Naturopathic Medical Doctors are distinguished from their MD and DO counterparts by their treatment philosophy and modalities, which draw on the best features of traditional and modern schools of medicine.
The treatment modalities used by NMDs include natural modalities such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, clinical nutrition, physical manipulation, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, and counseling, as well as modern modalities such as biofeedback, environmental medicine, minor surgery, and judicious application of pharmaceutical interventions.
Like MDs and DOs, and in contrast to Licensed Acupuncturists and Chiropractors, Naturopathic Medical Doctors are licensed in the State of Arizona to act as Primary Care Physicians - the first doctor a patient sees, who is responsible for diagnosing and providing medical care or making appropriate referrals.
The guiding philosophy of naturopathic medicine rests on six principles:
- Primum non nocere (first do no harm)
- Always choose the least toxic, least invasive treatment available that will achieve healing.
- Vis mediatrix naturae (the healing power of nature)
- If the physician can help remove obstacles to cure and provide the proper support, then the innate God-given natural healing power that each individual possesses can do the rest.
- Tolle causam (discover and treat the cause, not just the effect)
- Symptoms are viewed as expressions of the body's natural attempt to heal, rather than as malfunctions to be suppressed. Symptoms are a guide to identifying the underlying cause, which when corrected will allow the vis mediatrix naturae to produce real healing.
- Tolle totum (treat the whole person)
- The body is a complex system with many interactions between endocrine, metabolic, digestive, structural, mental, emotional, and spiritual components. Imbalances among these interacting subsystems lead to disease. The naturopathic physician seeks to understand the unique dynamics of each individual patient and help the vis mediatrix naturae to restore balance.
- Docere (teach the patient)
- Healing occurs best when the physician works in partnership with their patients, empowering them to share responsibility for their own health through education and motivation.
- Pravenir (prevention is the best cure)
- As Benjamin Franklin observed, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Naturopathic physicians are preventive medicine specialists.
This philosophy has proven successful in treating many chronic and acute conditions; however other serious conditions such as myocardial infarction and trauma are better treated in a hospital setting using specialized medical technologies not available in the primary care setting.