What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is based on the belief that the human body has an innate healing ability. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) teach their patients to use diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and cutting edge natural therapies to enhance their bodies’ ability to ward off and combat disease.

NDs view the patient as a complex, interrelated system (a whole person), not as a clogged artery or a tumor. Naturopathic physicians craft comprehensive treatment plans that blend the best of modern medical science and traditional natural medical approaches to not only treat disease, but to also restore health.

Naturopathic physicians base their practice on six timeless principles founded on medical tradition and scientific evidence.
  • Vis Medicatrix Naturae: The Healing Power of Nature. Our bodies have such a powerful, innate instinct for self-healing. By finding and removing the barriers to this self-healing—such as poor diet or unhealthy habits—naturopathic physicians can nurture this process.
  • Tolle Causum: Identify and Treat Causes. Naturopathic physicians understand that symptoms will only return unless the root illness is addressed. Rather than cover up symptoms, they seek to find and treat the cause of these symptoms.
  • Primum Non Nocere: First, Do No harm. Naturopathic physicians follow three precepts to ensure their patients’ safety:
    • Use low-risk procedures and healing compounds—such as dietary supplements, herbal extracts and homeopathy—with few or no side effects.
    • When possible, do not suppress symptoms, which are the body’s efforts to self-heal. For example, the body may cook up a fever in reaction to a bacterial infection. Fever creates an inhospitable environment for the harmful bacteria, thereby destroying it. Of course, the naturopathic physician would not allow the fever to get dangerously high.
    • Customize each diagnosis and treatment plan to fit each patient. We all heal in different ways and the naturopathic physician respects our differences.
  •  Docere: Doctor as Teacher (Educate patients). Naturopathic medicine believes that doctors must be educators, as well as physicians. That’s why naturopathic physicians teach their patients how to eat, exercise, relax and nurture themselves physically and emotionally. They also encourage self-responsibility and work closely with each patient.
  • Tolle Totum: Treat the whole person. We each have a unique physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, sexual and spiritual makeup. The naturopathic physician knows that all these factors affect our health. That’s why he or she includes them in a carefully tailored treatment strategy.
  • Prevent illness. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has never been truer. Proactive medicine saves money, pain, misery and lives. That’s why naturopathic physicians evaluate risk factors, heredity and vulnerability to disease. By getting treatment for greater wellness, we’re less likely to need treatment for future illness.

Where Are Naturopaths Licensed?

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • United States Territories: Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands


What Does Licensure Mean?

In these states naturopathic doctors are required to graduate from an accredited four-year residential naturopathic medical school. Additionally, naturopaths must pass an extensive postdoctoral board examination (NPLEX) to receive license. It also means that individuals calling themselves naturopaths who have not undergone the necessary training and examination may not practice as naturopathic physicians. In this way, state licensure helps protects the public from being deceived by an individual who may be falsely representing themselves as a doctor.

Information provided by: American Association of Naturopathic Physicians


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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten is a licensed Functional Medicine Naturopathic Doctor, best selling author, speaker, and mother. Dr. Brighten specializes in women’s health, from fertility to postpartum care, adrenal and thyroid support, autoimmune conditions, and digestive disorders. In her patient centered practice, Dr. Brighten thrives on navigating the space between conventional and alternative medicine, all while working with patients to help them achieve optimum balance, health, and happiness.