Searching for Alternative Healing? Try Naturopathic Medicine

Although naturopathic medicine has been around for centuries, it has experienced an increase in acceptance as an alternative or complement to conventional western medicine over the past 10 years.

Rebecca Mitchell, Executive Officer of the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Naturopathic Medicine Committee (NMC), believes that naturopathic medicine will continue to grow and become an even bigger part of traditional medical care. She explained the practice of naturopathic medicine and the role and mission of the NMC in a recent interview.

Q. What is Naturopathic Medicine?
A. Naturopathic medicine is a distinct and comprehensive system of primary health care that uses natural methods and substances to support and stimulate the body’s self-healing process. It is distinguished by the principles on which its practice is based. These principles include:

  1. The Healing Power and Nature: Naturopathic doctors (NDs) trust in the body’s inherent wisdom to heal itself.
  2. Identify and Treat the Cause: Look beyond the symptoms to effectively address the underlying cause(s) of illness.
  3. First Do No Harm: Seek to utilize the most natural, least invasive, and least toxic therapies first.
  4. Doctor as Teacher: The primary role of an ND is a teacher who educates and encourages people to take responsibility for their own health and to take steps to achieve and maintain optimal health.
  5. Treat the Whole Person: Total health includes physical, emotional, mental, genetic, environmental, social, spiritual, and other factors.
  6. Prevention: Encourage and emphasize disease prevention and focus on promoting health and wellness.

Q. Why do some people consider naturopathic medicine over conventional health care?
A. They are prevention-minded; they want to take an active, informed role in their health and be educated as to causes of imbalance and how to avoid them. They may have had unsatisfactory results from conventional approaches and they don’t want to take drugs long-term.

Q. What is the role of the Naturopathic Medicine Committee?
A. As a regulatory program, the NMC is charged with licensing and regulating naturopathic doctors (NDs). The Committee currently licenses 825 NDs; our mission is “To protect health care consumers through the proper licensing and regulation of NDs utilizing the vigorous, objective enforcement of the Naturopathic Doctors Act, and to promote access to quality naturopathic care.”

Q. What are the educational requirements to become an ND?
A. NDs are clinically trained in both natural and conventional approaches to medicine. They attend four-year, graduate-level, accredited naturopathic medical schools; are trained as primary care providers; and take a national, standardized licensing examination, which is currently broader than the scope of NDs in California.

Q. Do NDs typically have separate facilities for their practices?
NDs work in clinics alongside physicians and other practitioners and also own private practices.

Q. Naturopathic medicine has been around since the mid-19th century. As healthcare accessibility becomes a global issue, do you see naturopathic medicine becoming the medicine of the future and an alternative for people who may not have traditional healthcare?
A. We certainly hope so. The intent of naturopathic medicine is to continue to advance and utilize scientific evidence while honoring time-tested common sense approaches to healing. In many ways, NDs resemble family doctors of the past who knew a family well and spent enough time with a patient to deduce the cause of the patient’s trouble. So often, something like insomnia, for example, can be due to the time a person is going to bed or because they are being awakened by the family dog!

Nearly every place on the planet where people live has plants and animals that can provide substantial healing benefits at little to no cost. They tend to be much safer than drugs. NDs have many tools in their bags, so if one approach doesn’t work or isn’t available, there is always another. The causes of health and the prevention and treatment of disease is one evolving body of knowledge. The separations we currently have are artificial. The only difference is in the education and philosophy of the practitioner. Hopefully, as a global society, we can come to realize the strong points of all approaches and trust doctors to combine them artfully to address the individualized needs of their patients.

Q. What else would you like consumers to know about naturopathic medicine?
A. We encourage consumers to contact a licensed naturopathic doctor (ND) if they are interested in naturopathic treatments. Additionally, we would like to remind all consumers that they should always contact the licensing or regulatory entity of any healing arts professional prior to making an appointment. The regulatory program will be able to ensure that your provider is licensed and that there are no disciplinary actions taken against them. Be healthy, be safe, and be informed!

Want to know more? Visit the Naturopathic Medicine Committee website at

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