New attention should be given to naturopathic medicine

Brianna Vick

Naturopathic Medical Student

Last week, Oct. 7 through 13, was designated by Congress as national Naturopathic Medicine Week “to recognize the value of naturopathic medicine in providing safe, effective and affordable health care.” Many of you will not have heard of naturopathic medicine as it is not the mainstream form of health care in our society, yet is growing rapidly. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are licensed on a state-to-state basis and currently 20 states are licensed. Minnesota NDs received licensure in 2008.

I was in the 2008 graduating class of the Caledonia Area High School. I have my bachelor of science in biology with a minor in chemistry from the University of Minnesota Duluth, which I completed in 2012.  I am in my second year of studies at Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash., which is an accredited naturopathic medicine program through the AANP (American Association of Naturopathic Physicians).

What drew me to the profession was the personal approach to health care. Every person is unique; unique in their genetic make-up, in their characteristics, their careers, lifestyles, unique in motivations and struggles. As holistic primary care physicians, NDs take the whole of the individual into account and address the cause of the illness, not the symptoms alone.  NDs work with the patient to get them back to a state of optimal health and have training in counseling and mental health as well.

To do my part in spreading awareness of our profession, I thought I would start by informing my fellow residents of Caledonia of what naturopathic medicine has to offer.


What is a naturopathic physician?

A naturopathic physician (ND or NMD) is an expert in natural medicine. NDs blend natural, non-toxic therapies with current advancements in the study of health and human systems, covering all aspects of family health from prenatal to geriatric care. They are committed to using cutting edge medical knowledge and tools to resolve their patients’ health issues and to create health solutions that can be uniquely tailored to each individual patient’s needs.

NDs attempt to find the underlying cause of the patient’s condition rather than focusing solely on symptomatic treatment. They collaborate with all branches of medicine referring patients to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate. NDs take the time to listen to their patients’ needs and provide them with the space and answers they need to feel cared for and supported and to enable patients to take control of their health.

Currently, 20 states and territories license NDs to practice. Licensed NDs are graduates of four-year naturopathic medical schools with admissions requirements comparable to those of other medical schools. Degrees are awarded after extensive classroom, clinical and practical study. Medical science coursework includes cardiology, neurology, radiology, obstetrics, gynecology, immunology, dermatology and pediatrics.


Naturopathic principles

The Healing Power of Nature: NDs recognize a person’s innate ability to heal and remove obstacles to healing and recovery to facilitate this inherent self-healing process.

Identify and Treat the Cause: NDs seek to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness.

First Do No Harm: NDs follow three precepts to avoid harming the patient: (1) utilize methods and medical substances which mini- mize the risk of harmful side effects, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat; (2) avoid when possible the harmful suppression of symptoms; (3) and acknowledge, respect and work with the individual’s self-healing process.

Doctor As Teacher: NDs educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health.

Treat the Whole Person: NDs treat each patient by taking into account many factors including physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social and spiritual ones.

Practice Prevention: NDs emphasize the prevention of disease by assessing risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease and making appropriate interventions.


Treatments offered

NDs are trained to perform or order physical exams, laboratory testing, gynecological exams, nutritional and dietary assessments, metabolic analysis, allergy testing, X-ray exams and other diagnostic tests. They are the only physicians clinically trained in the use of a wide variety of natural therapeutics. Naturopathic medicine is effective in treating most health problems, both acute and chronic. Some of the therapies used by NDs are listed here.

Clinical Nutrition is a cornerstone of naturopathic medicine. It refers to the practice of using food to maintain health, the therapeutic use of food to treat illness and the utilization of targeted vitamin and nutrient therapy, given orally and by IV, as part of their treatment plans.

Homeopathy is a powerful system of medicine that is more than 200 years old. This medical system uses highly diluted natural substances to treat illness. Some conditions that do not respond well to conventional medicine will respond to homeopathy.

Botanical Medicine is also known as herbal medicine and is the use of plants as medicine. Many plant substances are powerful, safe and effective medicines when used properly.

Physical Medicine includes naturopathic manipulation of the muscles, bones and spine. Application of hot and cold, gentle electrical impulses, therapeutic ultrasound, hydrotherapy and exercise therapy are also used.

Counseling and Stress Management is offered by NDs. Mental attitudes and emotional states can be important elements in healing illness, and NDs are trained in counseling, biofeedback and other mind-body techniques.

Minor Surgery includes repair of superficial wounds and removal of foreign bodies, cysts and other superficial masses, with local anesthesia as needed.

Natural Childbirth is offered by NDs with additional specialty training. These physicians offer prenatal and postnatal care using the most modern diagnostic techniques. When natural childbirth is not medically appropriate, patients are referred for appropriate care.


Brianna Vick is a 2008 graduate of
Caledonia Area High School, a 2012 graduate of the University of Minnesota-Duluth and a student at Bastyr University.


  • Eric Denrode

    This is kind of sad for Ms Vick. She has made an unfortunate career choice.

    The problem for her, and for the medical patients of any “doctor” in Minnesota, is that they are not real, medical doctors (i.e., physicians). Though she has been told by her school that when she joins the ranks of NDs that she will be anointed a “primary care physician”, that is far from reality.

    Before practicing, she should try taking the medical licensing exam, which every real physician has to pass, just to get a feel for how much she hasn’t been taught at her “accredited” school.

    She should take a gander at the boards for a family physician to get a glimpse of just how much more she needs to know to tell right from wrong for the kids and parents and oldsters whom she will call her patients.

    She should shadow a real medical grad for just one week of their 2000- to 8000-hour family-practice residency to get an impression of just how much responsibility real primary care physicians have to bear every day of the rest of their careers, and how her own “naturopathic” residency at her school will leave her completely unprepared for that.

    Ms Vick noted that most people may not have heard of naturopathic medicine. There is a reason for that. There are over 850,000 physicians with an active license to practice scientific medicine in the US. There are currently no more than 4,400 licensed naturopaths in this country. Obviously, Americans are not beating a path to the door of naturopathic doctors. Why not? Well, as expert testimony delivered before the Massachusetts legislature said just two weeks ago, “Naturopathy is not a branch of medicine, but a hodgepodge of nutritional advice, home remedies, and discredited treatments.”

    That exposes just how ludicrous is the Senate’s (not Congress’s) politically-motivated designation of “Naturopathic Medicine Week”. Just as naturopathic physicians are not *real* physicians, naturopathic medicine is not *real* medicine. …And naturopathic medical schools are not *real* medical schools, as Ms Vick should heed before her student loans get any larger.

    • Tim Salotto

      In past instances where naturopathic medical students at Bastyr have taken step 1 USMLE exams after their 2nd year scored better than the national average medical student.

      You literally do not have a clue what you are talking about. I’m not saying that to refute your points so much as I am plainly saying that you ‘literally’ have no idea what you’re talking about.

      I could very appropriately rebut your many other statements equally as well (and my classmates probably will), but I have 28.5 credits this quarter and will not be taking the time to do so because I myself am also in naturopathic medical school, where we average 26.5 accredited college credits a quarter to learn how to give people placebo-snake oil.

      • Eric Denrode

        Putting quotation marks around the word, literally, is a remarkable demonstration of your fundamental mis-understanding of language that clouds clarity, Mr Salotto. It is a clue that you apprehend that I indeed do know whereof I speak. Is a naturopathic education a *real* medical education? If reality is the metric, then the evidence suggests that it is not.

        In your very first paragraph, you make a claim that beggars all belief. The licensing exam for naturopaths is the NPLEX; the *real* medical licensing exam is the three-part USMLE. How could any second-year naturopathic medical student ever take even Step 1 of the USMLE? If allowed to do so, their scores would skew the percentiles, which are used by *real* medical students or graduates to gain entry into desirable residency programs. There aren’t *real* medical residencies for which naturopathic students are qualified. And they ain’t qualified even to *take* the test, since one has to have graduated or currently attending a *real* medical school (i.e., accredited to grant MD or DO degrees), learning how to apply important concepts of the sciences fundamental to the practice of medicine.

        Perhaps you don’t realize, this paper is in a *real* town in Minnesota. Only in the fictional Minnesota town of Lake Woebegone are all the children above average. Your extraordinary claim for the performance of Bastyr students requires extraordinary evidence. Naturopaths frequently make specious claims like yours about the profession. Prospective patients should be wary.

        And finally, as for the “accredited” college credits you and Ms Vick are getting for your course work at Bastyr, have you checked out Bastyr’s naturopathic accrediting agency, CNME? It has the singular distinction of actually having had its recognition lifted by the Department of Education for a third of the present century. CNME is controlled by Bastyr, and only accredits it and six other schools. The *real* accrediting agency for medical schools is the LCME, which currently accredits over 150 med schools in the US and Canada.

        • Tim Salotto

          First you use an ad hominem remark about my english, and then go on to use the word aint (which is in fact being underlined in red by google chrome’s built in spellcheck).

          You sir are something else.

          Note the comment contained the words “previous years” regarding USMLEs. As in ND students taking 2009’s test in 2010 and measuring results relative to the average of 2009.

          • Eric Denrode

            Actually, Mr Salotto, the word “ain’t” is in the Oxford English Dictionary, which recognizes my (colloquial) use of it as a contraction for “am not”. I was making an observational reference to your English usage, and as such my reference does not qualify as fallacious (much less ad hominem). Nevertheless, it does not upset me if you mistakenly took my remark as a judgment on your personal command of the written word. But I digress.

            I tried to take note that the original comment contained the words, “previous years”. But a quick review of the entire commentary does not reveal any appearance of that phrase.

            Yet turning to the substance of the matter, ND students taking the previous year’s test is farcical. There is no such thing as a “previous year’s USMLE Step 1 test”. The actual questions that a *real* Step-1 testee in any given year are given are randomly selected, and varies also by the testing site. Moreover, there are seven blocks administered over a grueling 8 hours (about 1 minute per question). I doubt that Bastyr had access to all of the questions, much less randomly assigned them, and then, it still would be comparing apples to oranges. Even statistically, the results for a few dozen ND students under (probably) uncontrolled conditions are not comparable to those of the 40,000 who take the test *for real* in a given year.

            If Bastyr is touting this pretend test to their students as proof of their competency, I think those students are being tragically deceived. Poor Ms Vick.

    • Vincent Lun

      There is a real crisis in America where MD’s don’t know what to do to treat chronic disease besides long term medication. This isn’t medicine, this is killing you from within. Watch the documentary ‘Escape Fire’ and you’ll see how the only way to proceed forward in healthy living and medicine is through naturopathic care.

      • Eric Denrode

        Mr Lun, even if what you say about MDs is true (which, by and large, it isn’t), you are not giving sound advice to either the public or Ms Vick.

        Identifying and correcting specific shortcomings of medical care are not truly addressed by patients seeking care from a practitioner with even less competence, knowledge, experience, and access to appropriate resources. Rigorous enforcement of high professional standards/ethics, ongoing *scientific* research, challenging/wide-ranging exposure to real-world medical situations, and professional access to the present medical infrastructure have never been part of “naturopathic care”.

        Naturopathic medical care is not *real* medical care. There’s no getting around that. Caveat emptor.

    • Jason

      Mr Denrode –

      Why are you against ND’s? I have heard you state a mis-informed opinion as to what you believe to be going on and what you believe to be involved in the education. I have yet to read why you personally are against them.
      I am also curious as to how you define science? I wonder if you would be so kind as to inform those reading this article as to your profession, seeing as Ms. Vick has informed you of hers and you are so critical using the defense of others rather than again your own opinion.

      • Eric Denrode

        Mr Jason, I am here using common argumentation. Unless I am relating a fact, then by exclusion I am stating an opinion. (Every statement has to be one or the other.) When I state any opinion, it is by definition my own opinion (and, of course, “personal”). If perchance I favorably quote someone else’s opinion, I am adopting it as my own, but not claiming authorship—agreeing with it, if you will.

        My opinions here speak for themselves, as do yours, and I, like you, get to choose which opinions and facts to relate or challenge. For example, you have made an assertion (of fact) that something—not specified—I have uttered here is “a mis-informed opinion”. I opine (not “believe”) that your allegation is baseless. For one thing, it lacks specificity.

  • rosemaryjacobs

    An ND most definitely is not an “expert in natural medicine”. If that were the case the 241 licensed NDs in the State of Vermont, many of whom I assume graduated from Bastyr, never would have included silver in their state sanctioned formulary for internal use, especial IV use. They would have known that it is a toxic metal, not a natural antibiotic or an essential nutrient. If they had reviewed the medical literature as well as pharmacology and toxicology reference books or even the websites of the FDA and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine they would have learned that taking silver internally is all risk and no benefit. They would have learned that it can cause argyria, gray skin, a condition I have had for over 50 years.

    The “treatments” NDs offer are not evidence-based. They are belief-based. They believe that silver offers benefits and is safe when taken internally even though all the objective scientific evidence indicates the opposite because they believe in the healing power of nature and her remedies. They do not understand, appreciate or believe in scientific or evidence-based medicine. They are over 50 years behind the times and dangerous. My greatest fear is that there is something useless NDs use routinely that will turn out to be as deadly as cigarettes but that by the time that is discovered it will be too late to save many from premature deaths.

    • Vincent Lun

      I don’t recall silver being used in any IV formulations, nor have I ever heard of anyone using it. Rosemary, 30,000 people die each year in America from conventional medical care they didn’t need. For you to tell me that naturopathic medicine is dangerous … is where you lost all credibility. Naturopathic doctors are not stupid like you want to believe.

  • Eric Denrode

    I’m years ahead of you, Mr Lun, in being well aware of these intrusions into battlefield medicine. The studies to which you allude are not impressive. More importantly here, they do not help you make a case for calling “naturopathic care” an accepted branch of medicine.

    The military has *not* been using “naturopathic medicine” of the type that Ms Vick says she has been learning at her school.

    The studies on acupuncture overseen by Wayne Jonas are outliers in their results from non-military studies of the practice, suggesting confirmation bias is at work. The prospect of wounded soldiers on the battlefield being treated by literally sticking needles in their ears has for years alarmed veterans and those who care about the troops. For instance, one knowledgeable observer nominated battlefield acupuncture as “The Worst Quackery of 2011”.

    Using any kind of complementary and alternative “medicine” (including so-called “orthomolecular” interventions) to address traumatic brain injury (TBI) is heartless, opportunistic exploitation by offering false hope to desperate victims. When rigorously evaluated under accepted scientific standards, the promise of CAM interventions evaporate.

    And by the way, are you suggesting that Ms Vick, once she gets her license to practice as a naturopathic physician, would be qualified to practice orthomolecular “medicine” to treat patients for TBI, or ear acupuncture on victims of a car accident? Or are you just throwing out things in the hope that something will stick?

  • Eric Denrode

    Oh, come now, Mr Lun. Of course, nutrition is taught in *real* medical schools. Where did you pick up that calumny? Malnutrition is an actual medical condition which an MD will see in practice. Nutrition is a subject tested for on the licensing exam. Any physician unable to recognize or suspect nutritional deficiencies would be a substandard practitioner. On the other hand, no physician needs to know all that a registered dietitian knows about the subject; that’s what referrals are for.

    And I hope, for our veterans’ sakes, that you try to select treatments for them that are of more benefit than “no care at all.” That’s a pretty low bar. Even (unethical) placebos are better than that. Without reliable research, how do you know that anything even has promise of benefit over and above placebo?

    We don’t have to disagree. You, Ms Vick, and other naturopaths could decide to practice in accordance with scientific principles and evidence. But then, you wouldn’t be practicing naturopathy then, but *medicine*. And to practice the latter on real patients, Ms Vick will need better education and experience than she is paying to get at Bastyr.

    • Tim Salotto

      Hospitals are the most frequent location of nutritional deficiencies in America.

      That includes starving children.

      • Eric Denrode

        Completely ridiculous. Mr Salotto, your credibility went straight to zero with that one. Naturopathic zealotry.

        • Tim Salotto

          So you know all things without looking into them then.

          You’re not skeptical, you’re not reasonable; you are outright ignorant.

          Did you spend even a moment looking into the validity of the statement? Don’t answer that question, don’t bother replying, you were wrong, you are wrong, I will not discuss this further with you.

          MD’s get ONE CLASS in nutrition. Not a credit, a singular class (one day). I would know, because I’VE TALKED TO MEDICAL STUDENTS about it at integrated medical symposiums. I don’t assume such things, nor did the other person who made that statement.

          I can tell that you yourself have not been in medical school at any point in your life and yet you act as though you know it through and through.

          • Eric Denrode

            Okay, Mr Salotto, you cite the abstract for one 11-year-old paper in a Scottish journal that legitimately found substandard nutrition in the *nursing care* at three Danish hospitals. And the conclusion drawn from the study was, as reported in the abstract, “These findings form the basis of the strategy to improve nutritional care *in these hospitals.*” [emphasis added]

            You could have looked at the editorial in the same issue as the cited publication. While generally accepting of the study’s findings, the commentator (a *real* professor of gastroenterology, by the way) noted that nutritional standards, guidelines, and planning do exist (wonder where those came from—Bastyr?) and need to be implemented and employed on a continuous basis. Then added, “This has been successfully employed in many countries in many hospitals, and the experience from these developments were very good.” (

            Yet, you twisted the findings from a single, narrowly focused, localized study in Europe, and extrapolated them to the pronouncement you made earlier: “Hospitals are the *most frequent* location of nutritional deficiencies *in America.* That includes *starving children.*” [Again, emphasis added] Or perhaps you were just uncritically parroting hyperbole from some nutrition “professor” at Bastyr? Either way, I stand by my previous judgment: “your credibility went straight to zero…Naturopathic zealotry.”

            The next time you talk to some students at a *real* medical school, instead of asking them about how much nutrition they were taught, ask them about what they have *learned* about nutrition in relation to etiology or management of some disease, say diabetes mellitus. If they can’t give you an earful, gently remind them that they are expected to know the topic for their Step 1 (and also for their future patients).

  • Eric Denrode

    Mr Lun, you are playing semantic games here. Medical students acquire their knowledge of, and training in, interdisciplinary topics like nutrition in the context of medicine. To practice *real* medicine, a “course” in nutrition is hardly necessary. The topic is integrated seamlessly into other courses and the *real* clinical experience they get. That exposure is more than enough to recognize, diagnose, treat, consult or refer on an independent basis. If more detailed knowledge is needed, or a customized diet is required, there are specialists — known as Registered Dietitians (not a phony baloney “nutritionist”) — to whom a physician can refer or consult. Patients don’t need a physician to know all that an RD does. Nor do patients need an RD to know what a physician does.

  • Eric Denrode

    See my reply to the next comment.

  • Eric Denrode

    Mr Lun, I will give you more or less the same reply I have given Mr Salotto. The next time you talk to some students at a *real* medical school, instead of asking them about what nutrition they were *taught*, ask them about what they have *learned* about nutrition in relation to the etiology and management of some disease, say diabetes mellitus or scurvy. If they can’t give you an earful, gently remind them that they are expected to know the topic for their Step 1 (and also for their future patients).

  • Eric Denrode

    Ms Vick, I hope you have been following the defenses of naturopathy made above by Mr Lun, and my replies thereto. His last comes after failing to embrace the simple concept that nutrition is an interdisciplinary topic learnt by medical students in medical school as a part of the actual practice of medicine. After dissing medical education, Mr Lun’s makes the astonishing statement that “NDs and MDs are on the same team”!

    If this is what you are hearing from your naturopath school, please consider cutting your losses now by disenrolling. Try to square Mr Lun’s statement to that of the Medical Society of Massachusetts in testimony just a month ago: “Naturopathy is not a branch of medicine, but a hodgepodge of nutritional advice, home remedies, and discredited treatments.”

    True medical practice involves more than variants of “take two supplements and call me in the morning”. Much more. And much different. While statements like Mr Lun’s may lead you to believe that you are getting the equivalent (or better) of a medical education, you should have the welfare of your future patients to consider.

    Real people in medical distress need real attention. Are you really prepared to urge naturopathic treatments on real people after graduation: Homeopathy? Unani (four humours!)? “Energy” medicine? Craniosacral? Applied Kinesiology (for diagnosis)? There isn’t a medical graduate of any of the 170 US medical schools who would dare use any of these things during her residency—or after. They are simply malpractice.

    Think of your future patients, Ms Vick. Would you treat with acupuncture a teenager having an asthma attack in your office, rather than send her to the ER across the street? A licensed naturopath (and a graduate of your school) did just that, and the teenager died—for lack of prompt application of a bronchodilator. Worse still, naturopathic licensing boards in two states didn’t lift the naturopath’s license to practice, or even discipline her. It would be a scandal if any *medical* board acted in the same way.

  • Eric Denrode

    Ms Vick, if unlike Mr Lun, you *do* really care about your future and future patients, you should see my reply as a fresh comment below.

  • Eric Denrode

    Oh, Mr Lun, you were the one making the comparison between *naturopathic* medical schools and *real* medical schools. I just pointed out—for the benefit of both Ms Vick and anyone else in the reading public who might be interested in the purported *medical* training of so-called naturopathic physicians—that your comparison was untrue.

    But please, do go on, Mr Lun. Please continue here to tell potential patients that, unless they having gone to medical school themselves, *they* aren’t qualified to compare or judge the education, experience, and treatment offerings of a naturopathic physician. *Please* use that argument some more; it helps people understand the arrogance of naturopathic “physicians”!

  • Eric Denrode

    Of course it’s arrogance. It’s the arrogance of ignorance. More to come…

  • Eric Denrode

    Responding to the two preceding comments together…

    Mr Lun, claim all you like that it’s “the exact same curriculum” in Bastyr as at Mayo. It doesn’t pass the laugh test. You yourself have been posting comments all along that the curriculum is *different* in nutrition. Now you’re changing your argument in just a few posts? Thought no one would notice?

    Similarity of course titles does not mean that course *content* is the same or even on a par with each other. In which “exact same course” at Bastyr is Ms Vick taught homeopathy? The Islamic version of Four Humours? Will she come out of her four years being anti-vaccination like most other Bastyr graduates have been?

    Let’s lay it all out. Mayo and the other 173 LCME-accredited schools in the US and Canada teach *real* medicine. The curriculum in each of those schools is such that they can “demonstrate that their graduates exhibit general professional competencies…that serve as the foundation for lifelong learning and proficient medical care.” That is the Gold Standard. If Bastyr or any of the 7 other schools accredited by CNME claim their graduates can meet the Gold Standard, why not instead get LCME accreditation, or even dual accreditation, so graduates can get licenses to practice *real* medicine alongside their naturopathy? Schools of osteopathy did something like that a long time ago, and their graduates go on to become full-fledged, qualified physicians.

    MDs and NDs are not in the same league, much less the same team. Naturopaths can add hubris to their arrogance. So I, and others in the know, will go on telling people—policymakers, patients and students like Ms Vick—that the *medical* education, experience, and ethics of naturopathic practitioners are substandard.

  • Eric Denrode

    Just like in your defenses of naturopathic “education”, you claim to know what in fact you do not know. More importantly, you admit that you base your decisions—as a naturopath—on a priori assumptions. That is *precisely* the dangerous, substandard, unprofessional practice that *real* medical professionals work against and do not tolerate among their ranks.

    Ms Vick, I counsel that you run, not walk, for the exit at Bastyr, before they divert your young idealism into the service of the arrogance of ignorance displayed here by the benighted Mr Lun.

  • Eric Denrode

    Thank you, Mr Lun, for responding so revealingly. You’ve established here that you (1) really *do* care about what is said here, (2) blatantly argue ad hominem, (3) are a shill for Bastyr, (4) take personal histories by Google search, (5) talk about “medical school” as if you meant a *real* medical school when it is really about *naturopathic* medical school, and (6) reason by sophistry.

    Ms Vick, now you know what some of the people are really like in Kenmore. I hope you take note of just how bad your situation is, and are thinking seriously of cutting your losses. For your future patients’ sake, you should.

  • Eric Denrode

    Care to explain what you mean by “meds” school, Mr Lun? You’ve used it more than once here, so I know now it’s not a typo. Let’s talk about that.

  • Eric Denrode

    You aren’t being honest. You meant to convey something by your use of the phrase “meds school” (and I’m sure the MCAT has nothing to do with it). But you appear to be running away from owning up to it now. What is it, really, Mr Lun?