Naturopathic Medicine is another title for what you may call Alternative or Complementary Medicine. It is a profession of health care which emphasizes prevention, treatment and the promotion of optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and modalities such as dietary therapies, nutrition and herbal medicines which stimulate the body’s inherent healing abilities. The principles of Naturopathic Medicine address the whole body and focus on identifying and treating the cause of an illness, rather than eliminating or suppressing symptoms.
A Naturopathic doctor is a doctor who is an expert in complementary medicines such as herbal medicine, nutritional science, naturopathic physical medicine, environmental medicine and homeopathy.
Naturopathic doctors are experts in complementary medicines and medical doctors are experts in drug therapy and surgery. Both attend a 4-year accredited medical school after completing a bachelor’s degree and premed requirements. Naturopathic medical schools, however, focus a great deal more on nutrition, herbal medicine, physical medicine and homeopathy than conventional medical schools. Both doctors are trained in western medicine, pharmacology and traditional diagnostic techniques and utilize therapies that are based in science and therefore, can work very well in a collaborative setting.
There is a lot of scientific evidence to support the use of herbal medicine as well as nutritional medicine. The National Library of Medicine, in fact, has a medical research database called PubMed which, as of August 2020, contains over 37,000 peer-reviewed, double blind placebo-controlled studies on herbal medicines and nutritional supplements combined. Most medical doctors are not familiar with the research on naturopathic medicine because they receive very little training on nutrition and herbal medicine while in medical school. After they graduate, they are often too busy to go the library and look up the research. Most of their new knowledge comes from medical conferences and continuing education seminars that are often sponsored by drug companies.
No. There are two main types of schools offering degrees in naturopathic medicine, 4-year graduate-level schools and correspondence schools. Currently there are about 25 states that have no licensing laws for naturopathic doctors (Massachusetts just passed a licensing law in 2019). In these states where there is no licensing law, an ND may have a 4-year graduate-level education or they may have a mail order degree. Before you see an ND you should completely research their background. They should have a bachelor's degree with premedical requirements like biology, chemistry and physics and they should have also attended one of these seven 4-yr naturopathic medical schools: Bastyr University, National University of Natural Medicine, National University of Health Sciences, Southwest College, University of Bridgeport, Boucher Institute or the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. These are the only schools that offer an in-depth training in both naturopathic and conventional medicine. The following table shows that naturopathic doctors from 4-year accredited naturopathic medical schools receive far more training in Western medicine and complementary medicine than naturopaths from correspondence programs.
|Fall Courses||Credits||Winter Courses||Credits||Spring & Summer Courses||Credits|
|Biochemistry 1||4||Biochemistry 2||4||Fundamentals of Ayurvedic Med||2|
|Human Physiology 1 Lec/Lab||5.5||Human Physiology 2 Lec/Lab||5.5||Biochemistry 3||4|
|Histology||5||Embryology||3||Human Physiology 3||3|
|Human Anatomy 1 Lec/Lab||5.5||Human Anatomy 2 Lec/Lab||5.5||Gross Human Anatomy 3 Lec/Lab||5.5|
|Naturopathic Clinical Theory 1||2||Research Methods & Design||2||Neuroscience||5.5|
|Clinic Entry 1||1||The Determinants of Health||1.5||Botanical Medicine 1||2|
|Principles of Chinese Medicine||3||The Vis Medicatrix Naturae||1.5|
|Hydrotherapy/Physiotherapy Lecture||2||Physician Heal Thyself||2|
|Human Pathology 1||4||Human Pathology 2||4||Human Pathology 3||4|
|Botanical Medicine 2||2||Botanical Medicine 3||2||Homeopathy 3||3|
|Homeopathy 1||2||Homeopathy 2||3||Clinical Lab Diagnosis 3||3.5|
|Clinical Lab Diagnosis 1||3.5||Clinical Lab Diagnosis 2||3.5||Physical/Clinical Diagnosis 3 Lecture||2|
|Physical/Clinical Dx 1 Lec||2||Physical/Clinical Diagnosis 2 Lecture||2||Physical/Clinical Diagnosis 3 Lab||2|
|Physical/Clinical Dx 1 Lab||2||Physical/Clinical Diagnosis 2 Lab||2||Clinic Entry 2||1|
|Naturopathic Counseling 1||3||Naturopathic Counseling 2||3||Preceptorship 1||1|
|Foods, Dietary Systems & Assessment||3||Macro & Micronutrients||3||Naturopathic Manipulation 1||2|
|Botanical Medicine 4||2||Botanical Medicine 5||2||Botanical Medicine Dispensary Lab||1|
|Normal Maternity||3||Naturopathic Clinical Theory 2||1||Practice Management 1||2|
|Environmental Medicine||1.5||Dermatology||2||Clinical Ecology||2|
|EENT||2||Pediatrics 1||2||Family Medicine||2|
|Naturopathic Manipulation 2||3||Naturopathic Manipulation 3||3||The Healing Systems||1|
|Orthopedics||2||Sports Medicine/Therapeutic Exercise||2||Naturopathic Manipulation 4||3|
|Psychological Assessment||2||Addictions & Disorders||2||Naturopathic Counseling 3||2|
|Diet & Nutrient Therapy 1||3||Diet & Nutrient Therapy 2||3||1-2 Clinic Shifts||2-4|
|1-2 Clinic Shifts||2-4||1-2 Clinic Shifts||2-4||Naturopathic Case Analysis & Mgmt 1||1.5|
|1-2 Clinic Shifts||2-4|
|Urology||1.5||Diagnostic Imaging||2||Practice Management 2||2|
|Naturopathic Case Analysis & Management 2||1||Rheumatology||1.5||Radiographic Interpretation 2||3|
|Adv. Naturopathic Ther. 1||2||Adv. Naturopathic Therapeutics 2||2||Pulmonary Medicine||1.5|
|3-4 Clinic Shifts||6-8||Preceptorship 2||1||Preceptorship 3||1|
|3-4 Clinic Shifts||6-8||3-4 Clinic Shifts||6-8|
|Radiographic Interpretation 1 Lecture||3|
|Radiographic Interpretation 1 Lab||1|
|3-4 Clinic Shifts||6-8|
| || || || |
|History of Naturopathy||Body Awareness & Physical Movement||The Client-Practitioner||Intro to Homeopathy|
|Foundations of Naturopathy||Alternative Approaches to Arthritis||Relationship||Classical Homeopathy|
|Nutrition & Disease||Manual Therapies: Massage, Reflexology & Acupressure||3 Electices||Herbology 2|
|Detoxification & Healing||Building & Maintaining a Consulting Practice||Consulting Practicum||Holistic Human|
|Iridology||Essentials of Nutrition 1||Development|
|Essentials of Nutrition 2||Holistic Human|
|Intro to Herbology||Development|
Naturopathic medicines can be very safe if used under the proper supervision of a licensed naturopathic doctor because he/she is well trained in the research on drug metabolism and the interactions of natural medicines. Many adverse effects from dietary supplements occur in people taking poor quality products and in people taking medications along with supplements that may be contraindicated. It is best to see a licensed naturopathic doctor before taking nutritional supplements and not treat yourself or see an unqualified practitioner.