What Is Naturopathic Medicine?

Written by Dr. Chan

January 9, 2017

Coming up with a clear definition of what naturopathic medicine is has been more challenging than one might think. You see, the task of answering the question “What is naturopathic medicine?” has been an ongoing one for several decades. There are several reasons why it is hard to answer the question, but I think the biggest reason is that scope of what we do as naturopathic doctors is so wide and it differs greatly depending on what jurisdiction you are in (thankfully, British Columbia has the widest scope of practice in Canada). Perhaps this is why many naturopathic doctors and clinics explain what they do in the form of a menu of therapies offered. Unfortunately, for those who are not familiar with naturopathic medicine, how would they know what therapy they need?

For the past few years, I have been serving as co-president of the British Columbia Naturopathic Association (BCNA). This year, the BCNA partnered with the Canadian Association Of Naturopathic Doctors and other naturopathic associations across Canada to take a bold step forward to address this problem and figure out how to convey to the public what naturopathic medicine is and what naturopathic doctors do. However, before creating this message we had to do some market research first. We needed to ask people what they wanted to know in order for them to see a naturopathic doctor.

Needless to say, what they told us was enlightening!

When it came down to it, most people who had at least some idea of what naturopathic medicine was still felt they needed clarification about some of the most basic things about naturopathic practice. These included wanting to know that naturopathic medicine is a regulated health profession and that naturopathic doctors are medically trained. Most were surprised to know that naturopathic doctors are able to order blood tests and other lab testing as well as perform annual checkups. For a profession as old as naturopathic medicine is, it seems to still be one of healthcare’s best kept secrets.

Medically Trained, Naturally Focused

With this information now gathered, the Canadian Association Of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND) put together a public awareness campaign with the simple tagline: “Medically Trained, Naturally Focused“. Along with a series of short videos featuring licensed NDs that aired on national television, this phrase encompasses what we are in four short words. For all of the variation within our profession, all licensed NDs go through rigorous medical training and use treatments based on the fundamental principle that the body has a natural ability to heal itself.

Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?



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