Naturopathy or naturopathic medicine is a system of primary care practiced by a naturopath or naturopathic doctor. Naturopathy that proceeds under the assumption that the body has inherent properties that, if encouraged, will allow self-healing. Naturopathic treatments are holistic, involving mental, emotional, and physical aspects, and they are aimed at arriving at a natural cure rather than masking symptoms. Naturopaths do not prescribe pharmaceutical drugs, though they may give substances such as herbs and homeopathic remedies which are easily assimilable and naturally derived. Naturopathy can be particularly effective in treating chronic conditions that modern western medicine cannot treat.

The term naturopathy was only coined in 1895, but forms of naturopathic medicine have been practiced for centuries. Acupuncture, herbal medicine, homeopathy, and nutrition have all been utilized by physicians around the world - even in the west; many of these techniques used to be taught in medical schools along with surgery. Today, however, naturopathy is denigrated by mainstream medical doctors, particularly in North America.

Although skeptics consider naturopathy to be nothing more than quackery, the standards for being allowed to practice as a naturopath are quite rigourous and incorporate western scientific subjects. In North America, for example, the aspiring naturopath must complete a pre-med Bachelor degree, followed by a rigourous four-year diploma program which includes many of the same curricula as medical students cover, as well as subjects such as Chinese medicine, homeopathy, nutrition, and counselling. The program also incorporates one year of clinical internship to allow the students to practice in real-life situations with experienced naturopaths. Once the training is complete the proud graduate is legally entitled to use the title Naturopathic Doctor and the initials ND after his or her name.

Most naturopaths work out of private offices or clinics, and their services are increasingly covered by health insurance programs. So if you're open to alternative forms of treatment and even, perhaps, dissatisfied with western medicine, try naturopathy. I have found it to be quite effective.

Naturopathic Medicine is a health care system encompassing various healing methods which share the underlying principle that nature heals. The term "Naturopathy" dates back to the early 1900s, but many of the healing modalities included in the profession are thousands of years old.

Practice of Natropathy grew throughout the first third of the 20th century, and was quite prevalent in the U.S. and Europe in the 20's and 30's. However, by the middle of the century Naturopathy all but faded off the map, due to advancements in Allopathic1 medicine such as antibiotics. Antibiotics provided a dramatic cure for dramatic diseases, and could be produced and prescribed en-mass for a massive population, with little concern for each individual case. Naturopathy, which focuses on improving and maintaining the health of each person according to their individual need, requires detailed attention to (and from) each patient. This long term prevention approach is a time consuming task, and much less dramatic and news-reel-worthy than attacking and destroying a disease with a one-size-fits-all cure.

For the last few decades, however, the popularity of Naturopathy has been on the rise again. Modern Allopathic medicine continues to be extremely effective at treating health crises, but has only recently began to address regular maintenance of health and prevention of disease. Research into the function of the human body points more and more towards the importance of maintaining health, rather than simply destroying disease when it arises. Thanks largely to HIV/AIDS research, the role of the immune system in the health of an individual is understood far more now than it was even two decades ago. A plethora of diseases and disorders are currently attributed to bodily dysfunction caused largely by unhealthy lifestyles and gradual unchecked build-up of toxins in the body.

Much is made of the conflict between "conventional" and "alternative" health care mentalities, but if one looks past pride and propaganda, one sees that these are two sides to the same coin. The specialty of "conventional" medicine is in the treatment of serious, usually acute diseases and injuries. The specialty of most "alternative" health care methods is in preventing the development of illness by improving people's health and teaching them how to maintain their own health. Any sane culture (given the opportunity) would demand both.

Naturopathic medicine, in its modern form, includes the use of physical manipulation similar to Chiropractic and Massage, use of a wide range of herbal therapies (botanical medicine) drawn from ancient healing traditions from around the world, Homeopathy, Hydrotherapy, and various other methods. Since health maintenance is considered vital, the doctor is also a teacher, instructing patients in diet and nutrition, exercise, proper breathing and stretching techniques, detoxification, and stress management. Doctors of Naturopathy, following a long-standing multidisciplinary tradition, tend to be rather eclectic. Many continue their study long after they graduate, drawing from a wide range of healing methods in search of greater understanding of the human condition. It should also be noted that many facets of oriental medicine have been integrated into Naturopathy. Most schools of Naturopathy today include courses in Tai Chi and Chi Gong, and many offer complete 3 to 5 year licensure programs in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

1 I use the term "Allopathic" with a grain of salt, there's a lot of controversy over whether that is in fact an appropriate term for what has come to be considered "conventional" medicine -- the realm of MDs. But bickering aside, I need a term to use. "Conventional" doesn't really fit when I'm referring repeatedly to a time period prior to the current dominance of this medical system, and "Modern" would imply that current day "alternative" health care methods aren't "modern", which would be an absurd assertion.

Schools of Naturopathic Medicine:

Bastyr University
14500 Juanita Dr. NE
Kenmore, WA 98028-4966

National College of Naturopathic Medicine
049 SW Porter St.
Portland, OR 97201

Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine
2140 E. Broadway Rd.
Tempe, AZ 85282

University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine
60 Lafayette Street
Bridgeport, CT 06601

Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine
1255 Sheppard Avenue East
Toronto, Ontario
M2K 1E2

Naturopathic Associations:

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
3201 New Mexico Avenue, NW Suite 350
Washington, DC 20016

Canadian Naturopathic Association
1255 Sheppard Ave. East
North York, Ontario
M2K 1E2

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