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.
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:
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.
In order to become a licensed naturopathic physician, one must complete undergraduate premedical course work and then attend a four year accredited naturopathic medical school. Following graduation, there is a three day long series of national accreditation exams that must be passed before a candidate is eligible for license, to practice naturopathic medicine. The successful completion of these exams enables the naturopathic physician to practice primary care medicine in accordance with the licensure laws of their particular state.
In order to be fully licensed in a particular state a candidate must sit for, and pass, additional state exams. To maintain an active license, continuing education courses must be completed every year in accordance with Oregon’s rigorous standards. In states that license and regulate naturopathic practitioners, we are primary care physicians. The ability to navigate standard diagnostic assessment and pharmaceutical medication with natural therapeutics creates ideal outcomes for patients suffering with chronic conditions. Whether the goal is optimizing and maintaining your health or addressing a worsening degenerative process, naturopathic physicians are the best suited doctors trained at understanding the complexity of human physiology.
Accounting for nearly 70% of all U.S deaths and 75% of health care costs and affecting over 90 million people, chronic disease affects nearly 1 in 3 people in the U.S. and has been on the rise for over 60 years. With an emphasis on re-establishing health or wellness rather than treating disease or symptoms, naturopathic medicine has the potential to truly heal people from their chronic illness.
Evidence to support this last statement comes from one of the few studies done on naturopathic medicine through the UCSF Center for the Health Professions (2001). This paper describes a study conducted to evaluate the cost savings of naturopathic medical care from 135 chronic disease patients at five separate practices. The results of this study are summarized below: