About Naturopathic Medicine
Although naturopathic physicians have been licensed as primary care providers in a number of states for many years, many of the most informed people in the health field know very little about our education and training and how we approach working with our patients’ health challenges.
Naturopathic physicians are trained at federally accredited, four-year, post-graduate, residential naturopathic medical programs, with entrance requirements much like any medical school. The training consists of comprehensive study of the conventional medical sciences, including anatomy, physiology, pathology, microbiology, immunology, clinical and physical diagnosis, laboratory diagnosis, cardiology, gastroenterology, gynecology, and others, as well as detailed study of evidence-based natural therapies.
Naturopathic physicians use a variety of natural and non-invasive therapies, including clinical nutrition, homeopathy, botanical medicine, minor surgery, hydrotherapy, physical medicine, and counseling. Many naturopathic physicians have additional training and certification in acupuncture and natural childbirth. Some N.D.s also practice energetic healing approaches like flower essences, holographic repatterning, Reiki, and other forms of vibrational medicine. Because we are not limited to a standard of practice requiring the use of conventional pharmaceutical or surgical interventions, naturopathic physicians can specifically tailor their approaches to dealing with health problems to each individual patient. Cookbook approaches that fit everyone are rare in naturopathic medicine. Our treatments are effective in treating a wide variety of acute and chronic conditions without the need for additional intervention.
Naturopathic physicians are also able to function within an integrated framework, and naturopathic therapies can be used to complement treatments used by conventionally trained medical doctors. The result is a patient-centered approach that strives to provide the most appropriate treatment for each individual's needs.
A Little History
Naturopathic medicine in the United States came into existence just over 100 years ago, developed by a physician named Benedict Lust in New York State. While the profession by name is just a century old, the natural therapies and philosophy on which naturopathic medicine is based have been effectively used to treat diseases since ancient times. The use of herbal remedies, dietary interventions, hydrotherapy, and lifestyle changes has been used throughout history and in nearly every culture to inhabit the Earth. Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived 2400 years ago, first formulated the concept of vis medicatrix naturae -- "the healing power of nature." This concept has long been at the core of medicine in many cultures around the world and remains one of the central themes of naturopathic philosophy today.
Naturopathic medicine was popular and widely available throughout the United States well into the early part of the 20th century. In 1920, there were many naturopathic medical schools, thousands of naturopathic physicians, and scores of thousands of patients using naturopathic therapies around the country. But by mid-20th century the rise of "technological medicine" and the discovery and increased use of "miracle drugs" like antibiotics were associated with the temporary decline of naturopathic medicine and most other methods of natural healing.
By the 1970's, however, the American public was becoming increasingly disenchanted with what had become "conventional medicine." The profound clinical limitations and its out-of-control costs were becoming obvious, and millions of Americans were inspired to look for options and alternatives. Naturopathy was rediscovered and began to enter an era of rejuvenation.
Naturopathic Medicine Today
Today, more people than ever are seeking naturopathic medical care and naturopathic medical schools are growing at record rates to accommodate the increased demand for naturopathic education. N.D.s practice as independent primary care general practitioners, with the ability to diagnose and treat medical conditions, perform physical exams, and order laboratory testing. A rapidly growing number of health care consumers specifically choose N.D.s as their primary care providers.
Today, naturopathic physicians are experiencing greater recognition as health care practitioners who are experts in the field of natural and preventive medicine, providing leadership in natural medical research, enjoying increasing political influence, and looking forward to an unlimited future potential. Both the American public and policy makers are recognizing and contributing to the resurgence of the comprehensive system of health care practiced by N.D.s.
Now at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the naturopathic profession finds itself well positioned for a new era in health care. With more and more research supporting the therapies used by naturopathic physicians, and the public demand for greater choice and increased access to more natural approaches to their health care, naturopathic medicine is poised to make the transition from “alternative” medicine to truly “mainstream” medicine.
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Pacific Naturopathic Retreat Center
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