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Frequently Asked Questions About Naturopathic Medicine

What is naturopathic medicine?
What is the education of a naturopathic physician?
Where are the schools of naturopathic medicine located?
Where can I find a naturopathic physician?
What is a naturopathic physician's scope of practice?
What is a naturopathic physician, and how is that different from an alternative medicine practitioner?
How does a naturopathic physician differ from a homeopath?
Does my insurance cover naturopathic physicians?
What are some of the naturopathic treatments?
A Short Historical Background
Links to Useful Information

Indian Pipe

Q. What is naturopathic medicine?
A. Natural medicine concentrates on the wellness of the whole person. It emphasizes prevention and self-care. Naturopathic medicine attempts to find the underlying cause of the patient's condition rather than focusing on symptomatic treatment.

Naturopathic medicine is a particular training in medicine founded on the healing powers of nature. Within every person there is an innate ability for healing and maintaining health. The results of poor nutrition and lifestyle choices can lead to a decrease in resistance and the onset of disease. The symptoms of disease indicate improper functioning of organs and tissues. Bodies can be restored to normal function, effectively and naturally. This is possible with treatments that support and stimulate, rather than disrupt or suppress the body's ability to heal itself.

This holistic approach to health includes the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of each individual. These aspects are inseparably connected to the well being of the body. Therapies treat the whole person by supporting each of these areas throughout the healing process.

The practice of naturopathic medicine prefers non-invasive treatments that minimize the risks of harmful side effects. Naturopathic treatment corrects the fundamental imbalances and restores proper function and health by safe, effective, and natural methods. This approach to health care can prevent minor illnesses from developing into more serious or chronic degenerative diseases.

Naturopathic medicine treats a wide range of ailments aimed to restore health using a variety of therapies that can include nutrition, herbal medicine, homeopathy, physical medicine (including hydrotherapy, exercise, and manipulation), natural childbirth, minor surgery, counseling techniques, and Oriental medicine. Our objective is to determine the underlying cause of your condition or disease.
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Lady Slipper

Q. What is the education of a
naturopathic physician?

A. We are educated and trained as primary care physicians specializing in natural medicine. In the state of Oregon, we are required to attend an approved 4 year post-graduate school of naturopathic medicine after receiving a collage degree with the correct subjects studied similar to what is necessary for any accredited medical school.

A Naturopathic medical school provides a four-year program that includes intensive training in the basic, clinical and diagnostic sciences and naturopathic therapeutics, as well as two years of supervised clinical internship. Graduates receive a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND) degree after successfully completing classroom, clinic, and practical studies. After which they must pass a rigorous national board examination to be licensed.

ND's are trained in medical sciences including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, immunology, pharmacology, cardiology, neurology, radiology, minor surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, psychology, dermatology, and clinical and physical diagnosis. Specialized naturopathic techniques can include therapeutic nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, natural childbirth, acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, hydrotherapy, manipulative therapy, and counseling.

I graduated from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, founded in 1956, which is the oldest accredited school of natural medicine in North America located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest city of Portland, Oregon. Like many states and provinces, Oregon's laws require extensive post-doctoral medical board examination for licensure. We take them at the end of our 4 year medical education in order to practice medicine. We must complete 25 hours of approved continuing education each year in order to stay licensed.
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Q. Where are the schools of naturopathic medicine located?
A. In north America they are Bastyr University in Bothell, Washington; National College in Portland, Oregon; Southwest College in Scottsdale, Arizona; University of Bridgeport in Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Canadian College in Ontario, Canada.
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Butter Cup

Q. Where can I find a naturopathic
There is an excellent search engine here: AANP Practitioner Search. You may also be able to find a licensed naturopathic physician in your area using a Google search or Yelp.

There are licensure laws in several states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

Naturopathic physicians also practice in other states under other laws (i.e., as licensed acupuncturists or chiropractors) or without official government sanction (i.e., as nutritionists or natural health consultants). However, without standards in the states without licensing laws, individuals with little or no formal education may also proclaim themselves naturopathic doctors with diploma mill "degrees" or purchased certificates.

Don't be afraid to ask about the credentials of your healthcare provider.
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Q. What is a naturopathic physician's scope of practice?
A. In the states that naturopathic physicians are licensed they can provide primary care services including: preventive care, the diagnosis of disease using standard laboratory tests and medical exams, and even treat the whole family using natural therapies.

They function as part of the larger medical community and refer to the appropriate specialists whenever indicated. Naturopathic physicians successfully treat people who have acute problems like minor injuries and infections, but their greatest strength is the treatment of people with chronic diseases. In Oregon, we are given a liberal drug formulary and can prescribe many pharmaceutical drugs if this becomes necessary.
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Q. What is a naturopathic physician, and how is that different from an alternative
medicine practitioner?

A. A naturopathic physician is one type of alternative medical practitioner. Alternative medicine is a term used to describe all forms of medicine that are not "allopathic," (what is considered conventional medicine).

A naturopathic physician in Oregon where I'm located is a licensed primary care doctor who is clinically trained to diagnose and treat many of the same conditions that a medical doctor would. We usually choose to use herbal, homeopathic, and other natural medicines or supplements; physical medicine to correct muscular and skeletal complaints; dietary and lifestyle counseling; and performs clinical exams with lab testing as necessary.
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Colts Foot

Q. How does a naturopathic
physician differ from a homeopath?

A. Homeopathy is just one type of alternative medicine that naturopathic physicians are trained in. Homeopaths only use homeopathic medicine, and are not necessarily primary care physicians. All naturopathic physicians are trained to use homeopathy, and some choose to use it as a specialty.
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Q. Does my insurance cover
naturopathic physicians?

A. More and more insurance policies are beginning to cover alternative medicine. You may need to ask your insurance provider if they provide this coverage. The more people that request coverage for this medicine, the sooner the insurance industry will provide this service.
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Q. What are some of the naturopathic treatments?

Ayurvedic Medicine - Some naturopathic physicians have a specialty in Ayurveda (the medicine of India), using pulse diagnosis, revitalization treatments, Ayurvedic botanical medicine and diet to achieve health.

Botanical Medicine - Many plant substances are powerful medicines, effective and safe when used properly, in the right dose and in proper combinations with other herbs or treatments. Naturopathic physicians are the only licensed health care providers fully trained in the use of botanical medicine.

Colon Therapy - Water and natural solutions are introduced into the colon to stimulate the body's detoxification process.

Yellow Lupine

Counseling - Counseling on diet, life-style, exercise, and occupational and environmental hazards is an integral part of the naturopathic treatment program.

Diagnosis - Naturopathic physicians use many conventional diagnostic tools including a thorough health history, physical examinations, X-rays, and comprehensive laboratory tests when indicated.

Homeopathy - This powerful system of medicine is based on the "law of similars" (like cures like). Specially prepared dilutions of substances are carefully matched with the patient to stimulate the body's innate ability to heal.

Natural Childbirth - Some Naturopathic physicians have a specialty in midwifery, offering non-invasive prenatal care, natural unmedicated birth (usually at home), and postnatal care for mother and infant.

Therapeutic Nutrition - Nutritional therapies have fewer complications and side effects than pharmaceutical drugs. Many conditions are treated successfully with nutrition alone. The therapeutic use of foods has always been a cornerstone of naturopathic medicine.

Prescription Medicines - Sometimes the least possible intervention includes the use of antibiotics or other pharmaceutical drugs. Your naturopathic physician can and will prescribe these when appropriate.

Physical Medicine - Various physical therapies are used to treat the body including manipulation of the muscles, bones and spine. Heat and cold, gentle electric impulses, ultrasound, diathermy, hydrotherapy and exercise therapy are also used.

Oriental Medicine - Many naturopathic physicians have a specialty in Oriental medicine, and use pulse diagnosis, acupuncture, acupressure and Oriental botanical medicine.
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A Short Historical Background

Naturopathic medicine is over 100 years old. In the late 1800's, practitioners of several medical disciplines combined to form the first naturopathic professional medical society. By the 1920's, naturopathic medical conventions attracted more than 10,000 practitioners. There were over twenty naturopathic medical schools, and NDs were licensed in most states, including Oregon.

Technological medicine, pharmaceutical drugs and the "quick fix" idea that drugs could eliminate all disease became dominant forces. Fortunately, a health-conscious public has sought alternatives to conventional medicine. The modern resurgence of naturopathic medicine has been built upon scientific knowledge of the mechanisms of natural healing and therapeutics. Ongoing research contributes to the development of naturopathic medical science.
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