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History of Naturopathic Medicine

A licensed Naturopathic Doctor may also be called a Naturopathic Physician, or a Naturopath. Naturopathic Medicine may also be called Naturopathy. The official degree granted from a School of Naturopathic Medicine to a graduate is a “Naturopathic Doctor” or an “N.D.” After graduation from a fully accredited Naturopathic Medical School, the new graduate must take National Board Exams, plus individual State add-on exams for licensure to practice medicine in that state. Naturopathic Doctors are primary care doctors who can work with other health care professionals, or replace other disciplines of medicine, in as far as the law of each State allows.

Doctors of Naturopathic Medicine can advertise themselves with the term Doctor, Dr., or N.D. An example is: David G. Young, N.D., or Dr. David G. Young.

Naturopathic Medicine grew out of the eclectic healing systems of the 18th and 19th centuries. Its philosophy was first used in the Hippocratic School of Medicine of about 400 B.C.. Physicians in the time of Hippocrates believed that they should try to understand as much as possible about the laws of nature, and apply it to their practice in a practical way. They looked for the “cause” of disease. They often used the term “Vis Medicatrix Naturae”, which is Latin for “the Healing Power of Nature,” to note the body’s ability to heal itself. “Naturopathy” or “Nature Cure” is viewed by some as a way of life as well as a concept of healing that employs various natural means of preventing and treating human disease. Some of the earliest therapies used Hygienics and Hydrotherapy. The Eclectics that were the forefathers of modern “Naturopathic Medicine” tended to use any means to help their patients as long as it didn’t harm them. There are times when “Conventional Medicine” or “unnatural medicine” may be the better choice. However I believe it is the philosophy guiding Naturopathic Medicine, which makes it safe and effective.

Naturopathy endeavors to cure disease by harnessing the body’s own natural healing powers. Rejecting synthetic drugs and invasive procedures, it stresses the restorative powers of nature, the search for underlying causes of disease, and the treatment of the whole person (emotional, genetic, and environmental influences included). It takes very seriously the medical motto “first, do no harm.”

The term “Nature Cure” itself was coined in 1895 by Dr. John Scheel of New York City to describe his own method of health care. Dr. Benedict Lust whose teachings initiated naturopathy in the U.S. began using the term Naturopathy in 1902 to name the Eclectic compilation of doctrines of natural healing that he envisioned as the future scope of natural medicine. They used such things as nutritional therapy, natural diet, herbal medicine, homeopathy, spinal manipulation, exercise therapy, hydrotherapy, electrotherapy, and stress reduction.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, naturopathy evolved and grew enormously, rivaling conventional medicine in popularity. Benedict Lust, a German doctor who emigrated to the U.S. in 1892, founded the health food store as we know it, and crystallized the focus of naturopathy on diet and nutrition as the chief route to health. During this period, health-food faddism rivaled that of the present day, with influential practitioners like Dr. Kellogg (of cereal-company fame) insisting that meat and other “unnatural” foodstuffs were wreaking untold havoc on human health.

Natural medicine flourished in the U.S. up until about the mid 1930’s when economic factors and political factors helped produce what now appears to be a health care monopoly caused by chemical and drug industries heavily subsidizing medical schools.

With the rise of increasingly sophisticated drugs and advanced medical technology after World War II, naturopathy fell from favor (with a hearty push from organized medicine). Grains and herbs seemed like mere snake oil in the brave new world of antibiotics and polio vaccines. Science reigned supreme until the 1960’s, when the discovery of unsuspected side effects from DDT, thalidomide, and other high-tech wonders reminded Americans that “better living through chemistry” sometimes had shortcomings of its own.

Tremendous technical advances in surgery promoted by two world wars were able to convince both the public and politicians of the apparent superiority of their system, resulted in the passing of legislation that severely restricted the availability of other health care systems. At this time, we are in the middle of what appears to be a health care revolution. Thomas Edison is quoted as saying “the doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause of prevention of disease.” Many people today think of Naturopathic Medicine as a fad that will soon pass away. The fact is that it has been around for several centuries. In this day and age the education of the Naturopathic Physician is the best that it has ever been.

Meanwhile, a new and more scientifically minded crop of naturopathy advocates, including nutrition writer Adele Davis and vitamin C researcher Linus Pauling, helped bring fresh respectability to the idea that nature still held healing powers. This new breed was quick to adopt the research techniques of “conventional” medicine to prove the effectiveness of age-old remedies like herbs and newer options such as vitamin pills. Placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trials, in which neither the doctor nor the patient knew who was getting genuine treatment and who was getting a fake, soon became common not only for drugs, but for diet as well. As the results accumulated, it became clear that our choice of food could indeed have significant impact on our health.

Training begins with a conventional pre-medical education. The student progresses to a 4-year thoroughly accredited, scientifically based medical school program. The first two years concentrate on standard medical school sciences such as anatomy, physiology, chemistry, etc.

The second two years are oriented toward the clinical sciences, diagnosis and treatment. Standard medical techniques are taught along with mainstay naturopathic medical therapies. The end product of a Naturopathic Medical School Program is a well rounded family care physician that can use such therapies as nutrition, botanical medicines, homeopathy, acupuncture, natural childbirth, hydrotherapy, fasting, physical therapy, exercise therapy, counseling and lifestyle modification, and integrate these therapies with conventional medical therapies when appropriate.

Although various naturopathic remedies are offered by other health care providers; including chiropractors, nutritionists, holistic nurses, and massage therapists; if you want the complete package, you need to seek out an ND (Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine). Such practitioners have completed four years of graduate-level training at a naturopathic medical college. There are currently three accredited colleges in the U.S.: Bastyr College in Seattle, WA; National College in Portland, OR; and Southwestern College in Tempe, AZ.

In the 11 states where they are currently licensed, naturopathic physicians must pass either a national or state-level board examination. Their scope of allowable practice varies from state to state, but generally conforms to their training in the types of therapies. Some states also grant certification in specialties such as natural childbirth or acupuncture. There are now about 1,500 NDs practicing in the U.S., but that number (which is minuscule compared to the number of MDs) is expected to double in the next five years based on current enrollment in naturopathic colleges.

Naturopathic Medicine has become increasingly important in the lifestyles of people who recognize the value of natural healing versus the constant ingestion of synthetic (chemical) prescription drugs, many of which often cause more problems than they solve.

The basic approach of a Naturopathic Physician is to discover and eliminate the causes of disease. When treatment is necessary, the most natural, non-toxic and least invasive therapy available is used. Naturopathic Medicine treats the whole person. These concepts are about to dramatically change the way medicine is practiced in the United States.

DISCLAIMER This information is provided for Educational Purposes Only and has NOT been designed to diagnose, treat or cure any health conditions. Please consult a qualified Health Care Professional with Nutritional Training to diagnose your health conditions and avoid self-diagnosis. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration have not evaluated statements about these health topics or any suggested product compositions.