What is Naturopathic Medicine?!

When I embarked on the journey to becoming a naturopathic doctor (ND) I was so surprised at how many people haven’t heard of naturopathic medicine before! With naturopathic medicine becoming increasingly more popular I thought this would be a great time to explain to you guys what I am studying!

The Basics

Some people tend to believe that naturopathic medicine is overpriced, ineffective witchcraft medicine that is only used by tree hugging hippies. Well, guess what… their WRONG! Naturopathic medicine is an integrative medicine that incorporates traditional practices with modern medicine. It puts focus on personalized treatments that help to aid in the self-healing process of the mind, body, and spirit. Naturopathic medicine steps away from just alleviating symptoms by putting a focus on the root cause and treating the whole person using the healing power of nature.

Naturopathic medicine is focused on the patient. ND’s allow YOU as the patient to be able to share your story and be 100% heard (which let’s admit it is something that we don’t see a lot of anymore in conventional medicine). After hearing what the patient has to say ND’s work to develop an individualized plan for each patient. This medicine is extremely personalized making this only one of the reason why naturopathic medicine is awesome!

The Principles

  • 1. First, do no harm (Primum non nocere)
    • ND’s work with the least invasive and least toxic treatments for each patient
  • 2. The healing power of nature (Vis medicatrix naturae)
    • ND’s recognize the bodies ability to naturally heal itself
  • 3. Identify and treat the root cause (Tolle causam)
    • ND’s identify, address + remove the underlying cause of disease
  • 4. Doctor as teacher (Docere)
    • ND’s focus on educating their patients about their health + empowering them to take responsibility for their health
  • 5. Treat the whole person (Tolle totum)
    • ND’s focus on treating the person and not just the disease
  • 6. Prevention (Praeventio)
    • ND’s focus to promote healthy living, wellness + disease prevention

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The Education

Naturopathic medicine is no different than western medicine. Altogether, becoming an ND requires 8 years of post-secondary education. First, a 4 undergrad degree needs to be completed with all the appropriate science electives and then a 4-year intensive medical degree. The time we spend at naturopathic medical school allows us to have the exact same training as a medical doctor with the bonus addition of learning natural modalities. We are then required to pass 2 standardized North American Board exams called NPLEX I + NPLEX II (which is very similar to the USMLE in western medicine). But guess what… we do a little more than just read books all day (even though that can be hard to believe!!). We get to spend a lot of our time in our upper years in the clinic where we get to practice and apply all of our knowledge with real patients under the supervision of licensed medical doctors. It is sure a long process, but boy oh boy will it ever be worth it!!

So you may be thinking at this point that we are only able to prescribe people herbs and that we can’t order different laboratory testing. Well, guess what… your WRONG! When an ND graduates they have the ability to order lab test and if they choose to do so they are also able to have their prescription rights. So basically ND’s are medical doctors on steroids (the natural ones of course :)) !!


The Evidence

Naturopathic medicine is based on evidence-based medicine, which includes a very important triad:

  • The best recent evidence
  • The patients values + expectations
  • The doctor’s clinical experience + judgment

This means that ND’s combine recent and relevant research with traditional clinical practice with the patients best interest always in mind… this means ND’s are trained medically with a natural focus (the best of both worlds 😉).

What sets ND’s apart from medical doctors it the therapeutic order they follow when helping their patients. This order focuses on the least invasive therapy and then working your way up to more invasive procedures when necessary.

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The Modalities

What makes naturopathic medicine so unique is all the wonderful modalities that we get to practice, there are so many it makes it nearly impossible to pick your favorite. Some of the modalities include:

  • Nutrition
  • Botanical medicine
  • Homeopathy
  • Traditional Chinese medicine + acupuncture
  • Manipulation + physical medicine
  • Hydrotherapy + manual therapies
  • Counseling



The Life Changer

So next time you think naturopathic doctors are witches that dance around the forest singing chants while mixing potions, just remember they could be the next person to change your life.

Tell me about your experiences with naturopathic medicine by commenting below or tagging me @barefoot.brit.



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