Naturopathy is not one single remedy or therapy. Rather, it is a complete
therapeutic system. As such, it is an approach to health care that is based on a
set of beliefs. Naturopathy is based on the idea that good health is dependent
on clean air, clean water, clean food from good earth, and exercise. Naturopathy
also holds that the body has the ability to heal itself, and that treatments and
therapies should work to encourage this process. Natural cures, good bowel
habits, and good hygiene are all important for health. Numerous complementary
and alternative practices, such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, homeopathy,
massage, and clinical nutrition also have a role in naturopathy.
The ideas behind naturopathy date back to ancient times. However, they were
introduced in the United States only about 100 years ago. The story is that a
German named Benedict Lust had been living in the United States when he
contracted tuberculosis. He decided to go home to Germany to research a cure.
There he studied the ideas of fellow German researcher Vincent Preissnitz and
Austrian Dominican friar Father Kneipp. As a result, he found not only a way to
personal recovery and health but also the basis for a complete system of health
and healing. Lust returned to the United States and introduced "naturopathy" to
this country. He founded the American School of Naturopathy in New York in
Today, naturopathic doctors are trained and licensed in the U.S. They take
four years of graduate level courses in a naturopathic medical school recognized
by the U.S. Department of Education. Naturopaths receive training in the same
areas of study in conventional medicine as medical doctors. In addition, they
learn about holistic approaches, with a strong emphasis on disease prevention.
Their studies include clinical nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal
medicine, natural childbirth, hydrotherapy, and manipulative therapy.
They must pass a professional board exam to become a licensed Doctor of
Naturopathic Medicine (N.D.).
Naturopaths can treat a variety of health conditions. These include colitis,
asthma, menopause, flu, obesity, chronic fatigue syndrome, earaches, and
allergies. If a health problem requires the care of a medical specialist, most
naturopaths will refer you to a more conventional medical doctor.
If you decide to visit a naturopathic doctor, here's what you should
understand before you go. All naturopaths consider the mental, emotional, and
social aspects of their patients as well as the physical. A naturopathic doctor
will examine your strengths and weaknesses in all of these areas to see how
these influence your health. He or she will also perform a physical exam and ask
you to provide a thorough health history. If you are sick, you will need to give
a complete description of your symptoms. You may need standard medical tests,
elimination diets, or supplements to focus the diagnosis.
Relaxation, massage, yoga, herbal remedies, or homeopathy are some standard
treatments that may be prescribed. You may also be advised to try vitamin and
mineral supplements, hydrotherapy, traditional Chinese medicine, or stress
management. Natural treatments such as fresh air, exercise, and massage are
common prescriptions as well. Be wary of recommendations for excessive diet
changes or fasting, and enemas. Although some naturopathic therapies have been
shown to have health benefits, others lack scientific evidence (for example,
detoxifying treatments like enemas).
Naturopathy is currently licensed in only 11 states: Alaska, Arizona,
Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and
Washington. In 1999, state legislation to license naturopaths was introduced in
Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. Tennessee and
South Carolina are the only states that prohibit naturopathy.
Since not all states require licenses, make sure that you seek out a trained
naturopath. Look for someone who is a member of the American Association of
Naturopathic Physicians. To find one in your area, call the AANP's referral line
at 206-298-0125 or visit the Web site at www.naturopathic.org. And be sure to
let your physician know that you are interested in pursuing naturopathic