Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are primary care physicians clinically trained in natural therapeutics and whose philosophy is derived in part from a Hippocratic teaching more than 2000 years old: Vis mediatrix naturae – nature is the healer of all diseases. Their practice is based on the same basic bio-medical science foundation that allopathic practice is; however, their philosophies and approaches differ considerably from their conventional counterparts. Naturopathic doctors diagnose disease and treat patients by using natural modalities such as physical manipulation, clinical nutrition, herbal medicine, homeopathy, counseling, acupuncture, and hydrotherapy, among others. They choose treatment based on the individual patient, not based on the generality of symptoms. This approach has proven successful in treating both chronic and acute conditions.
Scope of Practice
The legal aspects of practicing Naturopathic medicine vary from state to state in the U.S. and from province to province in Canada. In the state of California, in which Naturopathic physicians are licensed as primary health care providers, NDs may see patients for general health care and for the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic conditions. Their scope of practice may include, but is not limited to:
The use of plant medicine is core to Naturopathic practice and is therefore commonly prescribed. Botanical medicines are used in both traditional herbal formulations and as phytomedicines, which are scientifically researched and formulated. A resurgence of scientific research in Europe and Asia is demonstrating that some plant substances are superior to synthetic drugs in clinical situations.
This natural health system, developed by Samuel Hahnemann in the 1840s, continues to evolve. Some conditions that conventional medicine has no treatment for respond well to homeopathy. Homeopathic medicines are heavily diluted substances that are thought to cause effects similar to the symptoms presented. Due to this heavy dilution of medicinal substances that homeopathic preparations are thought to be very safe for most individuals including infants, children, and adults.
The concept, “Let your food be your medicine and medicine your food” has been the foundation of Naturopathic medicine. A growing body of scientific knowledge in this area is reflected in numerous professional journals of nutrition and dietary sciences, validating the Naturopathic approach to diet and nutrition. Many medical conditions can be treated as effectively with foods and nutritional supplements as they can by any other means, but with fewer complications and side effects.
The use of water for restoring, maintaining, and regulating health. Treatments include steam baths, saunas and hot and cold compresses, among others. Water is used both internally and externally in many different forms, such as steam, liquid or ice.
The art of touch, massage, physical therapy, and spinal manipulation are the basic tools of Naturopathic Manipulative Therapy (NMT) for chronic disease, and neck, back, sports, and motor vehicle injuries. The “tone” of a physician’s touch is a key non-verbal ingredient in establishing a successful, trusting relationship with patients.
Children and adults are now being exposed to greater quantities of chemicals in the environment and food supply. These chemicals interact synergistically to increase their negative effects. Naturopathic detoxification and immune restoration therapies are an important aspect of the practice.
Counseling / Stress Management
Mental attitudes and emotional states can be important elements in healing and disease. Naturopathic physicians are trained in various psychological techniques, including counseling, nutritional balancing, stress management, hypnotherapy, biofeedback and other methods.
This includes repair of superficial wounds, removal of foreign bodies, cysts and other superficial masses with local anesthesia as needed.
6 Guiding Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
1. First Do No Harm - primum non nocere
Naturopathic medicine uses therapies that are safe and effective.
2. The Healing Power of Nature - vis medicatrix naturae
The human body possesses the inherent ability to restore health. The physician’s role is to facilitate this process with the aid of natural, nontoxic therapies.
3. Discover and Treat the Cause, Not Just the Effect - tolle causam
Physicians seek and treat the underlying cause of a disease. Symptoms are viewed as expressions of the body’s natural attempt to heal. The origin of disease is removed or treated so the patient can recover.
4. Treat the Whole Person - tolle totum
The multiple factors in health and disease are considered while treating the whole person. Physicians provide flexible treatment programs to meet individual health care needs.
5. The Physician is a Teacher - docere
The physician’s major role is to educate, empower, and motivate patients to take responsibility for their own health. Creating a healthy, cooperative relationship with the patient has a strong therapeutic value.
6. Prevention is the best “cure” - praevenire
Naturopathic physicians are preventive medicine specialists. Physicians assess patient risk factors and heredity susceptibility and intervene appropriately to reduce risk and prevent illness. Prevention of disease is best accomplished through education and a lifestyle that supports health.
At Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, graduates have completed a rigorous four year medical program with over 1500 clinical training hours. In order to attend SCNM, students are required to have a bachelor's degree and to have completed several pre-requisite courses prior to enrollment. During their training at Southwest, the students first two years consist of basic medical science courses and conventional diagnostic training. Once the student passes their basic science board exams regulated by NABNE (North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners) www.nabne.org, they are permitted to enter their clinical training which is composed of rotations at the SCNM medical center, private offices of physicians and additional didactic work. For a more detailed list of required coursework please visit www.scnm.edu/ for additional information.