How to Find a Naturopath

26 April 2017

How to Find a Naturopath

Naturopathic medicine can be powerful, which is why it's important to know what to look for

Woman with flowers caption: Bastyr University students learn to prepare herbal remedies that are one of the treatments naturopathic doctors can recommend to address illness or enhance overall well-being. What is naturopathic medicine, and how do you know if it's for you? We got some expert insight into the science and therapies involved in this healing modality, as well as tips on how to find the right practitioner-and how to make sure you get the most out of the treatments.

What is it all about?

The term "alternative medicine" is a broad one, often used to describe everything that isn't considered "modern" or "Western." But while it might be labeled as an alternative modality, naturopathic medicine was actually born of European influences and was officially introduced in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. (Benedict Lust, considered the father of American naturopathic medicine, founded the first American School of Naturopathy in NYC in 1901.) As defined by the current American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), naturopathic medicine is a primary healthcare practice that emphasizes "prevention, treatment and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage the individual's inherent self-healing process." Translation: It's all about stimulating and supporting the body's innate healing capacity. And it's growing in popularity, with the seven accredited schools in North America now graduating approximately 500 to 600 Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) annually.

How does it work?

Jane Guiltinan, ND, professor and dean of Bastyr University's School of Naturopathic Medicine (, explains that naturopathic treatments are mainly natural and non-invasive, and take "a different approach to a patient's problems." Typical therapies might include a combination of "diet and nutrition, botanical medicine, physical medicine (including hydrotherapy and physiotherapy), behavioral medicine, exercise, homeopathy, minor office procedures and prescription medication," she explains. Plus, "an ND might look more closely at the underlying factors that are causing the problem, might spend more time listening to you, will likely have treatment ideas that are not medication-based and will help you understand what is going on and what you can do to help yourself get and stay healthy."

What's it good for?

According to Dr. Guiltinan, naturopathic medicine can be "effective for many common acute illnesses such as colds, flus, sprains, strains, menstrual issues and more. It can also be very effective for certain chronic conditions, including allergies, joint pain, digestive problems, skin issues and mental health problems, and can play a useful supportive role in the treatment of certain serious conditions, such as cancer and heart disease." Dr. Guiltinan adds that there lately has been an increase both in ND students and patients, which she attributes partly to a "frustration with a conventional healthcare system that is focused on disease management instead of health creation, prevention and restoration."

Who should try it-and who should avoid it?

"Individuals of any age can benefit from naturopathic solutions," says Dr. Guiltinan. Even better? There are no contraindications. However, the doctor cautions that "some diseases and conditions require conventional medical treatments that NDs cannot provide, such as surgery and certain medications. People with these types of serious conditions should have a healthcare team of providers who are willing to work together collaboratively for the best interests of the patient; naturopathic physicians are trained to work with others for this purpose."

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