Naturopathic physicians are specialists in health and natural medicine. Naturopathic medical training requires a minimum prerequisite of 3 years pre-med studies, before entry to the 4 year post-graduate doctorate program. The first two years of study focus on basic sciences including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, and microbiology. The third and fourth years of the program are clinically oriented, with subjects on therapies encompassing clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, psychology and counseling, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture (included in some programs), orthopedics and manipulation, hydrotherapy, and physical medicine. As well, naturopathic doctors are educated in the specific fields of genetics, pediatrics, women’s health, obstetrics, geriatrics, men’s health, pharmacology, ethics, public health, physical and clinical diagnosis, laboratory testing, diagnostic imaging and radiology, minor surgery, emergency medicine and physical examination techniques.
Approximately 1500 hours of practical medical training is an integral part of naturopathic education, involving observation, assessment, and treatment of patients in a student clinic or office setting, under the supervision of licensed naturopathic doctors. All naturopathic physicians in B.C. must pass extensive North American and B.C. board exams in order to obtain licensing, and are governed by a College board to ensure standards of practice. Naturopathic physicians are primary health care practitioners trained in modern scientific and traditional healing methods.
For more information on naturopathic education, see the Naturopathic Links page for the websites of North American naturopathic schools.
The science and art of naturopathic medicine is unique by nature of its philosophy. Naturopathic physicians practice according to 6 principles which make up the foundation of our medicine.
The Healing Power of Nature- Vis Medicatrix Naturae
To quote Hippocrates, “The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well”. Naturopathic medicine recognizes and honors the inherent intelligent healing process in each person, with the physician’s role being to support the body in restoring and maintaining health.
Identify and Treat the Causes- Tolle Causam
The underlying causes of illness must be identified and removed before recovery is possible. Symptoms are often a body’s way of expressing an imbalance as it attempts to heal, adapt, recover or defend itself against disease. Naturopathic doctors seek to work with the wisdom of the body to treat the causes of disease, rather than simply suppressing symptoms.
First Do No Harm- Primum Non Nocere
Naturopathic medicine uses safe, gentle and effective natural therapies, diagnostic techniques and treatment interventions, with minimal risks of harmful effects. Avoidance of symptom suppression and respect for the self-healing process are key to enabling health.
Treat the Whole Person- Tolle Totum
All aspects of an individual are important in health and the development of illness. Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual factors interact in a complex way, which is unique to every person. In respecting these differences, and addressing the multi-factorial nature of disease, naturopathic medicine uses a personalized and comprehensive approach in diagnosis and treatment.
Doctor as Teacher- Docere
The Latin origin of the word “doctor” comes from docere, meaning teacher. Naturopathic doctors work together with their patients to restore health. Education on the importance of taking an active role in their healthcare, and counseling regarding lifestyle issues are vital to establishing a therapeutic doctor-patient relationship.
Prevention as the Best Medicine
Naturopathic medicine aims to not only identify and treat illness, but also to prevent the development of disease within the body. Our training emphasizes the study of health, and our goal as doctors is to guide our patients to optimal health, not just to be free of disease. In assessing lifestyle, risk factors, heredity and susceptibility, we can employ interventions with our patients to prevent illness.