What is Naturopathic Medicine?
The roots of naturopathic medicine lie in the philosophy of nature cure which was predominant in Germany in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Under the care of the early Naturopathic doctors a prescription would consist of a wholesome and nutritious diet, fresh air and sunshine, gentle exercise programs and the judicious use of herbal preparations.
Father Sebastian Kneipp, a Bavarian priest and gifted healer, published My Water Cure in 1882. The message of the book that Father Kneipp conveyed was “how to lead a healthy life with special consideration to diet, dwellings, sleep, clothing, exercise and care of the body and soul.” He realized that a return to nature was necessary to restore health in those with degenerative, acutely impaired or chronic illnesses.
In the early 20th century, a German immigrant, Benedict Lust (pronounced “Loost”) established the first formal institutions of naturopathic education, practice and clinical care in the United States. Lust had first hand experience with Father Kneipp’s methods and attributed his own healing from serious illness to nature cure.
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are trained as primary health care practitioners. The naturopathic education consists of a four year, graduate level, accredited naturopathic medical program. The four existing naturopathic colleges in the United States are accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education, a specialized accreditor recognized by the US Department of Education. The first two years of schooling are similar to those of a conventional medical doctor (MD), the majority of classes consisting of the basic sciences (anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pathology, etc), physical examination and diagnosis. The remaining two to four years consist of specialized academic courses (i.e. cardiology, EENT, gynecology, gastroenterology, urology, etc). In addition courses in naturopathic therapeutics are covered such as herbal medicine, homeopathy, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, clinical nutrition, spinal manipulation, and counseling. After graduation, NDs must pass the national board examination to become licensed. Dr. Laura has spent over 1500 hours in the teaching clinics at National College of Natural Medicine and has personally worked with more than 600 patients prior to opening her own practice.
Scope of Practice
Naturopathic doctors attained the ability to be licensed practitioners in the state of California in 2005. Since the inception naturopathic care is becoming more available throughout the state. Many naturopathic doctors have general family practices.
Naturopathic doctors may order and perform physical and laboratory examinations for diagnostic purposes. This includes but is not limited to school and annual physicals, gynecological exams and male wellness exams. They may also order diagnostic imaging studies, including X-ray, ultrasound, mammogram, bone densitometry, and others.
Naturopathic Doctors may prescribe herbs, food, vitamins and minerals, homeopathic remedies, dietary supplements, enzymes, nutraceuticals, amino acids, and nonprescription drugs. They may order prescription drugs under the supervision of a physician or surgeon (MD or DO).
The therapies that they may prescribe and offer includes massage, hydrotherapy, resistance or stretching of the joints and small amplitude movement, electromagnetic energy, colon hydrotherapy and therapeutic exercise.