Naturopathic Medicine Frequently Asked Questions

Homeopathic medication with tabletsQ : How does Naturopathic Medicine work?

A: Naturopathic Medicine supports and promotes the body’s natural healing process, leading to a person’s highest state of wellness. By addressing the causes of disease, providing individualized support and integrating the naturopathic healing principles, improved quality of life and optimal health can be attained.

Q: What conditions do naturopathic doctors see?

A: All of them!  Because Naturopathic Medicine focuses on the health of the entire body and not the specific disease, our supportive care can provide increased vitality to regain one’s health and balance. Naturopathic medicine has the ability to further assist with any condition that is treated with conventional interventions.  We often work in conjunction and receive various referrals from other medical professionals. This is because many conditions that are deemed “untreatable” by other physicians have been dramatically improved with naturopathic therapies.

Q: How is Naturopathic Medicine different from conventional medicine?

A :  The main difference is in the philosophical approach as outlined in the Naturopathic Principles. While most emergency situations should be handled with conventional medicine, Naturopathic Medicine is often the best approach for the treatment and prevention of chronic illnesses with a focus on dietary and lifestyle that can lead to such conditions. Colds and flus are also effectively treated with Naturopathic Medicine because the therapies used support the body’s immune system. Conventional medicine and Naturopathic medicine can use medicine and surgery to decrease or eliminate unwanted symptoms.  However, NDs also look more closely to determine the cause of disease(s) and utilize therapies that work with the body’s natural healing ability.  NDs typically have the opportunity to spend more time with their patients to foster a strong doctor-patient relationship and empower patients with tools to maintain optimal health. Sharing information and answering questions is an essential aspect of naturopathic health care. At Richmond Natural Medicine, we have great respect for all physicians and health care workers in our area. We realize that each play a unique role in the health and well-being of our community.

Q : What is the difference between naturopathy and homeopathy?Pink coneflower

A:  Naturopathy encompasses the entire spectrum of natural medicine of which homeopathy is just one part. Homeopathy is a system which uses extremely small doses of natural substances to stimulate the body’s own ability to heal, and thus is based on many of the same principles as naturopathy.  One way to compare homeopathy or the understanding of homeopathy is the idea of vaccines.  Both homeopathics and vaccines small amount of a substance that can facilitate a reaction within the body.  Homeopaths often only prescribe homeopathic medicine whereas Naturopathic Doctors use homeopathy as well as other therapies.

Q: Is Naturopathic Medicine effective?

A:  Naturopathic medicine has its own unique body of knowledge, evolved and refined through experience for centuries. It also incorporates scientific advances from medical disciplines throughout the world. Many of the individual therapies used in naturopathic medical practice have been scientifically validated, especially in the area of clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture and manipulation. Research is vital to any profession and is consistently being done throughout the globe.

Q: Is Naturopathic Medicine safe?

A:  Yes. The safety record in states with regulatory boards is excellent. NDs can purchase malpractice insurance at very low rates which indicates the chance of being injured through malpractice is low. NDs are experts in the safe use of natural therapies. Pregnant women, newborns, and all others including those in the geriatric phase of life can often safely use naturopathic medicine. Terminally ill persons can benefit safely as well.  It is even more important that in these cases, that patients work with a 4 year medically trained naturopathic doctor from an accredited naturopathic medical program through the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANNMC).

Q: How is a Naturopathic doctor trained?

A: Naturopathic education is precluded by a traditional four-year pre-med undergraduate degree.  ND’s are trained at any one of six accredited naturopathic colleges recognized by the United States Department of Education.  The education includes a minimum of four additional years of medical school.  The first two years are focused on basic sciences, pathology, & diagnosis.  The later years are concentrated on a variety of therapies, including botanical medicine, nutrition, physical manipulation, homeopathy, minor surgery & pharmacology.  Specialty focus is given to individual organ systems, with classes in gastroenterology, proctology, cardiology, gynecology, and neurology.  After graduation, all ND’s must pass national board exams, as well as state licensing exams.  In cases of ND’s practicing in states that do not offer a license (such as Virginia), practitioners hold a license in a different state, so as to be held to regulation and continuing education requirements. NDs have access to residency training which is similar to PharmD residencies.  They are self-funded residencies and thus not through federal funding.  Richmond Natural Medicine serves as the only CNME accredited residency site in the Commonwealth of Virginia. For more detailed information on naturopathic education please visit the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges.

Q: Are there other kinds of “naturopaths” or “NDs” in the United States?

A:  Because naturopathic medicine is not regulated in all 50 states (including Virginia), some individuals who do not meet the educational standards of the profession call themselves “naturopaths” or “NDs.” Such individuals may have degrees or diplomas from correspondence schools, weekend seminars, certifying agencies that confer naturopathic credentials based on other kinds of health education, home study schools without state or federal authority to grant degrees, or schools without naturopathic programs or faculty. None of these programs qualify a candidate to sit for national board exams or to receive licensure in any state. In some states, individuals use the title simply by paying a fee for a business license requiring no evidence of education. Patients should know what they are getting when they seek the services of a naturopathic doctor. Only state licensure can guarantee the training and safety to which patients are entitled.  Due to the fact that the Commonwealth of Virginia does not license NDs at this time, the best way to determine if your ND is reputable is by ascertaining if they attended one of the institutions who serve as a member of the  Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges.

Q : Are NDs opposed to drugs and major surgery?

A:  No. NDs are not opposed to invasive or suppressive measures when these methods are necessary. They make referrals for such treatment when appropriate.  We work in collaboration and conjunction with many other health professionals in the area in order to provide the best comprehensive care for patients.