What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a distinct medical profession that combines an in-depth knowledge of modern medical diagnosis and treatment with expertise in the best of traditional and emerging alternative medical therapies.
Naturopathic doctors occupy a unique position in modern health care. While we are well versed in conventional medical practices, our approach to medicine and interactions with patients come from a strong belief that the doctor’s job is to assist the body’s innate healing mechanisms. Our use of natural therapies comes from this belief, since natural therapies are often far better suited to support health restoration than synthetic medications.
Naturopathic Medical Education
Naturopathic medical education consists of a four year, post-graduate program at an accredited naturopathic medical school that is comparable to conventional medical school in both depth of study and total hours (about 5000). Naturopathic medical schools are accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME).
The first two years are quite similar to conventional medical school and focus on the ‘basic medical sciences’ including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, pharmacology and so on. The second two years are quite different from conventional medical school in that they focus on naturopathic philosophy, natural therapeutics and clinical training.
Therapies taught in most naturopathic colleges include clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, botanical (herbal) medicine, physical medicine, hydrotherapy, mind-body medicine, lifestyle counseling and minor surgery. Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, from which we graduated, also requires extensive coursework in Chinese medicine theory and acupuncture.
Clinical training consists of a minimum of 1200 hours of supervised experience treating patients.
Below is an excerpt from a 2005 article in the Journal of Family Practice entitled “Naturopathic medicine: What can patients expect?” It compares basic science training in naturopathic, conventional and osteopathic medical schools: