According to the National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) website ʺthe word naturopathy comes from Greek and Latin and literally translates as nature disease. A central belief in naturopathy is that nature has a healing power (a principle practitioners call vis medicatrix naturae).ʺ
The latest statistics released by the National Health Interview Survey revealed an estimated 729,000 U.S. adults and 237,000 children used a naturopathic treatment in one year.
Research has revealed naturopathic medicine may be the least type of alternative or complementary medicine used.
The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) website stated, ʺnaturopathy, or naturopathic medicine, is a system of medicine based on the healing power of nature. Naturopathy, a holistic system, strive[s] to find the cause of disease by understanding the body, mind, and spirit of the person. There are two areas of focus in naturopathy: one is supporting the body's own healing abilities, and the other is empowering people to make lifestyle changes necessary for the best possible health.ʺ
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians website claimed naturopaths follow these key principles:
• Let nature heal
• Identify and treat causes
• First, do no harm
• Educate patients
• Treat the whole person
• Prevent illness
Also, naturopaths use the following types of treatments:
• Exercise therapy
• Herbal medicines
• Lifestyle counseling
• Nutritional counseling, including dietary changes (such as eating more whole and unprocessed foods) and use of vitamins, minerals, and other supplements
• Physical medicine, such as therapeutic massage and joint manipulation
• Psychological counseling
There are three types of naturopathic practitioners in the United States. These include:
• Naturopathic physicians
• Traditional naturopaths
• Other health care providers who offer naturopathic services or holistic therapies (dentists, nurses, chiropractors, doctors of medicine, doctors of osteopathic medicine, etc.)
According to The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, your first visit to a naturopath takes approximately 60-120 minutes. During this time period, they will conduct a full medical history.
When selecting an N.D. ascertain they graduated from a residential program approved by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP).
The UMMC website stated ʺAs of 2009, 15 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have licensing laws for naturopathic doctors. In these states, naturopathic doctors are required to graduate from a four-year, residential naturopathic medical school and pass a postdoctoral board examination (NPLEX) to become licensed.ʺ
Also, naturopathic practitioners are required to take state-mandated education classes annually.
The National Institutes of Health recommends the following if you are considering or visiting a naturopath:
• Give the practitioner a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
• Ask about the practitioner’s referral network and make sure the practitioner has experience coordinating care with other types of medical providers.
• Ask whether the practitioner is licensed by the state, and about any other documented qualifications.
• Ask whether the practitioner has any specialized training and experience in them.
• Ask the practitioner about typical out-of-pocket costs and insurance coverage (if any).
• Tell the practitioner about any and all medical conditions you have.
• Tell the practitioner about all drugs (prescription or over-the-counter) and dietary supplements you are taking. Naturopathic practitioners may use herbal remedies, or may be licensed to prescribe certain drugs. Avoiding potential interactions is important.
• Tell all of your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use.
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Retrieved January 19, 2012, from http://www.naturopathic.org
Naturopathy. University of Maryland Medical Center | Home. Retrieved January 19, 2012, from http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/naturopathy-000356.htm
Naturopathy: An Introduction [NCCAM Backgrounder]. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine [NCCAM] - nccam.nih.gov Home Page. Retrieved January 19, 2012, from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/naturopathy/naturopathyintro.htm
Reviewed January 19, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith