Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Dr. David Richard, ND, Claremont, CA
Explain how Naturopathic Medicine works.
Naturopathic medicine supports and promotes the body’s natural healing process, leading to a person’s highest state of wellness. By addressing the causes of disease and individualizing the treatment that integrates the healing powers of the body, mind and spirit, health can be restored, optimized, and maintained.
How can I become a naturopathic physician?
Complete a college degree and meet the requirements for admission to one of the seven accredited naturopathic medical schools in North America.
Member Institutions of the American Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges:
- Bastyr University (Kenmore, WA)
- National College of Natural Medicine (Portland, OR)
- National University of Health Sciences (Lombard, IL)
- Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (Tempe, AZ)
- University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine (Bridgeport, CT)
- Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada)
- Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
Applicants are considered on the basis of academic performance, maturity and demonstrated humanitarian qualities. Work and/or volunteer experience in health care coupled with an awareness of the field of natural medicine is desired. Students attend a four-year graduate-level naturopathic medical program and are educated in the same basic sciences as in conventional medical school. Upon completion of the graduation requirements, the student is awarded a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree (N.D.). Graduates sit for professional board exams to become licensed as general practice naturopathic doctors within licensed states or as individual jurisdictions allow.
What does the education of a naturopathic physician entail?
The first two years of naturopathic medical school consist of basic medical sciences such as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, physical and clinical diagnosis, laboratory diagnosis, etc. The second two years emphasize the application of naturopathic therapies with courses such as clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, physical medicine and lifestyle counseling. These are combined with study of the entire range of human disease in courses on gynecology, obstetrics, pediatrics, neurology, endocrinology, cardiology, pulmonology, urology, dermatology and immunology. Clinical training and therapeutic education are integrated throughout the final academic years. Naturopathic philosophy is woven throughout the curriculum, and as all doctors in practice know, their education continues throughout their career.
What is the difference between naturopathy and homeopathy?
Naturopathy encompasses the entire spectrum of natural medicine of which homeopathy is just one part. Homeopathy is a system which uses extremely small doses of natural substances to stimulate the body’s own ability to heal, and this is based on many of the same principles as naturopathy- treating the cause, treating the whole person, doing no harm, and using the healing power of nature. Homeopathy is part of the foundation of naturopathic medicine, yet it may be taught and practiced just by itself and by health care providers who are not naturopathic physicians.
Does naturopathic medicine work effectively?
Naturopathic medicine has its own unique body of knowledge, evolved and refined through experience for centuries. It also incorporates scientific advances from medical disciplines throughout the world. Many of the individual therapies used in naturopathic medical practice have been scientifically validated, especially in the areas of clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture and manipulation. The trend is that those naturopathic methods which are tested in well-designed studies are validated. Research is presently being conducted on the effectiveness of the whole system of naturopathic medicine when it is applied to patients with certain conditions.
Are there other kinds of “NDs” in the U.S.?
Because Naturopathic medicine is not regulated in all 50 states, some individuals call themselves “naturopaths” who do not meet the historical standards of the profession. Such individuals sometimes have degrees of diplomas from correspondence schools, weekend seminar programs without supervised clinical training, extremely abbreviated courses, “certifying” agencies that confer naturopathic credentials based on other kinds of health education, “home study” schools without state authority to grant degrees, or schools without naturopathic programs of faculty. None of these programs qualify a candidate to sit for board exams or to receive licensure in any state. In some states, individuals call themselves “naturopaths” simply by paying a fee for a business license requiring no evidence of education at all. There are a growing number of correspondence schools claiming to offer educational programs leading to the N.D. degree. Buyer beware is the rule here, both for those seeking a health care provider and for those thinking about a career. Consumers should know what they are getting when they seek the services of a naturopathic physician. Only licensure can guarantee the training and safety to which consumers are entitled.
Is naturopathic medicine safe?
Yes. The safety record in states with regulatory boards is excellent. Naturopathic physicians can purchase malpractice insurance at extremely low rates. As indicated by such rates, the chance of being injured through malpractice is low. Naturopathic physicians are experts in the safe use of natural therapies.
Who can use naturopathic treatments safely?
Pregnant women, newborns, and all phases of life up to geriatric care. Terminally ill persons too can benefit safely from naturopathic medicine.
How is naturopathic medicine different from conventional medicine?
The main difference is in the philosophical approach. Naturopathic physicians treat patients by restoring overall health rather than suppressing a few key symptoms. Naturopathic physicians are more concerned with finding the underlying cause of a condition and applying treatments that work in alliance with the natural healing mechanisms of the body rather than against them. Naturopathic treatments result less frequently in adverse side effects, or in the chronic conditions that inevitably arise when the cause of the disease is left untreated. Naturopathic physicians typically spend more time with patients, taking a more comprehensive approach to the doctor-patient relationship. Sharing information and answering questions is considered an essential aspect of naturopathic health care.
In what ways are naturopathic and conventional physicians alike?
The academic training in medical sciences of naturopathic and conventional physicians is similar. Both study modern physical, clinical and laboratory diagnosis. Both can diagnose a disease and predict its course. Naturopathic physicians may also perform minor surgery, and prescribe some drugs. Both naturopathic and conventional physicians refer patients to other health care practitioners when appropriate.
Are there conditions that conventional medicine cannot help but naturopathy can?
Yes. Naturopathy outshines conventional medicine in conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, recurrent ear infections, and acute viral infections such as the flu and the common cold.
Is naturopathic medicine taught in conventional medical schools?
No. Conventional medical schools may offer introductory courses on the modalities of naturopathic medicine, such as clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, and homeopathy, and may provide an overview of naturopathy. But naturopathic medicine is not part of the core curriculum of any conventional medical school in North America.
Has conventional medicine adopted methods from the naturopathic body of knowledge?
Yes. The dangers of harmful fats, excess carbohydrates, and inadequate fiber are now accepted in conventional medicine. The benefits of whole foods, medicinal plants, exercise, and the influence of mental and emotional attitudes on health are all part of the naturopathic body of knowledge.
How can naturopathic medicine be blended with conventional medicine?
Naturopathic medicine shares a foundation of diagnostic methods with conventional medicine. Although treatment approaches may differ, they are-not mutually exclusive. Many patients are under the care of both a conventional physician and a naturopathic physician, utilizing the strengths and minimizing the limitations of each approach. In an ideal world, patients would always be able to access the best of both systems. Naturopathic medicine has effective treatment for many problems that conventional medicine fails to cure, such as asthma, arthritis, migraine headaches, diabetes, and hypertension. Recently, conventional medicine has incorporated some naturopathic wisdom in the areas of nutrition, diet, exercise therapy, and mind-body correlations.
Are naturopathic physicians opposed to drugs and major surgery?
No. Naturopathic physicians are not opposed to invasive or suppressive measures when these methods are necessary. They make referrals for such treatment when appropriate. Naturopathic medicine has both safer and less expensive alternatives to many kinds of non-emergency surgery.
Where are naturopathic physicians licensed?
As of September 2008, naturopathic physicians are licensed in Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Florida still has NDs practicing but has not issued any new licenses in many years. In Canada, NDs are licensed in Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan. However, doctors of naturopathic medicine practice in most states and provinces, sometimes under medical licenses and sometimes with a scope of practice substantially less than their training. There are 42 state naturopathic medical associations in the U. S. Naturopathic licensure campaigns are underway in several states and provinces.
Is naturopathic medicine covered by insurance?
Many insurance carriers cover naturopathic medicine in the U.S. and Canada. State legislatures in Connecticut, Washington, Montana and Alaska have mandated insurance reimbursement for medically necessary and appropriate naturopathic medical services. However, insurance companies vary regarding their coverage, so it is very important for people to check their individual insurance policies to verify exactly what their policy covers especially in states that do now license naturopathic physicians.
Is naturopathic medicine cost effective?
Yes. Because naturopathic physicians have alternatives to some expensive high-tech procedures, and because their preventative approach reduces the incidence of high-cost chronic conditions, naturopathic practice reduces both immediate and long-term health care costs.
Where can I learn more about naturopathic medicine?
- The website of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians: www.naturopathic.org
- The website of the American Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges:www.aanmc.org/about.shtml
- The website of the California Naturopathic Doctors Association: www.calnd.org
- The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine by Joseph Pizzorno, ND and Michael Murray, ND.