Naturopathic physicians are primary care physicians clinically trained in natural therapeutics and whose philosophy is derived in part from the 2000-year-old Hippocratic teaching (vis mediatrix naturae) that nature is the healer of all diseases. Their practice is based on the same biomedical science foundation that conventional practice is; however, their treatment philosophies and approaches differ considerably. While naturopathic physicians and conventional physicians share common diagnostic methods, naturopathic physicians treat patients using natural therapies such as physical manipulation, clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, counseling, acupuncture and hydrotherapy. They choose treatment based on the individual patient, not based on the generality of symptoms.
Naturopathic physicians spend a great deal more time with their patients. Like conventional family doctors, many naturopathic physicians have the credentials to prescribe medication and make a full range of treatment decisions, but focus on developing a collaborative relationship with the patient, with the goal of empowering them to steer and improve their own health with greater independence from professional treatment.
Naturopathic physicians cooperate with all other branches of medical science, referring patients to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate. This approach has proven successful in treating both chronic and acute conditions.
Naturopathic medicine uses therapies that are safe and effective. Since the goal is to identify and treat the cause, naturopathic physicians avoid, and consider harmful, treatments that obscure the cause by suppressing symptoms.
The human body is inherently able to restore and maintain health. The physician’s role is to support the body’s innate abilities with natural, non-toxic therapies and to assist the patient in creating a healthy environment and lifestyle.
Symptoms are viewed as expressions of the body’s natural attempt to heal. Naturopathic physicians seek and treat the underlying cause of a disease. The origin of disease is removed or treated so the patient can recover.
The human body, mind and spirit are fully integrated aspects of a person’s overall being. Each patient is a unique whole, and requires individualized and comprehensive consideration for healing to occur.
The naturopathic physician’s most important role is to empower the patient to reclaim agency over his or her own health. The physician strives to instill the patient with hope and knowledge. Ultimately, it is the patient not the physician who achieves healing.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Naturopathic physicians shift the emphasis from fighting disease to building and maintaining good health. The ultimate goal of naturopathic medicine is prevention.