Questions & Answers

Naturopathic Medicine

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic Medicine is medicine that treats the underlying cause of disease; it is the art and science of supporting the natural healing processes of the patient through the removal of any obstacles to these processes. It is the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of physical, mental and emotional conditions; and it is the promotion of well-being using therapeutics that support or enhance a patient’s overall health.

In BC, naturopathic physicians (NDs) are licensed to provide primary care. They are trained as general practitioners in complementary medicine, providing a full range of diagnostic tests and therapies as described below.

  • Preventive Medicine

    A comprehensive assessment of an individual’s health risks including diet, exercise and stress, as well as the development of preventive health protocols based on this assessment.

  • Nutritional Medicine

    Using dietary protocols, nutritional advice and supplements to heal the body.

  • Botanical (Herbal) Medicine

    NDs are professionally trained herbalists and know both the historical uses of plants as well as modern pharmacological mechanisms.

  • Homeopathic Medicine

    Minute amounts of natural substances used to stimulate the body’s self-healing abilities.

  • Manipulative & Physical Medicine

    Corrections of stress or trauma-induced misalignments of muscle, connective tissue and the skeletal system. The therapeutic use of water, light, electricity, ultra sound, massage and exercise.

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine

    TCM includes the use of acupuncture, electro-dermal screening and Chinese herbology.

  • Additional Certifications

    Many NDs are board certified in complementary therapies such as chelation, bio-oxidative medicine and prolotherapy.

Use the toggles below for answers to commonly asked questions:

How are naturopathic physicians trained?

Naturopathic doctors (NDs) in BC receive a minimum of three years pre-medical training at university then complete four years post-graduate training at an accredited naturopathic medical school. NDs complete roughly 1500 hours of basic clinical sciences, 1900 hours of standard medical therapeutics (e.g., pharmacology, family medicine, internal medicine etc.) and extensive training in naturopathic treatments as described above.

Doctors complete board exams prior to receiving licensure. In addition, many NDs complete certification programs and exams in specific certifications such as acupuncture, bio-oxidative medicine, chelation and homeopathy.

What can I expect on my first visit to an ND?

NDs conduct a comprehensive intake focusing on a patient’s health history as well as their current medical issues. This history may involve a physical exam and the use of standard diagnostic instruments and laboratory tests. Naturopathic protocols are developed using not only standard lab tests but also lifestyle details such as dietary habits, emotional stress, exercise and exposure to environmental hazards.

What are the advantages of naturopathic care?

Naturopathic medicine emphasizes the promotion of health, prevention of disease, patient education and individual responsibility, arguably the most therapeutically and cost-effective approaches to preventing and treating chronic disease. Doctors individualize treatment based upon the objective observation of the nature of health and disease, blending centuries-old natural and non-toxic therapies with current advances in the study of health and human systems, covering most aspects of family health from prenatal to geriatric care. Treatments are continually re-examined in the light of scientific advances.

Most patients find there are three major benefits to seeing an ND: general practice prevention-oriented medicine; valid alternatives to elective surgery or to drugs that are causing side effects; or chronic diseases for which orthodox medicine has no effective treatment.

Can I see an ND who is also an MD

No. In BC doctors must be licensed as either an MD or an ND. They cannot be licensed as both at once. In addition, MDs cannot bill for alternative or complementary medicine. There is a fee for alternative medicine provided by an MD (e.g. chelation) just as there is a fee with seeing an ND. Most NDs provide primary health care; all licensed NDs complete board exams in both pharmacology and pharmacognosy (i.e., the interaction of botanical medicines and drugs).

Are naturopathic doctors licenced as doctors?

Yes. Naturopathic physicians have been registered in BC under health legislation since 1923, becoming a self-regulating health profession in 1936. While interest in safe, effective, non-drugtherapies waned with the postwar fascination of medical technology, there has been a shift back towards naturopathic care. In fact, in North America today, more patients visit non-MDs for healthcare than MDs. Naturopathic medicine is one of the fastest growing health disciplines in Canada. In BC, the number of licensed NDs doubled between 2000 and 2010.

Do naturopathic physicians prescribe drugs?

Many NDs in BC are trained and licensed to prescribe an extensive list of prescription medications. These may be used along with the previously listed traditional naturopathic therapies, as deemed appropriate, to provide primary care with a focus on wellness and prevention.

How do I locate a naturopathic physician?

A list of NDs is available at the BCNA website. Each doctor listing includes details on theior education, training, expertise and areas of focus, as well as links to personal and clinic websites.

If you are unsure of what to expect when you visit and ND, or if you would like more information on the doctors in your area, feel free to contact the BCNA.

Does insurance cover naturopathic care?

Most extended health care plans cover naturopathic doctors, usually between $200-500 per year. Some plans also include lab or diagnostic testing coverage. You can clarify coverage with your benefits manager. For individuals with a Health Spending Account, visits to an ND are 100% covered. In respect to the provincial MSP plan, there is limited coverage for individuals on Premium Assistance or social assistance only.