Get Smart(er): Naturopathic Medicine Overview

Naturopathic doctors are commonly referred to as general practitioners of the complementary and alternative health care world. They are trained in the modalities of herbal medicine, acupuncture, clinical nutrition, dietary supplements, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, bodywork and lifestyle counseling.

Initial visits with a naturopathic doctor begin with a complete health history and physical examination. Lab tests or other diagnostic tests may be necessary.

In addition to a conventional medical history, a naturopathic doctor asks about factors such as diet, lifestyle, and environment in order to identify all of the factors contributing to the illness and the way these factors affect the mind, body and spirit. The naturopathic doctor then formulates a treatment plan which may include one or more of the above modalities.


Naturopathic medicine is based on the following six principles:

1. Vis Medicatrix Naturae

 - The Healing Power of Nature. The belief that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. The naturopathic doctor provides therapies that support this process. 

2. Docere

 - Educating the patient is an important part of the treatment plan. 

3. Primum non nocere

 - The principle to first do no harm is fundamental to the naturopathic practice.

4. Tolle causam

 - To treat the causes of the disease, rather than the symptoms. 

5. Holistic approach

 - Each person's treatment is individualized and takes into consideration all the presenting symptoms and causative factors. 

6. Prevention

- The belief that prevention is the best medicine for good health. 


Naturopathic medicine is practiced throughout the English speaking world, most notably the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

Educational Requirements: Naturopathic medicine is one of the most regulated complementary health professions in North America. It is a licensed primary health profession in 11 U.S. states (and Puerto Rico) and 4 Canadian provinces. 

In North America, graduates from five naturopathic medical schools are permitted to write the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX) to become licensed in the regulated jurisdictions. 

The naturopathic program at these five schools is a four year, full-time graduate program that includes courses familiar to conventional medical practice, such as physical and clinical diagnosis, anatomy and pathology, as well as training in the naturopathic modalities.

The five naturopathic medical schools in North America are:

  • - Bastyr University 
  • - National College of Naturopathic Medicine 
  • - South West College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences 
  • - University of Bridgeport 
  • - Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

Overview courtesy of, written by Cathy Wong, and found here.

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