What is naturopathic medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a primary health care model that combines evidence-based medicine with traditional natural therapies. Naturopathic doctors manage and prevent chronic disease and co-manage complex cases with other medical professionals. Naturopathic doctors use a variety of natural therapies including: clinical nutrition, supplement prescription, acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, botanical medicine, physical medicine (e.g. spinal manipulation), exercise medicine, lifestyle counseling, and hydrotherapy. With additional education and certification NDs may also administer intravenous (IV) therapy and parenteral vitamin injections (e.g. vitamin B12). For a list of common conditions treated click here.
Regulated and licensed
The College of Naturopaths of Ontario
As of July 1, 2015, naturopathic medicine became a regulated profession in Ontario under the Regulated Health Professions Act - the same legislation that regulates other health care professionals including physicians and nurses. Naturopathic doctors practicing in Ontario are required to complete a 4-year university degree in the Sciences, and a 4-year program at an accredited naturopathic college, as well as two regulatory licensing exams (NPLEX 1 and 2) and one clinical board exam.
Integrative model of health care
Today’s naturopathic doctor combines modern diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and research with natural and traditional medicine. In this way, the naturopathic doctor advocates for best medicine, the most appropriate course of action, and not just for one system of medicine over the other.
World Health Organization Director General Dr. Margaret Chan stated: "The two systems of traditional (including Complementary and Alternative (CAM) therapies) and Western medicine need not clash. Within the context of primary health care, they can blend together in beneficial harmony, using the best features of each system, and compensating for certain weaknesses in each." The WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy for 2014-2023 requires member states to promote universal health coverage by integrating traditional and complementary medicine services into health care service delivery and self-health care as appropriate. Read more here
History of naturopathic medicine
Long before the term “naturopathy” or “naturopathic medicine” came into existence, traditional medicine was the means by which humans sought out to prevent and cure disease. Traditional medicine is the practice of using plants as medicine. Plants have been used in the preservation of health and treatment of disease for at least 5000 years, with written references in the Old Testament and ancient Egyptian manuscripts.
The term “naturopathy” was first coined in the late 19th century. It was used to describe the practice of “nature doctors” who at the time applied a variety of natural therapeutics including diet, herbs, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, exercise, manipulative therapies (what we know today as chiropractic manipulation), and psychological and spiritual counselling. Naturopathic medicine became popular at a time when people became disillusioned with the toxic and ineffective methods of the “Age of Heroic Medicine” (which included the practices of bloodletting, purging, and sweating).
During the 1940s and 1950s, naturopathic medicine experienced a decline following the rise of pharmaceutical drugs, technological medicine, and the idea that drugs could eliminate all disease.
In the past couple of decades the naturopathic profession has experienced a resurgence as the public has become more health-conscious and has sought out alternatives for conditions that have not been adequately addressed by allopathic medicine, as well as in response to increasing trends of negative pharmaceutical side effects.