Taking health care back to nature
Naturopathic medicine has existed in various cultures for centuries, but the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Naturopathic Medicine Committee helps ensure today’s practitioners provide safe, professional services to all Californians in their care.
A HISTORY OF HEALING
While forms and elements of modern naturopathy—manual therapy, hydrotherapy, herbal medicine, acupuncture, counseling, environmental medicine, aromatherapy, whole foods, and more—have been present throughout human history, naturopathic medicine’s strongest current roots lie in Europe.
That’s where Benedict Lust—originally from Germany—learned about and benefited from hydrotherapy (the use of water temperature and pressure for therapeutic purposes) and other natural health practices following a severe bout of tuberculosis. Following his treatment and training in Germany, he traveled to the United States and went on to found New York’s American School of Naturopathy in 1902 plus the American Naturopathic Association, embracing a comprehensive philosophy and system of health care that incorporated a wide variety of traditional and holistic therapies. As a writer, editor, and publisher of numerous materials, this “father of U.S. naturopathy” advocated for and increased the popularity of the healing power of nature during the U.S. Industrial Revolution and beyond.
But according to the California Naturopathic Doctors Association, by the mid-20th century, “the rise of ‘technological medicine’ and the discovery and increased use of ‘miracle drugs’ like antibiotics” temporarily overshadowed naturopathic medicine and other methods of natural healing.
That shadow would lift in the 1970s, when, as part of larger culture changes and a new emphasis on natural and holistic living, Americans were inspired to look into options and alternatives for their personal health care through naturopathic therapies and practices.
Today, naturopathic medicine is considered a distinct and comprehensive system of primary health care. Modern naturopathic medicine is distinguished by the principles on which its practice is based, which include:
- The Healing Power of Nature: Naturopathic doctors (NDs) trust in the body’s inherent wisdom to heal itself.
- Identify and Treat the Cause: Look beyond the symptoms to effectively address the underlying cause(s) of illness.
- First, Do No Harm: Seek to utilize the most natural, least invasive, and least toxic therapies first.
- 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.
- Treat the Whole Person: Total health includes physical, emotional, mental, genetic, environmental, social, spiritual, and other factors.
- Prevention: Encourage and emphasize disease prevention and focus on promoting health and wellness.
PRACTITIONERS’ PROFESSIONAL LICENSURE
Several states licensed naturopathic practitioners even in Lust’s time of the early decades of the 20th century. Today, 22 U.S. states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands license and regulate naturopathic doctors.
Under the 2004 Naturopathic Doctors Act, California became the 13th state to license and regulate naturopathic doctors, and the first ND license was issued January 14, 2005. Today’s naturopathic doctors treat their patients by using natural methods and substances to support and stimulate the body’s self-healing process, while also utilizing conventional medicine in conjunction with naturopathic medicine when appropriate. This truly makes NDs a valuable asset to those patients who are interested in natural and conventional medicine and treatments, since NDs are trained in both.
To be licensed as a naturopathic doctor in our state, an individual must:
- Graduate from a school accredited by the Council of Naturopathic Medical Education that offers a graduate degree of doctor of naturopathy or doctor of naturopathic medicine.
- Meet education requirements consisting of at least 4,100 hours of training, of which not less than 2,500 hours are academic training and not less than 1,200 hours are supervised clinical training.
- Pass an exam administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners.
California’s more than 1,000 licensed naturopathic doctors are overseen by DCA’s Naturopathic Medicine Committee (NMC), which was formed in 2009 under the Osteopathic Medical Board of California.
In addition to licensing, the Committee provides license status, investigates consumer complaints, and, if needed, pursues disciplinary actions against licensed NDs. Licensure ensures that naturopathic doctors have the required educational training, have passed the required examinations, and have met ongoing educational requirements that help them stay current with professional practice.
The Committee is completely funded by application and licensing fees and its staff is responsible for answering public inquiries, analyzing licensure documents, issuing licenses, responding to correspondence, coordinating legislative, regulatory, and budgetary activities, preparing reports, and administering disciplinary and enforcement activities.
“While NDs will help prevent illness and disease for consumers, the Committee strongly encourages consumers to take some additional preventative measures for their safety,” said NMC Executive Officer Rebecca Mitchell. “You can do this by verifying any and all healing arts practitioners before making an appointment to see them. Your safety is our main priority; we hope you will make it yours, too. Be well!”
Related reading: Searching for alternative healing? Try naturopathic medicine.