What Is Naturopathic Medicine?

Medically Trained, Naturally Focused.

(TM – Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors)

Naturopathic medicine seeks to the address the root cause of disease while providing natural solutions for painful or irritating symptoms. What sets Naturopathic Doctors apart in the healthcare field is their trained ability to see you and your unique healthcare journey, and encourage healing from the inside out. NDs seek to treat your health care concern and then prevent it from returning, while preemptively treating chronic disease from occurring later in life.

If you struggle with the following, consider naturopathic treatment:

  • Chronic conditions that you feel you need more support for; pain (arthritis, autoimmune disease, headaches, fibromyalgia, musculoskeletal concerns), skin health, high blood pressure, diabetes, infertility or PCOS, menopausal symptoms, weight gain, bloating, fatigue, depression, painful periods, etc
  • Recovery; post-surgical, post-stroke, post-injury, post-chemotherapy or radition
  • Lifestyle changes and preventing chronic disease in the future
  • Annoying health “bothers”; chronic runny nose, patchy rashes, fatigue that won’t budge, recurrent infections, etc
  • “Not feeling like yourself”; weight changes, sexual dysfunction, mood changes, appetite changes, hair loss, digestive pain, etc
  • Wanting to take control of your health, ask questions, gain knowledge and be empowered in your own journey

Training of Naturopathic Doctors

Naturopathic medicine trains primary health care providers (Licensed Naturopathic Doctors) in the diagnosis, treatment and continued care of acute and chronic health conditions. This medical paradigm seeks to address the root cause of disease or dysfunction and considers the patient as a whole; body, mind and spirit. Naturopathic medicine is by nature individualized in its care of patients, understanding that every patient is different and requires individual consideration when treating and prescribing.

Naturopathic medicine is guided by 6 core principles that each doctor takes an oath to honour before graduating. These principles are taken from The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine:

  • First, to do no harm; all recommendations and prescriptions are considered through a lens of minimizing side effects or harm
  • To treat the causes of disease; rather than only suppressing the symptoms.
  • To teach the principles of healthy living and preventative medicine; doctor as teacher to give patients a foundation for health that will last and empower the patient’s role in their own health care
  • To heal the whole person through individualized treatment; by honouring the physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental and social factors that contribute to illness
  • To emphasize prevention; by treating in the present to minimize the risk of developing disease later in life; prevention as the best cure
  • To support the healing power of the body  (vis medicatrix naturae); by removing obstacles to health and supporting the body’s natural healing capability

Common Questions & Answers About Naturopathic Medicine: Link


The History of Naturopathic Medicine

These days, naturopathic medicine is often referred to as “alternative medicine” or even “new age medicine”. However, in looking at the roots and history of naturopathic medicine, one discovers it originates from forms of medicine & healing used by some of the earliest civilizations; it is the original conventional form of medicine.

Sumerian and Mesopotamian civilizations used plant remedies and herbal treatments for menstrual problems (we now know many of the herbs they chose have anti-estrogenic properties). Ancient Egyptian civilizations began recording symptom pictures, and treated disease with minerals and botanicals. Acupuncture, herbal medicine and dietary therapy originated as the primary medical system in Ancient China and India gave birth to Ayurvedic medicine.  Hippocrates, coined the “Father of Medicine”, famously said “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” We now recognize dietary interventions to be a foundational step in the prevention of disease.

Maimonides (1135-1204), a great Jewish philosopher, scholar and physician in the Middle East, emphasized diet, exercise and positive thinking as keys to health. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) called for a “return to nature“, advocating for water, light, air, movement and diet as natural forms of treatment. He became known as the spiritual father of the “nature cure movement” that would later evolve into “naturopathy”.

The term “nature doctor” belongs to a few European healers that practiced medicine between 1700 and 1900. Many of their humble beginnings began when they were forced to cure themselves after being told by medical doctors that they could not be helped or if their families were too poor to afford medical services. Vincent Priessnitz (1779-1852) was run over by a horse-drawn carriage and healed himself with regular baths in cold river water. Sebastian Kneipp (1824-1897) practiced “Water Cure” through the use of compresses, baths, cold pours of water and herbalism after recovering himself from consumption (tuberculosis).  Both went on to become famous, healing local towns people and the many travellers that came from afar for their services.

The foundation of naturopathic medicine in North America is credited to Dr. Benedict Lust; he himself was healed by Sebastian Kneipp during time spent in Germany, inspiring Lust to bring the clinical practice of botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, manipulations, dietary and lifestyle counseling to the United States. He founded the American School of Naturopathy, with its first class graduating in 1902. Within 20 years, naturopathic medicine was established, both in the U.S. and Canada.

The 2nd World War revolutionized medicine and weaponry, ushering in an age of antibiotics, advanced surgical techniques and the beginnings of “medical industry”; including but not limited to pharmaceuticals. Society became increasing fixated on “drug cures” that epitomized the reductionist model of medicine (the idea of dividing a complex system into smaller, better understood pieces in order to comprehend the whole).

The Flexner Report of 1910 began to effect change in the medical educational system; the report called for the elimination of proprietary schools and advocated for the biomedical model to be the gold standard of medical training. Flexner himself remained steadfast in his opinion that naturopathy, homeopathy and chiropractic schools be closed, considering them “nonbiomedical and nonscientific”. While the ensuing scientific advances greatly benefited what we now consider modern medicine, a certain art was lost in the practice of medicine by the general physician and research became focused on where the money went; pharmaceuticals.

Naturopathy, or more aptly now called Naturopathic Medicine (as a protected term) has since been pulled back from the brink of extinction in Canada numerous times throughout the 1900s. In recent years, as the public continues to demand greater control over their health care, naturopathic medicine has garnered more attention.  Research is growing around complimentary and alternative medicines in response to public demand, and naturopathic medicine is carving a place out for itself in the modern medical system.