Since ancient times, naturopathic practitioners and healers have used the philosophy of Hippocrates that “nature is the healer of all diseases.” They use such natural products and treatments as herbs, water, nutrition, sunlight, fasting, massage, and manipulation of tissue to stimulate the body's own healing powers.
In the 1970s, patients began to become dissatisfied with traditional medicine and the beginnings of the skyrocketing costs of health care. Many Americans began to look at alternatives to traditional medicine as a means to promote wellness and prevent illness. Naturopaths and other alternative medicine providers began to gain in popularity again.
Naturopaths also believe in the principle of holistic medicine that the entire entity must be treated, and balance and harmony restored, in order to treat illness and promote wellness. They also combine many of the other alternative treatments such as acupuncture, massage, and traditional Chinese medicine into their practice. And when necessary they will refer the patient to a traditional allopathic medical practitioner.
As true physicians, naturopaths may diagnose and prescribe treatment, although they do not utilize traditional medicines in their practice.
Education and More Information
Naturopathic physicians (N.D.s) have the highest level of education for naturopathic practitioners. They usually have a bachelor's degree in pre-med, but it is not required. Then they attend a four-year graduate program in a naturopathic medical school. They take all of the same basic courses as traditional medical students, such as medical sciences and conventional diagnostics. In addition, they study holistic medicine, which includes courses in traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathic medicine, acupuncture, clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, naturopathic manipulative therapy, psychology and counseling, minor surgery, and pharmacology.
In the early part of the twentieth century there were thousands of naturopathic physicians in the United States, and a number of naturopathic medical schools. These physicians were treating thousands of patients nationwide, but by the 1950s, with the advent of miracle drugs such as antibiotics, most patients turned to allopathic medicine for treatments and cures.
Schools for naturopaths are accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). Additional training in acupuncture and home birthing are also available to N.D.s who wish to specialize.
N.D.s take board certification examinations from the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE), and in the twelve states that so far license naturopaths, they must also pass the NPLEX (Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination Board) examination. Many other states are investigating licensure for naturopaths, mostly because a growing portion of the public is demanding alternatives and wants to have the option of preventative medicine and wellness. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) is strongly advocating for the licensing of NPs in all fifty states.
You can get more information about careers in naturopathic medicine from the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Their Web site is