August 4, 2023

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine blends centuries-old natural, nontoxic therapies with advances in the science of health and human systems, covering all aspects of family health from prenatal to geriatric care.

Nicolas Figueredo, ND

  • The Healing Power of Nature - Support the body's innate ability to heal and remove obstacles to healing and recovery to support this inherent self-healing ability.
  • Identify and Treat the Cause - Seek to identify and remove the cause of illness rather than merely eliminate or suppress the symptoms.
  • First Do No Harm - NDs follow three precepts to avoid harming the patient. (1) Utilize methods and medicines which minimize the risk of harmful side effects; (2) Avoid when possible the harmful suppression of symptoms; and (3) acknowledge, respect, and work with the individuals self-healing process.
  • Doctor as Teacher - NDs spend significant time educating their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health and healthcare choices.
  • Treat the Whole Person - Popularized now as "patient-centered healthcare," NDs have always treated patients by taking many factors that contribute to     illness/wellness, including mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and environmental (conventionally referred to as the "social determinants of health.")
  • Practice Prevention - NDs emphasize prevention of disease by addressing lifestyle, assessing risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease, and by making appropriate interventions in partnership with their patients to prevent illness.

What Is The Scope of Practice of Naturopathic Physicians?
Naturopathic doctors have one of the broadest scopes of practice in the country, and are defined as primary care physicians in statute. Naturopathic doctors are licensed to diagnose and treat disease, can perform or order diagnostic exams and tests, and can prescribe all pharmaceuticals needed in a primary care practice as well as the natural therapeutics that offer patients even more options to address their healthcare needs.

Naturopathic treatments include:

Clinical Nutrition
A cornerstone of naturopathic medicine, clinical nutrition refers to the practice of using food to maintain health, the therapeutic use of food to treat illness, and the utilization of targeted vitamin and nutrient therapy as part of the treatment plan. 

Botanical (Herbal) Medicine

Many plant substances are powerful medicines, effective and safe when used properly, in the right dose and in proper combinations with other herbs or pharmaceuticals. Many pharmaceutical drugs found their origin in herbal medicine before they were patented or altered by drug manufacturers. 

Physical Medicine
Includes naturopathic manipulation of the muscles, bones and spine as well as application of hot and cold, gentle electrical impulses, therapeutic ultrasound, hydrotherapy and exercise therapy. 

Counseling and Stress Management
Mental attitudes and emotional states can be critical elements in healing illness. NDs are trained in counseling, biofeedback, life-style, and other mind-body techniques. 

Diagnostic Labs & Imaging
Naturopathic physicians use conventional diagnostic tools when indicated, such as x-rays, electrocardiograms, ultrasound, CT, MRIs, as well as blood, urine and other laboratory tests.

This system of medicine is based on the "law of similars" (like cures like) and uses highly diluted natural substances to stimulate the body's innate ability to heal.

Minor Surgery
Includes the repair of superficial wounds and removal of foreign bodies, cysts and other superficial masses, with local anesthesia as needed.

Pharmaceutical Medicines
NDs can prescribe any pharmaceutical needed for primary care. Naturopathic physicians are the only licensed health care providers with advanced training in drug-drug, drug-herb, and drug-nutrient interactions and/or complications.

Chinese Medicine
Many naturopathic physicians also have a specialty in Chinese medicine, and may use pulse diagnosis, acupuncture, acupressure and Chinese botanical medicine.


History of Naturopathic Medicine 
As a distinct healthcare professional, Naturopathic Medicine is over 125 years old. The term "Naturopathy" was first coined in 1885 by Dr. John Scheel, a German homeopath practicing the methods of Kneipp and Kuhn at his Badekur Sanitariumin New York. Benedict Lust purchased the name in 1901 to describe the eclectic practice of "nature doctors". At the time, Naturopathy embraced all known means of natural therapeutics, including diet, herbs, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, exercise, and manipulative therapies, as well as psychological counseling.

Naturopathic medicine developed at a time when there was tremendous change and advancement in North America with respect to health care. Homeopathy had been brought to America in 1833 by Dr. Constantine Hering, Osteopathy was established by Andrew Taylor Still in 1874, and Chiropractic medicine was established in1895 by Daniel David Palmer. Many of the early naturopaths held multiple designations and there was an acceptance and appreciation for the different forms of healing

After decades of disturbing trends of pharmaceutical side effects, rising death rates from adverse drug reactions, and a growing body of evidence on the myths of "safe and effective drugs," the profession has experienced a resurgence in the past two decades as a health–conscious public has sought alternatives for conditions that conventional medicine has not adequately addressed. This growth is in direct response to the changing needs of our society; not only is the public demanding a medical model in which the individual plays a more active role in her/his health and healing process, but doctors also want a medical model that is more patient–centered and holistic.