What Is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a system of primary healthcare that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. It emphasizes the use of natural modalities—such as nutrition, lifestyle counseling and botanical medicine—to promote wellness and treat illness. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) work according to a set of basic principles—the Principles of Naturopathic Medicine—that include such things as stimulating the healing power of the body and addressing the underlying causes of disease, rather than focusing on alleviating symptoms. The practice of naturopathic medicine requires understanding illness within the context of a person’s whole life.
The naturopathic approach to healthcare also emphasizes patient education and self-care. Naturopathic medicine can be used in conjunction with conventional medical therapies to support the body’s healing processes—an approach referred to as “integrative medicine.” In some clinics and hospitals, NDs work in collaboration with MDs, DCs, DOs, acupuncturists, and other healthcare practitioners, and they refer patients for emergency and other situations when necessary.
While NDs primarily use natural healing approaches, they are also trained to perform minor surgeries, such as removing cysts or suturing superficial wounds, as well as to utilize prescription drugs under certain circumstances.
Conditions Treated by Naturopathic Doctors
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) provide individual and family primary healthcare, and treat a wide range of chronic and acute ailments.
Chronic conditions treated by NDs include:
- chronic pain
- digestive issues
- hormonal imbalances
- respiratory conditions
- heart disease
- fertility problems
- stress-related conditions
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- high blood pressure
- mental health concerns (e.g., depression, anxiety)
- neurodegenerative conditions
- autoimmune conditions (e.g., thyroid disease, lupus)
- autism and ADHD
- chronic skin conditions
- chronic infections
Acute conditions treated by NDs include:
- infections (e.g., ear infections)
- strep throat
- skin rashes
- urinary tract infections
- musculoskeletal conditions and injuries
Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic medicine is distinguished by a set of core principles that underlie and determine every aspect of its practice.
First Do No Harm
Utilize the most natural, least invasive and least toxic therapies.
Identify and Treat the Causes
Look beyond symptoms to the underlying cause.
The Healing Power of Nature
Trust in the body’s inherent ability to heal itself.
Doctor as Teacher
Educate patients in the steps to achieve and maintain health.
Treat the Whole Person
View the body as an integrated whole in all its physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions.
Focus on overall health, wellness and disease prevention.
Photo courtesy of Nova Scotia Association of Naturopathic Doctors
Naturopathic doctors support well-being by working according to principles of nature, medical science and the body’s own healing wisdom.
For details on the knowledge and skills expected of graduates of ND programs, see Appendix 7 of the CNME Handbook of Accreditation for Naturopathic Medicine Programs, “Core Competencies of the Graduating Naturopathic Student.”
Resources for Patients
Learn more about the practice of naturopathic medicine, professional licensure in the U.S. and Canada, and institutions offering ND programs.
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
The national professional association representing licensed naturopathic doctors in the U.S.
Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges
The association of colleges and universities offering CNME-recognized naturopathic medical programs.
Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors
The national professional association representing regulated naturopathic doctors in Canada