What is Naturopathic Medicine?  Naturopathic medicine is a coordinated approach to primary health-care that meets the individual needs of each patient. In addition to conventional training in health sciences and diagnostics, naturopathic doctors employ a range of natural therapies and non-invasive techniques to ensure a holistic, integrated approach to health and healing. Naturopathic doctors treat the whole person, addressing acute and chronic conditions while emphasizing disease prevention. Educating patients on personal health management is an important role of an ND. The goal of naturopathic medical treatment is to address the underlying cause of disease while avoiding treatments that may induce further harm either by producing unwanted side effects, or by complicating the existing condition. 

How are Naturopathic Physicians trained? Naturopathic physicians in BC receive a minimum of four 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 (preventative medicine, manipulative & physical medicine, nutritional medicine, homeopathy, traditional chinese medicine, botanical medicine). Doctors complete North American board exams as well as state or provincial jurisprudence & oral exams prior to receiving licensure.

Are Naturopathic Physicians licensed doctors? Yes. Naturopathic physicians have been registered in BC under health legislation since 1923, becoming a self-regulating health profession in 1936. The College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia protects the public interest by ensuring that naturopathic physicians in British Columbia practice safely, ethically, and competently. Naturopathic medicine is one of the fastest growing health disciplines in Canada. In BC, the number of licensed NDs doubled between 2000 and 2010. 

What is their scope of practice in BC? In BC, naturopathic physicians are regulated, licensed and insured as primary health-care providers. Their scope of practice includes prescribing authority, minor surgery, medical aesthetics, medical assessment and diagnosis, treatment of both acute and chronic conditions, clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, physical medicine, homeopathy, psychological counselling, and acupuncture & traditional chinese medicine. 

How do Naturopathic Physicians diagnose & assess? Naturopathic physicians use conventional and naturopathic diagnostic tools for assessing health concerns to determine the most appropriate treatment program. These diagnostic tools include a thorough health history (the initial visit is usually 1 hour in length), a nutritional analysis of your eating habits and diet, physical examination, comprehensive laboratory testing (including urine, blood and salivary testing), medical reports & diagnostic imaging, and more traditional diagnostic assessment such as traditional chinese tongue & pulse diagnosis.

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.

Is there a cost to see a Naturopathic Physician? Yes. At this time the cost of services is not covered by provincial health care (MSP), which is also true of other alternative healthcare providers such as chiropractors and physiotherapists. If you have extended health coverage, you may receive some coverage from that plan.

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.

What can I expect from my first visit? 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.

Can I have both a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) and a Medical Doctor (MD)? Yes! The majority of NDs will work with you and any other care providers that are part of your health care team. We believe an integrated approach to care is the most successful one!

Answers courtesy of The Boucher Institute of Naturopathic MedicineThe British Columbia Naturopathic Association & The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors, © 2015.