- What is naturopathic medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care system that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. It is based on the healing power of nature and it supports and stimulates the body's ability to heal itself. Naturopathic medicine is the art and science of disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention using natural therapies including: botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, naturopathic manipulation, traditional Chinese medicine / acupuncture, and prevention and lifestyle counselling.
- How does it compare to conventional medicine?
Both are doctors, both provide primary care and both are similarly trained. The primary differences between naturopathic and conventional medicine are the philosophical approach and the therapies used. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) treat patients as individuals by addressing the physical, environmental, lifestyle, attitudinal, and emotional aspects of health. This allows Naturopathic doctors to find and treat the cause of the disease using natural, non-invasive therapies. Allopathic doctors generally address and treat the symptoms of disease and use pharmaceutical therapies or surgery.
- What can naturopathic medicine do for you?
Naturopathic medicine treats all forms of health concerns -- from paediatric to geriatric, from irritating systems to chronic illness and from the physical to the psychological. Naturopathic medicine is beneficial for the following types of patients:
- Patients that are looking for disease prevention and health promotion strategies.
- Patients that have a range of symptoms that they have been unable to address on their own or with the help of other medical practitioners.
- Patients that have been diagnosed with an illness, often serious or chronic and are looking for alternative treatments. Naturopathic medicine is very effective for improving quality of life for those with serious and life threatening illnesses.
- Patients that are looking to combine conventional and naturopathic treatments with the aim of minimizing side effects of drugs, surgery or conventional treatments.
- What is the history of naturopathic medicine?
Naturopathic medicine was introduced in North America in 1902 by Dr. Benedict Lust. By 1920, naturopathic practice was well established in Canada. Laws regulating naturopathic practice were enacted in Ontario by 1925, in British Columbia in 1936, in Manitoba in 1943 and in Saskatchewan in 1952. The CAND has been representing the profession's interests in Canada since 1955.
After the Second World War health care moved away from a more natural approach, focusing on the advances in surgical techniques, the introduction of antibiotics and the growth of the pharmaceutical industry. In the last twenty years, public desire for greater control in the health care process and a growing dissatisfaction with high-tech solutions to health problems has resulted in a resurgent interest in the natural methods of preventive health care. This trend has increased demand for naturopathic services as people seek ways to improve their health, cope with day-to-day stresses and avoid illness.
Naturopathic medical education began in Canada in 1978 with the founding of the Ontario College of Naturopathic Medicine (OCNM) in Toronto. In 1992, the College became the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). In 2000, the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine opened in British Columbia to provide further educational opportunities for students seeking training as naturopathic doctors.
- Naturopathic medicine today
Today, more people than ever are seeking naturopathic medical care and the number of naturopathic doctors is growing at record rates to accommodate this increased demand. Currently there are naturopathic doctors practicing in every province and territory in Canada. The over 1,875 qualified naturopathic doctors in Canada continue to provide high-quality health care to address the health care needs of Canadians.
In Canada there are five provinces that have naturopathic regulation: British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia. Alberta is expected to be regulated by 2009. Most of the other provinces are also in the process of seeking regulation of naturopathic medicine.
- Naturopathic principles
- First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere)
Your naturopathic doctor chooses remedies and therapies that are safe and effective, to increase your health and decrease harmful side effects.
- The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)
Your naturopathic doctor works to restore and support the powerful and inherent healing abilities of your body, mind and spirit and to prevent further disease from occurring.
- Identify and Treat the Cause (Tolle Causam)
The primary goal of your naturopathic doctor is to determine and treat the underlying cause of disease.
- Treat the Whole Person
In treating the cause of any condition your naturopathic doctor takes into account not only your physical symptoms, but also mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, spiritual and other factors.
- Doctor as Teacher (Docere)
Your naturopathic doctor will assist you in understanding health and illness and in becoming more capable of maintaining your own health.
- Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Your naturopathic doctor applies all of the above principles in a proactive form of disease prevention and health promotion.
- First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere)
- Naturopathic therapies
Naturopathic doctors use a variety of non-toxic, non-pharmaceutical treatments. All naturopathic doctors in Canada are trained in the following natural therapies:
Clinical nutrition examines the relationship between diet and health. Special diets, food elimination, variations in dietary habits or the use of nutritional supplements may be recommended.
Botanical Medicine (Herbalism)
The use of plants for healing dates back to the beginning of civilization and is the foundation of modern pharmacology. The use of herbs in many forms: teas, tinctures or capsules are used for their healing effects and nutritional value may be recommended for healing effect.
Homeopathic remedies are minute dilutions of plant, animal and mineral substances designed to stimulate the body's "vital force" and strengthen its innate ability to heal.
Traditional Chinese Medicine / Acupuncture
Based on balancing the flow of Chi (energy) through meridian pathways under the skin, Oriental medicine includes the use of Oriental herbs and acupuncture to regulate and release Chi in order to bring the body into balance.
Physical medicine includes soft tissue work (including therapeutic massage); naturopathic manipulation of muscle, bone or the spine; hydrotherapy techniques; gentle electrical impulses, ultrasound, diathermy; and exercise therapy.
Prevention and Lifestyle Counselling
Naturopathic doctors address all aspects of a person's life, identifying and addressing the impact that stress and life events have on a patient's health and assisting patients to make effective lifestyle choices.
Some naturopathic doctors will have additional training in other natural therapies such as:
- IV Therapies
- Chelation Therapy
- Minor Surgery
- Colon Therapy
- Health promotion
The focus of naturopathic medicine is health promotion and the understanding that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. By identifying and removing obstacles to cure, the body is able to heal and move toward optimal health. The goal of naturopathic practice is to treat underlying disorders and to restore normal body function by enhancing the body's own healing abilities.
- Disease prevention
Disease prevention and preventing the progression of disease are principles inherent to naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic doctors work with patients to identify the root causes of disease and to address all the factors that are affecting a patient's health.
- Conditions and illnesses treated
Naturopathic doctors are primary health care practitioners. They are trained to treat virtually all health concerns from acute to chronic, pediatric to geriatric and physical to psychological. Naturopathic doctors work with three main groups of people: 1) patients that are looking for disease prevention and health promotion, 2) patients with a range of health concerns and no clear diagnosis and 3) patients with chronic and severe illnesses.
- Individualized treatment
Naturopathic treatments are highly individualized. Each patient has a unique story, history, genetics, dietary habits, lifestyle and associated health concerns. A naturopathic doctor will work to determine the underlying cause(s) and create an individualized treatment plan to stimulate a person's innate healing ability. Patients are also involved in their health program and learn to make effective, educated, self-care decisions that can prevent future health problems.
- Working with conventional medicine
Naturopathic doctors can and do work with conventional medical doctors. NDs are trained to refer patients to other health care practitioners, where appropriate. Most naturopathic doctors cross-refer extensively to other health care practitioners.
- Safe and effective treatment
The goal of naturopathic practice is to treat underlying disorders and to restore normal body function by enhancing the body's own healing abilities. Therefore, naturopathic doctors must focus their efforts on understanding the unique needs of each patient. Naturopathic doctors assist the body's healing powers by using safe, effective non-pharmaceutical approaches with patients.
As a result naturopathic treatments are highly individualized. Patients are involved in their treatment programs and learn to make effective, educated self-care decisions, which can prevent future health problems.
Naturopathic diagnosis and therapeutics are supported by scientific research drawn from peer-reviewed journals from many disciplines, including naturopathic medicine, conventional medicine, European complementary medicine, clinical nutrition, phytotherapy, pharmacognosy, homeopathy, psychology and spirituality.
Information technology and new concepts in clinical outcomes and assessment are particularly well-suited to evaluating the effectiveness of naturopathic treatment protocols and are being used in research, both at naturopathic medical schools and in the offices of practicing naturopathic doctors. Clinical research into natural therapies has become an increasingly important focus for naturopathic doctors.
Naturopathic medicine can contribute to resolving the costly epidemic of chronic disease. The cost-effectiveness of naturopathic medicine is currently being researched in Canada. Research conducted in the United States on the cost-effectiveness of naturopathic medicine has demonstrated the significant savings to be realized by individuals, insurance companies and the health care system in general.
Many naturopathic therapies developed out of a rich history of use and have been validated by scientific research. For example, many herbs have been used effectively for centuries by various indigenous cultures. Much current research supports the direct link between many health conditions and diet and stress. The research supporting naturopathic medicine continues to grow and incorporate new scientific findings.
The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM - www.ccnm.edu) continues to conduct state-of-the-art research that is regularly published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
The naturopathic profession supports research into the efficacy of the products and therapies used by NDs with their patients. The CCNM is currently involved in a number of research projects in collaboration with other naturopathic institutions and conventional medical schools around the world.
- Typical visits
The first appointment with a naturopathic doctor is about 1½ hours and subsequent appointments will be from 20 minutes to 1 hour in length depending on your specific health concerns and the naturopathic doctor you are working with. Typically during the initial visits your naturopathic doctor will take a detailed history of your current and past health concerns, conduct a physical exam and use information from laboratory tests to make an assessment and diagnosis. With the patient's input, a personalized treatment plan will be proposed to help facilitate achieving his or her health goals.
- Diagnostics and examinations
The foundation of naturopathic diagnosis is an extensive patient history, physical examination, review of medications, and evaluation of appropriate laboratory tests and diagnostic imaging. Naturopathic doctors use the conventional medical diagnostic framework, but are also trained in Chinese medical diagnostic skills and spend time looking for contributing factors in patient's lifestyle, habits, attitudes and constitution.
- Health insurance coverage
Most extended health insurance plans in both Canada and the United States cover naturopathic treatments. Insured patients are encouraged to contact their employer or individual insurance brokers to determine if they are covered and/or to request that their policy be extended to include naturopathic services if it does not already do so. Since naturopathic doctors use alternatives to costly techniques and drug therapies, more insurance companies are beginning to investigate expanding coverage of this cost-effective treatment method. Naturopathic medicine is currently not covered by any of the provincial health plans.
You do not require a referral to see a naturopathic doctor. To find a naturopathic doctor in your area visit our online referral program and use Find an ND or contact the CAND or one of its provincial affiliates directly and then call the ND to book an appointment.
- Fees for Naturopathic Visits
A naturopathic doctor's consultation is based on an hourly rate. A first visit is often 1 - 1½ hours in length with subsequent visits ranging from 20 minutes to 60 minutes. Depending on the time spent with a naturopathic doctor, a patient may pay between $35 - $180. The CAND fee schedule is based on a rate of $125 - $180 per hour.
For a detailed outline of naturopathic service fees contact your Naturopathic Doctor's office.
- Education and training
Like a conventional doctor, dentist, or chiropractor, the naturopathic doctor first completes pre-medical studies at university. The naturopathic student then enters into a four-year, full-time medical program at an accredited school of naturopathic medicine. Training includes basic, medical, and clinical science; diagnostics; naturopathic principles and therapeutics; and extensive clinical experience under the supervision of qualified naturopathic doctors. Graduates receive the title "N.D." or Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine.
- Accredited programs
The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) is the only government-recognized accrediting body for naturopathic medical schools in Canada and the United States. The CNME has accredited the following naturopathic medical programs:
- The Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (New Westminster, British Columbia)
- The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (Toronto, Ontario)
- The National College of Naturopathic Medicine (Portland, Oregon)
- Bastyr University (Seattle, Washington)
- The University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
- Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences (Scottsdale, Arizona)
- The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education has granted candidacy for accreditation to the National University of Health Sciences (Lombard, Illinois)
Upon successful completion of any accredited program, a naturopathic doctor is eligible to sit for NPLEX and take provincial or state board examinations to obtain licensure.
- Correspondence programs
None of the CNME-accredited institutions offer any portion of the ND degree via correspondence or the Internet. Graduates of non-accredited institutions, correspondence and/or Internet programs are not eligible to sit for NPLEX, the North American board exams for naturopathic medicine. Graduates of correspondence programs are not allowed to take provincial or state licensing/regulatory exams. No graduate from these schools has ever been recognized/licensed by any provincial or state licensing board. No member of the CAND has received their naturopathic medical training through correspondence courses.
- Qualified naturopathic doctors
A qualified naturopathic doctor is one who has completed a four-year, full-time program at an accredited school of naturopathic medicine. Following the completion of an accredited program, NDs must write and pass standardized North American Board exams known as the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX) in order to qualify for regulation/licensing.
Many NDs in Canada who are practicing in an unregulated province choose to maintain an out-of-province registration in a regulated province.
To find out if a naturopathic doctor is qualified, either check with the naturopathic regulatory board of your province or contact the CAND.
- Regulation in provinces and Territories
British Columbia: Under regulations approved April 9, 2009, naturopathic physicians in B.C. became the first in Canada to be granted prescribing authority. NDs that completed the required certification began prescribing September 7, 2010. The BCNA and the CNPBC are currently focusing their efforts on lab access for NDs.
Alberta: Regulation was passed on July 25, 2012. Initially, NDs will not have prescribing authority but will maintain access to IV substances and have been awarded a number of other controlled acts.
Saskatchewan: The SANP is engaged with the government in preparing bylaws that will assist them in effectively regulating the profession while they move towards updating the antiquated “The Naturopathy Act” under which they are currently regulated. Updating the Act will bring it in line with more current legislation for health professionals.
Manitoba: In-line with BC and AB, NDs in Manitoba will be moved under the umbrella legislation for all health care professions passed in 2009. NDs will be included in the second wave of professions to be moved under the legislation, anticipated to take place in 2013 – 2015, and will be asking for a full scope of practice similar to what has been awarded in BC.
Ontario:On October 19, 2009 an amendment to the Naturopathy Act, 2007 was approved that will allow NDs to prescribe, dispense, compound or sell “drugs” that are designated by regulation. The Transition Council of the College of Naturopaths is developing the regulations, policies, by-laws and necessary business operations for the new College that will come into existence upon proclamation of the Naturopathy Act – expected in 2015. Until the Act is proclaimed, The Board of Directors of Drugless Therapy – Naturopathy will continue to regulate the profession.
Quebec: The QANM continues its quest for regulation in Quebec. Efforts are ongoing to move their file forward within the Office of Professionals which is responsible for regulation.
New Brunswick: NBAND has prepared draft legislation to regulate NDs and is engaged with the Ministry of Health on amendments before sending the draft legislation out to stakeholders for comment. As in other unregulated jurisdictions, NDs maintain an out-of-province registration in a regulated jurisdiction as well as malpractice insurance.
Newfoundland and Labrador: Despite the fact there are only three NDs practicing on “the Rock” they have an association! Regulation is a vision for the future. In the meantime the three NDs are very busy and hoping that new grads will see the benefit of moving to a province desperately in need of naturopathic medical services.
Nova Scotia: The Naturopathic Doctors Act was passed in 2008 granting title protection and the ability for patients to claim ND services as an income tax deduction. The NSAND is now engaged with government on amendments to the act and the development of regulations.
Prince Edward Island: NDs in PEI have been consistent in approaching government for regulation. With the appointment of a new Minister of Health the PEIAND is once again engaged in discussions with the Minister and staff on the importance of moving forward with regulation.
Yukon: The YNA consists of four hard-working NDs. As yet unregulated they are seeking more NDs wishing to practice in the beautiful north.
North West Territories: While there are only 3 NDs in the NWT they have finalized Bylaws and have officially formed an association. They are actively working with MLA’s and government to have NDs included as a test case in moving health care professions under proposed umbrella legislation – Health and Social Services Professions Act.
USA: Currently, 16 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands have licensing laws for naturopathic doctors. For more information about the regulation of naturopathic doctors in the United States visit http://www.naturopathic.org (website of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians).
- Becoming a naturopathic doctor
The qualifications to become a naturopathic doctor include: 3 years of pre-med sciences at a recognized university, followed by 4 years of full-time study at an accredited naturopathic college, plus successful completion of the Naturopathic Practitioner Licensing Examinations (NPLEX) and additional provincial or state regulatory board exams, as required. Contact one of the accredited naturopathic colleges for more information.
- Finding a naturopathic doctor
Visit our online referral program and use Find an ND to locate a naturopathic doctor in your area.