state of a person’s internal environment was more important in determining disease than the pathogen itself. In other words, Bernard believed that the person’s internal “terrain,” or susceptibility to infection, was more important than the germ. Physicians, he believed, should focus more attention on making this internal terrain a very inhospitable place for disease to flourish.
Bernard’s theory led to some rather interesting studies. In fact, a firm advocate of the germ theory would find some of these studies to be absolutely crazy. One of the most interesting studies was conducted by a Russian scientist named Élie Metchnikoff, the discover of white blood cells. He and his research associates consumed cultures containing millions of cholera bacteria, yet none of them developed cholera. The reason: their immune systems were not compromised. Metchnikoff believed, like Bernard, that the correct way to deal with infectious disease was to focus on enhancing the body’s own defenses.
During the last part of their lives, Pasteur and Bernard engaged in scientific discussions on the virtues of the germ theory and Bernard’s perspective on the internal terrain. On his deathbed, Pasteur supposedly said: “Bernard was right. The pathogen is nothing. The terrain is everything.” Unfortunately, Pasteur’s legacy is the obsession with the pathogen, and modern medicine has largely forgotten the importance of the “terrain.”
Now, we want to make it very clear that advances in conventional medicine can produce lifesaving results when used appropriately. There is little argument, for example, that when used appropriately, antibiotics save lives. However, there is also little argument that antibiotics are grossly overprescribed. While the appropriate use of antibiotics makes good medical sense, what does not make sense is the reliance on antibiotics for such conditions as acne, recurrent bladder infections, chronic ear infections, chronic sinusitis, chronic bronchitis, and nonbacterial sore throats. The antibiotics rarely provide a substantial benefit, and these conditions are effectively treated with natural measures.
The widespread use and abuse of antibiotics is increasingly alarming for many reasons, including the near epidemic of chronic candidiasis as well as the development of “superbugs” that are resistant to currently available antibiotics. We are coming dangerously close to a “post-antibiotic era” in which many infectious diseases will once again become almost impossible to treat.3,4
Since there is evidence that resistance to antibiotics is less of a problem when these medications are used sparingly, a reduction in antibiotic prescriptions may be the only significant way to address the problem. The consensus of medical experts as well as the World Health Organization is that antibiotic use must be restricted and inappropriate use halted if the growing trend toward bacterial resistance to antibiotics is to be halted and reversed.
Our interpretation of this challenge is that it is going to force conventional medical thinkers to take a closer look at ways to enhance resistance against infection. Our belief is that as they do so they will discover the healing power of nature. There is an ever-increasing body of knowledge that supports the use of whole foods, nutritional supplements, and a healthful lifestyle and attitude in enhancing resistance to infection. For example, children deficient in any of a large number of nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and zinc, are far more susceptible to a wide range of infectious agents. While in the short term antibiotics may be critically important, in the long run they do nothing to improve an impaired immune system, so infections continue to recur.
Using Naturopathic Medicine as a Treatment
In addition to promoting good health, natural medicines such as herbal products and nutritional supplements are often used as direct substitutes for conventional drugs. However, an important distinction must be made: in most cases the use of these natural medicines involves promoting the healing process rather than suppressing symptoms. To illustrate this point, let’s look at osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis) and consider the natural approach vs. the drug approach.
Osteoarthritis is characterized by a breakdown of cartilage. Cartilage serves an important role in joint function. Its gel-like nature provides protection to the ends of joints by acting as a shock absorber. Degeneration of the cartilage is the hallmark feature of osteoarthritis. This degeneration causes inflammation, pain, deformity, and limitation of motion in the joint.
The primary drugs used in the treatment of osteoarthritis are the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. These include, for example, aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), piroxicam (Feldene), diclofenac (Voltaren), and the newer COX-2 inhibitor drugs such as celecoxib (Celebrex). Although NSAIDs are extensively used in the United States, these drugs are associated with side effects such as gastrointestinal upset, headaches, and dizziness, and are therefore recommended for only short periods of time. In addition, about 7,000 Americans die each year from ulcers produced by the older NSAIDs.5 Newer versions such as rofecoxib (Vioxx, withdrawn from the market in 2004) and celecoxib are now known to increase the risk of death due to heart damage, and they still carry a significant risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. It is estimated that in the first five years after these drugs were approved, more than 60,000 people in the United States may have lost their lives from side effects.6
Not widely known is that while these drugs may suppress the symptoms of osteoarthritis in the short term, clinical studies have shown that in the long run they may actually accelerate joint destruction and block cartilage repair by inhibiting the formation of key compounds in cartilage known as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). These compounds are responsible for maintaining the proper water content in the cartilage matrix, thereby helping cartilage keep its gel-like nature and shock-absorbing qualities. Simply stated, aspirin and other NSAIDs are designed to fight disease rather than promote health.7–13
In contrast, the natural approach to the treatment of osteoarthritis facilitates the body’s natural healing process. For example, glucosamine sulfate appears to address one of the underlying factors that can cause osteoarthritis: the reduced manufacture of cartilage components (specifically GAGs). By getting at the root of the problem—not only increasing the rate of cartilage formation but also improving the health of the cartilage—glucosamine sulfate both reduces symptoms, including pain, and helps the body repair damaged joints.14–16 In head-to head comparison studies with NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, piroxicam, and celecoxib, glucosamine has been shown to provide comparable or greater benefit.17–20 While side effects are common and even expected with pharmaceutical drugs, glucosamine sulfate does not cause side effects. The only advantage of the drugs is that symptom relief occurs more quickly than with the natural therapies, but this advantage lasts for only a few weeks. Within a few months, glucosamine sulfate results in greater symptom relief. For more information, see the chapter “Osteoarthritis.”
Complementary Aspects of Naturopathic Medicine
In addition to being used as primary therapy, naturopathic medicine is valuable as a complementary approach to conventional medicine, especially in severe illnesses that require pharmacological and/or surgical intervention, such as cancer, angina, congestive heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, and trauma. For example, a patient with severe congestive heart failure who requires drugs such as digoxin and furosemide can benefit from the appropriate use of thiamine, carnitine, and coenzyme Q10 supplementation. Although there are double-blind studies demonstrating the value of these agents as complementary therapies in congestive heart failure, they are rarely prescribed by conventional medical doctors in the United States. For more information, see the chapter “Congestive Heart Failure.”
Using Naturopathic Medicine as Prevention
Ultimately, naturopathic medicine may prove most useful in the prevention of disease. Naturopathic physicians are trained to spend considerable time and effort in teaching patients the importance of adhering to a health-promoting lifestyle, diet, and attitude. True primary prevention involves addressing a patient’s risk for disease (especially for heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and osteoporosis) and instituting a course of action designed to reduce controllable risk factors.
The health benefits and cost-effectiveness of disease prevention programs have been clearly demonstrated. Studies have consistently found that participants in wellness-oriented programs had a reduced number of days of disability (a 43% reduction in one study), a lower number of days spent in a hospital (a 54% drop in one study), and a lower amount spent on health care (a remarkable 76% decrease in one study).21
Definitions of Prevention
Lifestyle modification, decreased intake of dietary fat, increased dietary fiber intake, increased intake of plant foods, nutritional supplementation, smoking cessation, alcohol abuse cessation, counseling, immunization
Early detection of subclinical disease to prevent further disability: screening for hypertension, hearing impairment, visual acuity, osteoporosis, high cholesterol, cancer
Minimizing disability and handicap from established disease
The Need for Naturopathic Medicine
There is a tremendous need for naturopathic medicine to become the dominant method of medicine in practice. Each year in the United States we spend more than $2 trillion on health care—or, more accurately, we are spending the majority of these dollars on “disease care.” Health care costs now consume 17% of the gross national product (GNP), with the percentage of GNP spent on health care continuing to increase at twice the rate of inflation. We cannot afford to continue to go in this direction.
If naturopathic medicine, with its focus on promoting health and preventing disease, became the dominant medical model, not only would health care costs be dramatically reduced, but the health of Americans would improve dramatically. It is a sad fact that while we are grossly outspending every other nation in the world on health care, as a nation we are not healthy. Almost half of adults suffer from one or more chronic diseases (such as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease) as well as obesity. What’s especially alarming about these statistics is that these apply to adults supposedly in their prime. The numbers are far worse for the elderly, virtually all of whom suffer from one or more chronic degenerative diseases
Health Status of Americans Ages 18 to 6422
One chronic disease: 29%
Two chronic diseases: 18%
Three or more chronic diseases: 7%
Wellness-Oriented Medicine Is the Solution
Wellness-oriented medicine, such as naturopathic medicine, provides a practical solution to escalating health care costs and poor health status. Equally important is that this orientation can increase patient satisfaction. Studies have observed that patients utilizing the natural-medicine/health-promotion approach are more satisfied with the results of their treatment than they are with the results of conventional treatments like drugs and surgeries. A few studies have directly compared the satisfaction of patients using natural medicine with that of patients using conventional medicine. The largest study was done in the Netherlands, where natural medicine practitioners are an integral part of the health care system.24 This extensive study compared satisfaction in 3,782 patients seeing either a conventional physician or a complementary practitioner. The patients seeing the natural medicine practitioner reported better results for almost every condition. Of particular interest was the observation that the patients seeing a complementary practitioner were somewhat sicker at the start of therapy, and that in only 4 of the 23 conditions did the conventional medical patients report better results.
Percentage of Adult Americans Suffering from the 10 Most Common Chronic Diseases23
Respiratory disease (asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis)
High blood pressure
Ischemic heart disease
NA = data not available
Patient Satisfaction with Complementary Practitioners Compared with Medical Specialists24
COMPLEMENTARY PRACTITIONER PATIENTS, % IMPROVED
MEDICAL PATIENTS, % IMPROVED
Feeling very ill
Itching or burning
Tiredness or lethargy
Tension or depression
Shortness of breath
Nausea or vomiting
Diarrhea or constipation
Poor vision or hearing
Dizziness and fainting
Why Is There a Bias Against Natural Medicine on the Part of Medical Doctors?
The simple answer to this important question is that many doctors are simply not educated in the value of nutrition and other natural therapies. In fact, most were told during their education that alternative medicines are worthless. Many doctors are not aware of, or choose to ignore, data on beneficial natural therapies such as diet, exercise, and dietary supplements, even if the data are overwhelmingly positive. Rather than admit they don’t know whether natural therapies might be valid, most doctors have a knee-jerk reaction that such treatments can’t be helpful. They often suffer from what we refer to as the “tomato effect,” alluding to the widely held belief in North America in the 18th century that tomatoes were poisonous, even though they were a dietary staple in Europe. It wasn’t until 1820, when Robert Gibbon Johnson ate a tomato on the courthouse steps in Salem, Indiana, that the “poisonous tomato” barrier was broken in the minds of many Americans.
In medicine, many physicians have an attitude regarding alternative therapies that is quite similar to this “tomato effect.” For example, though diet is a critical foundation of health, when patients ask their doctor about dietary therapy or a nutritional supplement for a particular condition, even if the nutritional approach has considerable support in the scientific literature that proves its safety and effectiveness, most doctors will caution patients against going the natural route or tell them that while it won’t hurt them, it won’t help them either. The truth is that in many cases, the doctor just doesn’t know anything about it. Keep in mind that it took the medical community more than 40 years to accept the link between low folic acid levels during pregnancy and crippling birth defects of the spinal cord (neural tube defects such as spina bifida). It is estimated that 70 to 85% of the more than 100,000 children born with neural tube defects during that time could have been born healthy if doctors had not been so biased against scientific data on nutritional supplements.25 The good news is that in the two decades since the publication of the first edition of this book, the medical community has become more receptive to natural therapies. Unfortunately, its political organizations continue to work at the local, state, and federal levels to prevent licensing of naturopaths, insurance equality, and critical research.
A licensed naturopathic physician (N.D.) attends an accredited four-year graduate-level naturopathic medical school. Admission requirements are similar to those required for conventional medical school. Specifically, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree or a higher degree from an accredited college or university, and must have taken courses in general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, algebra, general biology, psychology, and English composition.
The curriculum is divided into two primary categories, academic and clinical. The first academic year is primarily composed of the study of the normal structure and function of the body (anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, histology, embryology, etc.). The second year focuses on the pathological transitions to disease, along with clinical recognition of these processes using physical, clinical, radiological, and laboratory diagnostics.
The third and fourth academic years focus on conventional and naturopathic perspectives in clinical diagnostics for pediatrics, gynecology, obstetrics, dermatology, neurology, endocrinology, cardiology, gastroenterology, and geriatrics. During the third and fourth years there is also a focus on naturopathic therapies. Students are required to take core classes (usually two or three quarters) in botanical medicine, homeopathy, counseling, diet, therapeutic nutrition, and physical medicine. Students are then able to choose which modality to focus on in elective advanced courses or may choose courses in other areas such as acupuncture and ayurvedic medicine to meet elective requirements.
The clinical curriculum begins first with students assisting in patient care and/or in the pharmacy and laboratory. Although no naturopathic medical school currently has inpatient facilities, all schools have extensive clinical facilities where students work under the direction of supervising naturopathic physicians and conduct complete patient evaluation, treatment, and monitoring, and perform other aspects of patient care. Students are also required to observe or work under the direction of licensed primary care physicians.
The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) was created in 1978 to establish and administer educational programs and colleges of naturopathic medicine. Currently, there are seven schools in the United States and Canada that train naturopathic physicians with accreditation:
14500 Juanita Drive NE
Kenmore, WA 98028-4966
Phone: (425) 823-1300
Fax: (425) 823-6222
National College of Natural Medicine
049 SW Porter Street
Portland, OR 97201
Phone: (503) 552-1555
National University of Health Sciences
200 E Roosevelt
Lombard, IL 60148
Phone: (630) 629-2000
Fax: (630) 889-6499
Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine
2140 E Broadway Road
Tempe, AZ 85282
Phone: (480) 858-9100
Fax (480) 858-9116
University of Bridgeport—College of Naturopathic Medicine
Health Science Center
60 Lafayette Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604
Phone: (800) EXCEL UB ext. 4108
Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine
1255 Sheppard Avenue E
Toronto, ON M2K 1E2
Phone: (416) 498-1255, toll-free (866) 241-2266
Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine
Boucher Centre, 300-435 Columbia Street
New Westminster, BC V3L 5N8
Phone: (604) 777-9981
Fax: (604) 777-9982
Currently, 16 states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands have licensing laws for naturopathic doctors. In these states, naturopathic doctors are required to graduate from an accredited four-year residential naturopathic medical school and pass an extensive postdoctoral board examination (NPLEX) in order to receive a license. Legal provisions allow the practice of naturopathic medicine in several other states, and efforts to gain licensure elsewhere are currently under way. Naturopathic physicians are also recognized throughout all provinces in Canada.
Licensed naturopathic physicians must fulfill state-mandated continuing education requirements annually, and will have a specific scope of practice defined by their state’s law. Currently there are licensing laws for naturopathic physicians in:
District of Columbia
United States territories: Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) is the national professional organization of licensed naturopathic physicians. The organization is also seeking to differentiate professional trained naturopaths from unscrupulous individuals claiming to be naturopaths because they received a “mail-order” degree. In states that license naturopaths, it is apparent who is a qualified naturopathic physician. In other states, since there is no licensing board overseeing the profession, people receiving mail-order diplomas from nonaccredited correspondence schools may call themselves N.D.’s, but there is a major difference in the quality of education and training between a licensable N.D. who graduated from an accredited school and a mail-order N.D. In states that do not license naturopaths, the best criteria for legitimacy are that a doctor is a graduate of one of the schools listed above and that he or she is a member of the AANP, which restricts membership to only those N.D.’s who are graduates of accredited institutions. For more information contact:
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
4435 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Suite 403
Washington, DC 20016
Phone: (202) 237-8150, toll-free (866) 538-2267
Fax: (202) 237-8152
The Future of Naturopathic Medicine
To some, naturopathic medicine, as well as the entire concept of natural medicine, appears to be a fad that will soon pass. However, when the subject is considered with an open mind, it is quite clear that naturopathic medicine is at the forefront of the future. It is obvious that an evolution is occurring in health care and that as a result more natural therapies are gaining acceptance even in mainstream medical circles.
One of the pervasive myths about naturopathic medicine has been the belief there is no firm scientific evidence for the use of the natural therapies naturopathic physicians employ. However, as this book attests, scientific studies and observations have upheld the validity not only of diet, nutritional supplements, and herbal medicines but also of some of the more esoteric natural healing treatments, including acupuncture, biofeedback, meditation, and homeopathy. In many instances, scientific investigation has not only validated the natural measure but also led to significant improvements and greater understanding. In the past 30 or so years there have been tremendous advances in the understanding of the ways in which many natural therapies and compounds work to promote health or treat disease.
Even in mainstream medicine there is a growing trend toward using substances found in nature, including compounds naturally found in the human body such as interferon, interleukin, insulin, and human growth hormone, in place of synthetic drugs. Add to this the growing popularity of nutritional supplements and herbal products and it is quite obvious that a trend is emerging toward natural medicine. Suffice it to say that it appears that the concepts and philosophy of naturopathic medicine will persist and be a major part of the medicine of the future.
• Naturopathic medicine is a system of medicine that focuses on prevention and the use of nontoxic, natural therapies to treat and reverse disease.
• Naturopathic medicine is built upon seven underlying principles.
Principle 1: The healing power of nature (vis medicatrix naturae).
Principle 2: Identify and treat the cause (tolle causam).
Principle 3: First, do no harm (primum non nocere).
Principle 4: Treat the whole person (holism).
Principle 5: The physician as teacher (docere).
Principle 6: Prevention is the best cure.
Principle 7: Establishing health and wellness.
• As health care costs skyrocket, there is a tremendous need for naturopathic medicine.