What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a centuries-old practice encompassing healing of the body, mind, and spirit. It is based on the powerful belief that the human body has an innate intelligence and ability to heal itself. Hippocrates himself believed in the "vis medicatrix naturae" - the healing power of nature. Naturopathic philosophy is about treating the whole person and creating individualized treatment towards wellness. It is about restoring and optimizing health by first and foremost identifying the root cause of "dis-ease". Factors contributing to the cause of dis-ease can then be addressed, which allows our body to return to its natural state of "ease".
Along with identifying the underlying cause, the attempt is then made to support our body's natural healing process, without the suppression of symptoms. Often times naturopathic medicine works side by side, integrated with conventional medicine in order to achieve optimal health for each individual patient. There are times when invasive and suppressive measures are necessary, and referrals to the most suited treatments are appropriately made. Naturopathic medicine however, is renowned for holistic treatment modalities that provide a gentle and restorative way for the body to return to a higher state of optimal wellness, without the use of heavy suppressive drugs and often debilitating side-effects.
Education and Training
Naturopathic doctors (ND's) receive their training in a 4-year naturopathic medical school. Currently, there are 7 accredited naturopathic medical schools in the United States and Canada. A college degree is required prior to entrance in the program. The curriculum is much the same as conventional medical schools, with science courses such as anatomy, physiology, chemistry, physics, pathology, endocrinology, pediatrics, gynecology, psychology, pharmacology, and cardiology to name a few.
The clinical training differs in that the focus is on treating with the natural alternative treatment modalities, as opposed to pharmaceutical drugs alone. Post grad residencies are available at some of the naturopathic medical schools, with additional emphasis in areas of oncology, natural midwifery, minor surgery, homeopathy, physical medicine, and others. Finally, licensure is offered and acquired only after passing extensive postdoctoral board exams (NPLEX) and state licensing exams.
Naturopathic Medicine in Illinois
At this present time, 16 states and the District of Columbia regulate naturopathic medicine and license naturopathic doctors (ND's). In these states ND's act as primary care physicians and have full scope of practice. They can use diagnostic and laboratory testing, prescribe medications, and bill health insurance just like conventional medical doctors. Regulation of naturopathic medicine is extremely important especially for the safety of all patients seeking this kind of care, so that they know their chosen naturopathic doctor is properly educated and trained.
Unfortunately Illinois is not yet a licensed state, but with much work and perseverance in the field of legislature, we are very hopeful that it will soon join the list. At this time, ND's working in Illinois do not act as primary care physicians but as wellness consultants. They do not diagnose or cure disease, rather enhance and support optimal health. To find out what you can do to help license Illinois, please visit the Illinois Association of Naturopathic Physicians (ILANP) or the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP).
Licensed States and Territories: