What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a form of health care that blends old, proven remedies with new scientific knowledge and advancements. Unlike other contemporary health care practitioners, naturopathic doctors focus on the underlying cause of patient illness, rather than treating only the physical symptoms that he or she may be aware of.
Naturopathic doctors utilize a number of common methods of diagnosis, including physical examinations, laboratory testing, gynecological exams, nutritional and dietary assessments, metabolic analysis, allergy testing, and X-ray examinations. Once a diagnosis has been made, naturopathic doctors use a wide variety of natural techniques to treat their patients. NDs are the only primary care givers who are clinically trained in natural therapeutics, and are capable of combining these treatments with other forms of medication. Many illnesses, both acute and chronic, can be effectively treated using natural techniques, some of which may include:
As a cornerstone of naturopathic medicine, clinical nutrition refers to both the practice of using food to maintain health and the therapeutic use of food to treat illness. Scientific research has shown that many medical conditions can be treated as effectively with food and nutritional supplements as they can by other means, with fewer complications and side effects.
Homeopathy is a powerful system of medicine that is more than 200 years old. This medical system uses highly diluted substances to cure illness. Homeopathic remedies act to enhance the body\'s innate immune response and rarely have side effects. Some conditions that do not respond well to conventional medicine will respond to homeopathic therapies.
This refers to the use of plants as medicine. Many plant substances are powerful medicines that are safe and effective when used properly. A resurgence of scientific research in Europe and Asia is demonstrating that some plant substances are superior to synthetic drugs in clinical conditions.
Physical medicine includes naturopathic manipulation of the muscles, bones and spine. Heat and cold, gentle electrical impulses, ultrasound, hydrotherapy and exercise therapy are also used.
Natural childbirth is offered by naturopathic doctors with additional specialty training. These doctors offer prenatal and postnatal care using the most modern diagnostic techniques. When natural childbirth is not immediately appropriate because of high risk, patients are referred for appropriate care.
This includes acupuncture, acupressure and oriental botanical medicine to diagnose and treat disease.
Counseling and Stress Management
Mental attitudes and emotional states can be important elements in healing illness. Naturopathic doctors' training includes counseling, nutritional balancing, stress management, hypnotherapy, biofeedback and other methods.
This may include repair of superficial wounds and removal of foreign bodies, cysts and other superficial masses, with local anesthesia as needed.
Licensing laws differ from one area to the next. Because of this, naturopathic doctors in certain areas may have a limited scope of practice. Be sure to ask your ND for more information about the treatments listed above.
The PANP hopes to soon be able to achieve official state licensure, which will greatly help to limit this dilemma.
Portions of this text are courtesy of The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.