​Naturopathic Medicine

Check out the recent write up on Naturopathic Medicine by the NIH at:


What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of primary health care -an art, science, philosophy and practice of diagnosis, treatment and prevention of illness. Naturopathic medicine is distinguished by the principles which underlie and determine its practice. These principles are based upon the objective observation of the nature of health and disease, and are continually reexamined in the light of scientific advances. Methods used are consistent with these principles and are chosen upon the basis of patient individuality. Naturopathic physicians are trained as primary health care physicians whose diverse techniques include modern and traditional, scientific and empirical methods.


The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae) 

The healing power of nature is the inherent self -organizing and healing process of living systems which establishes, maintains and restores health. Naturopathic medicine recognizes this healing process to be ordered and intelligent. It is the naturopathic physician's role to support, facilitate and augment this process by identifying and removing obstacles to health and recovery, and by supporting the creation of a healthy internal and external environment. 

Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle Causam) 

Illness does not occur without cause. Causes may originate in many areas. Underlying causes of illness and disease must be identified and removed before complete recovery can occur. Symptoms can be expressions of the body's attempt to defend itself, to adapt and recover, to heal itself, or may be results of the causes of disease. The naturopathic physician seeks to treat the causes of disease, rather than to merely eliminate or suppress symptoms. 

First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere) 

Naturopathic physicians follow three precepts to avoid harming the patient: 

• Naturopathic physicians utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful effects, and apply the least possible force or intervention necessary to diagnose illness and restore health.

• Whenever possible the suppression of symptoms is avoided as suppression generally interferes with the healing process. 

• Naturopathic physicians respect and work with the vis medicatrix naturae in diagnosis, treatment and counseling, for if this self -healing process is not respected the patient may be harmed. 

Doctor as Teacher (Docere) 

The original meaning of the word "doctor" is teacher. A principal objective of naturopathic medicine is to educate the patient and emphasize self-responsibility for health. Naturopathic physicians also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship. 

Treat the Whole Person 

Health and disease result from a complex of physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social and other 

factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development. Naturopathic medicine recognizes the harmonious functioning of all aspects of the individual as being essential to health. The multifactorial nature of health and disease requires a personalized and comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment. Naturopathic physicians treat the whole person, taking all of these factors into account. 


Naturopathic medical colleges emphasize the study of health as well as disease. The prevention of disease and the 

attainment of optimal health in patients are primary objectives of naturopathic medicine. In practice, these objectives are accomplished through education and the promotion of healthy ways of living. 

Naturopathic physicians assess risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease, and make appropriate interventions in partnership with their patients to prevent illness. Naturopathic medicine asserts that one cannot be healthy in an unhealthy environment and is committed to the creation of a world in which humanity may thrive. 

The Therapeutic Order:

1. Establish the conditions for health

Identify and remove disturbing factors

Institute a more healthful regimen

2. Stimulate the healing power of nature (vis medicatrix naturae): the self-healing processes

3. Address weakened or damaged systems or organs

Strengthen the immune system

Decrease toxicity

Normalize inflammatory function

Optimize metabolic function

Balance regulatory systems

Enhance regeneration

Harmonize with your life force

4. Correct structural integrity

5. Address pathology: Use specific natural substances, modalities, or interventions

6. Address pathology: Use specific pharmacologic or synthetic substances

7. Suppress or surgically remove pathology

What training does a Naturopathic Physician receive?

Naturopathic physicians undergo training that is similar in structure and scope to that of medical and osteopathic doctors. Naturopathic medical colleges are four-year graduate schools with rigorous admissions requirements comparable to other medical schools, including pre-medical bachelor's degrees. The Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND) degree is awarded after classroom, clinic and practical study. ND's are trained in medical sciences including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, immunology, pharmacology, cardiology, neurology, radiology, minor surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, embryology, pediatrics, psychology, pharmacology, minor surgery, dermatology, and clinical and physical diagnosis. The training also includes extensive study of naturopathic philosophy and therapeutics including therapeutic nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, ayurvedic medicine, hydrotherapy, manipulative therapy, and counseling. Because coursework in natural therapeutics is added to a standard medical curriculum, naturopathic doctors often receive significantly more hours of classroom education in these areas than the graduates of many leading medical schools, including Yale, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins.

What kinds of diagnostic tools do Naturopathic Physicians use?

A Naturopathic Physician will complete a thorough history of the patient's health and disease. In addition to asking standard history questions, Naturopathic Physicians are trained to ask open-ended questions that allow the patient to tell his or her own story, as this allows a much more thorough history. ND's ask many questions to evaluate for the true root cause of disease, including emotional factors, environmental factors, lifestyle factors, genetic and family history factors, spiritual factors, subtle imbalances, nutritional factors, and more.

This will be followed by a thorough physical examination that includes all allopathic physical exam techniques, as well as some additional Naturopathic examination techniques. These may include Naturopathic pulse diagnosis and tongue diagnosis, iris diagnosis, structural evaluation, and more. Allopathic examination techniques include routine physical exams, organ specific exams, region specific exams, gynecological exams, and more.

The Naturopathic physician all methods of clinical and laboratory diagnostic testing including laboratory assessments of all kinds, diagnostic radiology and all other imaging techniques. In addition, there are specific naturopathic diagnostic laboratories that assess for subtler physiologic imbalances such as neurotransmitter testing, nutritional analysis, digestive analysis, environmental allergy testing, food allergy testing, candida testing, heavy metal testing, hormonal testing, testing of toxic byproducts, and more.

What is Naturopathic Medicine especially good at treating?

Naturopathic physicians are trained to provide natural family medicine to men, women, and children of all ages. Naturopathic medicine can address patients with health problems that range from minor ailments to severe life threatening illness.   Because naturopathic physicians treat people, not body parts, pathologies that fall into many categories can be addressed including:

Constitutional: Fatigue, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Weight management, Autoimmune Disease, Fibromyalgia

Psychiatric:  Depression, Anxiety, Autism, Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD, ADHD), schizophrenia, bipolar disorder

Ears/Nose/Throat:   Ear infections, Tinnitus, Sinusitis, Allergies, Sore Throats, Chronic or Recurrent infections, vertigo

Cardiovascular:  High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, Angina, Atherosclerosis, Congestive Heart Failure, Palpitations

Respiratory:   Infections, Asthma, Allergies, Emphysema or COPD, Bronchitis

Gastrointestinal:  Diarrhea, Constipation, Gas and Bloating, Heartburn (reflux or GERD), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Gallstones, Hepatitis, Colitis, Crohn’s disease, Ulcers, Abdominal pain, Hemorrhoids,  Yeast overgrowth, H. pylori infection

Musculoskeletal:  Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Osteopenia, Back Pain, Neck Pain, Muscle spasms, Tendonitis, Bursitis, Plantar Fascitis, Gout, Fibromyalgia

Dermatologic:  Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, Rosacea, Rashes

Neurological: Headaches, Migraines, Sciatica, Seizures, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinsons disease

Men’s Health:  Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), Prostatitis, Erectile Dysfunction, Kidney Stones

Women’s Health:  Menopause, Vaginal Infections, Bladder Infections, Interstitial Cystitis, Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), Endometriosis, Fibroids, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

What are the modalities that Naturopathic Physicians use?

Nutritional medicine, dietetics and therapeutic fasting; medicines of mineral, animal and botanical origin; hygiene and public health measures; naturopathic physical medicine including naturopathic spinal manipulative therapies, massage, craniosacral therapy, neuro cranial restructuring, bio cranial therapy; the use of water, heat, cold, light, electricity, air, earth, electromagnetic and mechanical devices, ultrasound, and therapeutic exercise; homeopathy; energy medicine and reiki; psychotherapy and counseling; acupuncture, injection and intravenous therapy; minor surgery; prescription medication; and naturopathic obstetrics (natural childbirth).

Clinical Nutrition.  That food is the best medicine is a cornerstone of naturopathic practice.  Many medical conditions can be treated more effectively with foods and nutritional supplements than they can by other means, with fewer complications and side effects. Naturopathic Physicians use dietetics, natural hygiene, fasting, and nutritional supplementation in practice.

Botanical Medicine.  Many plant substances are powerful medicines.  Where single chemically derived drugs may only address a single problem, botanical medicines are able to address a variety of problems simultaneously. Their organic nature makes botanicals compatible with the body’s own chemistry; hence, they can be gently effective with few toxic side effects.

Homeopathic Medicine.  Homeopathic medicine is based on the principle of “like cures like.”  It works on a subtle yet powerful electromagnetic level, gently acting to strengthen the body’s healing and immune response.

Physical Medicine.  Naturopathic Medicine has its own methods of therapeutic manipulation of muscles, bones, and spine. ND’s also use ultrasound, diathermy, exercise, massage, water, heat and cold, air, and gentle electrical pulses.

Oriental Medicine.  Oriental medicine is a complimentary healing philosophy to naturopathic medicine. Meridian theory offers an important understanding of the unity of the body and mind, and adds to the Western understanding of physiology. Acupuncture theories provide methods of treatment utilized in naturopathic medicine that can unify and harmonize the imbalances present in disease conditions.

Naturopathic Obstetrics.  Naturopathic Physicians provide natural childbirth care in and out-of-hospital setting. They offer prenatal and postnatal care using modern diagnostic techniques.  The naturopathic approach strengthens healthy body functions so that complications associated with pregnancy may be prevented.

Psychological Medicine.  Mental attitudes and emotional states may influence, or even cause, physical illness. Counseling, nutritional balancing, stress management, hypnotherapy, biofeedback, and other therapies are used to help patients heal on the psychological level.

Minor Surgery.  As general practitioners, Naturopathic physicians do in office-minor surgery including repair of superficial wounds, removal of foreign bodies, cysts, and other superficial masses.

How are Naturopathic Physicians licensed?

The license to practice naturopathic medicine grants the graduate their N.D. or N.M.D status.There are now naturopathic licensure laws in Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Washington D.C.. Naturopaths also practice in other states under other laws (i.e., as licensed acupuncturists, doctors of Oriental medicine, nurse practitioners, medical doctors, osteopaths, or chiropractors) or without official government sanction (i.e., as nutritionists or natural health consultants). Licensure laws serve to regulate the scope of practice of naturopathic medicine, provide oversight for the education, clinical training, and practice of naturopathic medicine, and to protect the public.

Unfortunately due to the lack of licensure laws, it is possible to give “N.D.” and other doctoral degrees by mail. With training measured in months instead of years and without rigorous supervised clinical training, it is clearly far below American education standards to offer a doctor degree in health care through distance learning. But beyond failing conventional standards for doctoral degrees, these programs are also not accredited by agencies that meet any national standards. Thus, there is little accountability administratively, financially or for what is being taught. Because naturopathic physicians are only licensed in thirteen states anyone can use the title in the other 35 states (Arkansas and Florida recently passed laws outlawing this practice). As naturopathic medicine has gained more respect with the health care community, media and general public, the “N.D.” has become increasingly desirable and marketable. Without state regulation these correspondence doctors may mislead the public as to their training (whether intentional or not) and can create significant risk to the public’s health.

History of Naturopathic Medicine:

Naturopathic medicine grew out of alternative healing systems of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but traces its philosophical roots to the vitalistic school of medicine of Ancient Greece (circa 400 BC). Over the centuries since this time, the two competing philosophies of medicine, vitalistic (now called natural medicine) and mechanistic (now called allopathic or conventional medicine), have alternately diverged and converged, influencing and shaping one another.

Dr. Benedict Lust was the founder of naturopathy and the man who sustained and popularized it. Lust had been exposed to a wide range of practitioners and practices of natural healing arts. He was a student of Father Kneipp, a great practitioner of hydrotherapy (water therapy). Lust brought Kneipp’s hydrotherapy with him to America from Germany in 1892. In 1902, he founded the American School of Naturopathy. The years from 1900 to 1917 were formative ones for naturopathic medicine in America as the various forms of natural medicines were combined into one eclectic system. Here the American dietetic, hygienic, physical culture, hydrotherapy, spinal manipulation, mental and emotional healing, Thompsonian/eclectic (botanical/herbal medicine), and homeopathic systems of natural healing were all merged into naturopathy.

From 1918 to 1937, great interest and support for naturopathic medicine emerged from the public.  In the early 1920s naturopathic movement reached its peak in terms of public awareness and interest. Conventions nationwide were well attended by professionals, the public, and even several members of Congress, and many states enacted naturopathic licensure laws.

From 1938 - 1970, growing political and social dominance of allopathic medicine, fueled by the drug industry's financial backing, led to the legal and economic suppression of naturopathic healing. In the mid 1920s the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association made a mission of attacking naturopathic physicians, accusing them of quackery. Public infatuation with technology, introduction of "miracle drugs," the development of surgery and other high-tech medical interventions, the growing political power and sophistication of the AMA, and the death of Benedict Lust in 1945 all combined to cause the decline of naturopathic medicine and natural healing in the United States.

With the AMA's new political power they were able to not only get more restrictive medical practice laws passed but were also successful in getting many state naturopathic licensure laws repealed. With these political developments the courts began to take the view that naturopathic physicians were not true doctors. Lack of insurance coverage, lost court battles, and a hostile legislative perspective progressively restricted practices and eliminated funding for naturopathic education.

The back-to-nature, ecology and women’s movements of the late 1960s, the public's growing awareness of the importance of nutrition, and America’s disenchantment with organized institutional medicine resulted in increasing respect for alternative medicine and the rejuvenation of naturopathy. A new wave of students was attracted to the philosophical precepts of the naturopathic profession, bringing an appreciation for the appropriate use of science and modern college education.

In order for the naturopathic profession to move back into the mainstream, it needed to establish accredited institutions, perform credible research, and establish itself as an integral part of the health care system. In 1978, after twenty years with only one legitimate college graduating naturopathic physicians (National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon), the first new naturopathic medical school was opened, and in 1987 Bastyr University  became the first naturopathic college to become accredited. The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) is the Federally recognized accrediting agency for naturopathic medical colleges. 

With these credible colleges, active research, and an appreciation of the appropriate application of science to natural medicine education and clinical practice, naturopathic medicine began its journey back to the mainstream. While the naturopathic physicians of the past century were astute clinical observers, they lacked the scientific tools to assess the validity of the concepts. In the past few decades, a considerable amount of research has provided the scientific documentation for concepts of naturopathic medicine, and the new breed of scientifically trained naturopathic physicians is utilizing this research to continue developing the profession.

Adapted from:

The website of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians www.naturopathic.org

The website of the Oregon Association of Naturopathic Physicians

"A Hierarchy of Healing: The Therapeutic Order-The Unifying Theory of Naturopathic Medicine" by Jared Zeff, ND and Pamela Snider, ND

Crossroads Clinic of Natural Health