What is Naturopathy?

Since being accepted to a naturopathic medical program, I’ve discovered that, even here in Oregon, most people haven’t heard of (and consequently don’t know about) Naturopathy. Usually the first follow-up question when I explain what school I go to is: “so, you just use herbs and stuff?”

Well, yes, we are trained in herbalism and nutraceuticals, but what isn’t as publicized is that the education included pharmaceuticals and in many states an ND’s scope of practice includes full Rx privileges.

So what is naturopathy then? How is an ND different from an MD?

The shortest answer is that naturopathy is a medical philosophy centered around the idea that the body, when properly supported, is capable of healing itself of almost any ailment. Our training as naturopaths is based in treating not just the symptoms of a condition but the whole individual. The modalities we are trained in are designed with this in mind. As one professor put it, when describing treatments: “The closer to nature, the better.”

Of course, if someone has a case of sepsis, antibiotics are an immediate necessity. I do not fall for the naturalistic fallacy that just because something is “natural” it is inherently good; there are a great many deadly things in nature and it is wise to acknowledge this. What makes naturopathy different from “conventional” western medicine is the emphasis on preventative care, lifestyle changes and holistic approach. Why prescribe a lifetime of insulin therapy for a Type-II diabetic when permanent dietary and lifestyle changes have the potential to control the condition, while at the same time increasing overall health.

Naturopathy is a system of healing, one that I believe will continue to grow and develop as the primary healthcare paradigm shifts from treating symptoms to treating individuals. It will do so by utilizing natural alternatives to pharmaceutical and surgical intervention as often as possible. I am grateful to be on the forefront of this movement as healthcare fields continue to integrate, and I look forward to working with my future colleagues; ND, MD, DO, DC alike.

For another perspective, Dr. Michael Stanclift wrote a great piece about being an ND you can read here.

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