A naturopathic physician is a doctor who blends modern scientific medical practice and knowledge with natural and traditional forms of medical treatment. The practice is sometimes referred to as complementary medicine or naturopathy. It has a long history, beginning with some of the earliest doctors who used botanical medicine, herbs and natural treatments. In the late 19th century, the tradition became more formalized with the opening of the American School of Naturopathy.
With increased globalization comes greater awareness of alternative and eastern-style medicine. The established medical community viewed many naturopathic treatments with suspicion initially, and for a time naturopathic physicians were seen as dangerous quacks. Laws were even passed preventing their practice in many places. As modern medicine and scientific knowledge increased, however, physicians began to realize the value and credibility of the naturopathic approach, and natural medicine has been incorporated into conventional medical practice.
Over the past few decades, naturopathy is again evolving into its own distinct form of medical practice. Although acceptance is growing, resistance among some members of the traditional medical community still prevails. Evidence-based research is being conducted in an effort to validate herbal remedies and alternative medicine and enhance the credibility of naturopathic practices.
The naturopathic physician is a primary health care provider of naturopathic medicine. He or she uses complementary and alternative therapies along with mainstream medical practice, with the goal of treating underlying causes of disease while stimulating the body's own healing abilities. Natural remedies are generally chosen in favour of pharmaceuticals; a holistic approach is used and many physicians advocate conventional treatments alongside naturopathic ones. A naturopathic physician will refer patients to other practitioners if treatment is outside the naturopathic scope of practice.
Some of the key philosophies of naturopathy include:
The naturopathic physician designs an individualized treatment plan and prescribes natural treatments such as:
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Many naturopathic physicians are self-employed in private practice and set their own schedules and hours. These often include evenings and weekends to accommodate patients. Others join private clinics with other health care practitioners, and spend much of the day examining and treating patients. Completing paperwork and patient documentation is also part of the work day. Some find employment in research and development, marketing, teaching and consulting.
A naturopathic practice takes time to build, and achieving success depends on many factors, including individual talent, experience and initiative.