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Center For Natural Medicine                   

                                       

Naturopathic Medicine

DEFINITION OF 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 primary health care practitioners, whose diverse techniques include modern and traditional, scientific and empirical methods.

DEFINITION OF A NATUROPATHIC DOCTOR

Diagnoses, treats, and cares for patients, using system of practice that bases treatment of physiological functions and abnormal conditions on natural laws governing human body: Utilizes physiological, psychological, and mechanical methods, such as air, water, light, heat, earth, phytotherapy, food and herb therapy, psychotherapy, electrotherapy, physiotherapy, minor and orificial surgery, mechanotherapy, naturopathic corrections and manipulation, and natural methods or modalities, together with natural medicines natural processed foods, and herbs and nature's remedies. Excludes major surgery, therapeutic use of x-ray and radium, and use of drugs, except those assimilable substances containing elements or compounds of body tissues and are physiologically compatible to body processes for maintenance of life.

History of Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic medicine, sometimes called "naturopathy," is as old as healing itself and as new as the latest discoveries in biochemical sciences. In the United States, the naturopathic medical profession's infrastructure is based on accredited educational institutions, professional licensing by a growing number of states, national standards of practice and care, peer review, and an ongoing commitment to state-of-the-art scientific research. Modern American naturopathic physicians (NDs) receive extensive training in and use therapies that are primarily natural (hence the name naturopathic) and nontoxic, including clinical nutrition, homeopathy, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, physical medicine, and counseling. Many NDs have additional training and certification in acupuncture and home birthing. These contemporary NDs, who have attended naturopathic medical colleges recognized by the US Department of Education, practice medicine as primary health care providers and are increasingly acknowledged as leaders in bringing about progressive changes in the nation's medical system.

The word "naturopathy" was first used in the US exactly 100 years ago. But the natural therapies and the philosophy on which naturopathy is based have been effectively used to treat diseases since ancient times. As Rene Dubos noted in @The Mirage of Health (1959)@, the word "physician" is from the Greek root meaning "nature." Hippocrates, a physician who lived 2400 years ago, is often considered the earliest predecessor of naturopathic physicians, particularly in terms of his teaching that "nature is healer of all diseases" and his formulation of the concept@ vis medicatrix naturae@-- "the healing power of nature." This concept has long been at the core of indigenous medicine in many cultures around the world and remains one of the central themes of naturopathic philosophy to this day.

The earliest doctors and healers worked with herbs, foods, water, fasting, and tissue manipulation -- gentle treatments that do not obscure the body's own healing powers. Today's naturopathic physicians continue to use these therapies as their main tools and to advocate a healthy dose of primary prevention. In addition, modern NDs conduct and make practical use of the latest biochemical research involving nutrition, botanicals, homeopathy, and other natural treatments.

For many diseases and conditions (a few examples are ulcerative colitis, asthma, menopause, flu, obesity, and chronic fatigue), treatments used by naturopathic physicians can be primary and even curative. Naturopathic physicians also function within an integrated framework, for example referring patients to an appropriate medical specialist such as an oncologist or a surgeon. Naturopathic therapies can be employed within that context to complement the treatments used by conventionally trained medical doctors. The result is a team-care approach that recognizes the needs of the patient to receive the best overall treatment most appropriate to his or her specific medical condition.

Recent History

Naturopathic medicine was popular and widely available throughout the US well into the early part of the 20th century. Around 1920, from coast to coast, there were a number of naturopathic medical schools, thousands of naturopathic physicians, and scores of thousands of patients using naturopathic therapies. But the rise of "scientific medicine," the discovery and increasing use of "miracle drugs" like antibiotics, the institutionalization of a large medical system primarily based (both clinically and economically) on high-tech and pharmaceutical treatments -- all of these were associated by mid-century with the temporary decline of naturopathic medicine and most other methods of natural healing.

By the 1970s, however, the American public was becoming increasingly disenchanted with conventional medicine. The profound clinical limitations of conventional medicine and its out-of-control costs were becoming obvious, and millions of Americans were inspired to look for "new" options and alternatives. Naturopathy and all of complementary alternative medicine began to enter a new era of rejuvenation.

Looking to the Future

Today, licensed naturopathic physicians are experiencing noteworthy clinical successes, providing leadership in innovative 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 NDs. In 1992, the NIH's Office of Alternative Medicine, created by an act of Congress, invited leading naturopathic physicians (educators, researchers, and clinical practitioners) to serve on key federal advisory panels and to help define priorities and design protocols for state-of-the-art alternative medical research. In 1994, the NIH selected Bastyr University as the national center for research on alternative treatments for HIV/AIDS. At a one-million-dollar level of funding, this action represented the formal recognition by the federal government of the legitimacy and significance of naturopathic medicine.

Meanwhile, the number of new NDs is steadily increasing, and licensure of naturopathic physicians is expanding into new states. By April of 1996, eleven of fifty states had naturopathic licensing laws (Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington). A number of other states are likely to enact naturopathic licensing in the near future.

Naturopathic medical education is growing by leaps and bounds. Three of the four US naturopathic medical schools - National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Bastyr University, and Southwest College are accredited. The fourth, the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine, is an applicant for accreditation. Within the past year, all three US naturopathic medical schools and the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto moved to considerably larger campuses in order to meet the accelerating demand on the part of prospective naturopathic medical students. In 1996, Bastyr University alone had almost 1,000 students enrolled in its various degree-granting programs.

In October 1996, in a major development for both public health and naturopathic medicine, the Natural Medicine Clinic opened in Kent, Washington. Funded by the King County (Seattle) Department of Public Health, the clinic is the first medical facility in the nation to offer natural medical treatments to people in the community, paid for by tax dollars. Bastyr University, one of the three US naturopathic colleges, was selected over several leading Seattle-area hospitals to operate the clinic.

In the last half of the 1990s, exactly one century after it put down roots in North America, naturopathic medicine is finally enjoying a well-deserved renaissance.