Natural Medicine

Definition and Description

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct profession of primary health care, emphasizing prevention, treatment and the promotion of optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and modalities, which encourage the self-healing process, the vis medicatrix naturae. The philosophical approach of naturopathic medicine includes prevention of disease, encouragement of the body’s inherent healing abilities, natural treatment of the whole person, personal responsibility for one’s health, and education of patients in health-promoting lifestyles. Naturopathic practice blends centuries-old knowledge of natural, nontoxic therapies with current advances in the understanding of health and human systems. The scope of practice includes all aspects of family and primary care, from pediatrics to geriatrics, and all natural medicine modalities.

The U.S. Department of Labor defines the naturopathic physician as one who “diagnoses, treats, and cares for patients, using a system of practice that bases its treatment of all physiological functions and abnormal conditions on natural laws governing the body, utilizes physiological, psychological and mechanical methods, such as air, water, heat, earth, phytotherapy (treatment by use of plants), electrotherapy, physiotherapy, minor or orificial surgery, mechanotherapy, naturopathic corrections and manipulation, and all natural methods or modalities, together with natural medicines, natural processed foods, herbs, and natural remedies. Excludes major surgery, therapeutic use of x-ray and radium, and use of drugs, except those assimilable substances containing elements or compounds which are compounds of body tissues and are physiologically compatible to body processes for maintenance of life.”

Most naturopathic physicians provide primary care natural medicine through office-based, private practice. Many receive additional training in disciplines or modalities such as midwifery, acupuncture and Oriental medicine, homeopathy, psychotherapy, and Ayurvedic medicine to broaden the services they can offer their patients. An increasing trend is the establishment of associate practices and interdisciplinary integrated care clinics, bringing together the services of a diverse group of practitioners.

Naturopathic diagnosis and therapeutics are supported by scientific research drawn from peer-reviewed journals from many disciplines, including naturopathic medicine, conventional medicine, European complementary medicine, clinical nutrition, phytotherapy, pharmacognosy, homeopathy, psychology and spirituality. Information technology and new concepts in clinical outcomes assessment are particularly well-suited to evaluating the effectiveness of naturopathic treatment protocols and are being used in research, both at naturopathic medical schools and in the offices of practicing physicians. Clinical research into natural therapies has become an increasingly important focus for naturopathic physicians.

Nature and Medicine

Naturopathic physicians excel in their ability to diagnose patients’ highly individual experience of illness, to search deeply for the interrelationships between organ systems, to comprehend the impact of patients’ relationships with their environment both physical and interpersonal. We strive to perceive what must be cured in disease, in each individual case of disease.

With over 629 million patient visits to complementary and alternative medicine practitioners each year, it is no wonder that physicians, health policy leaders, and most importantly, patients are calling for “integration and professional collaboration so that a health care workforce that includes a diversity of disciplines can be assured of providing a coherent set of patient care services in the future.” Licensed naturopathic physicians will be among the leaders of this emerging healthcare system.

Educated with a solid foundation in Biomedical Sciences and Western diagnostic methods (including a thorough history, physical exam, labwork and imaging studies) naturopathic physicians reach a profound diagnostic understanding of patients’ health problems, and provide treatment plans that include conventional and alternative therapies.

The treatment must always take into account the patient’s individuality and an understanding of the vis medicatrix naturae, the healing power of nature.

First described in western medicine by Hippocrates, the vis medicatrix naturae, is also referred to as chi in Chinese Medicine, prana in Ayurveda, and vital force in homeopathy. When alive, the vis medicatrix naturae enables humans and other living beings to resist entropy and decay, unlike inanimate objects that are subject to these effects. Creating treatment plans that harness the healing power of nature, that incorporate dietary and lifestyle improvements, that employ the least invasive, least harmful and most effective therapies, is the art, the heart and the essence of naturopathic medicine.


The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)

Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent ability in the body which is ordered and intelligent. Naturopathic physicians act to identify and remove obstacles to recovery and to facilitate and augment this healing ability.

Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle Causam)

The naturopathic physician seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness, rather than to eliminate or merely suppress symptoms.

First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere)

Naturopathic medicine follows three principles to avoid harming the patient: 1) utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects; 2) avoid, when possible, the harmful suppression of symptoms; 3) acknowledge and respect the individual’s healing process, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat illness.

Doctor as Teacher (Docere)

Naturopathic physicians educate the patient and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also acknowledge the therapeutic value inherent in the doctor-patient relationship.

Treat the Whole Person

Naturopathic physicians treat each individual by taking into account physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental and social factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual path.


Naturopathic physicians emphasize disease prevention, assessment of risk factors and hereditary susceptibility to disease and making appropriate interventions to prevent illness. Naturopathic medicine strives to create a healthy world in which humanity may thrive.


Wellness follows the establishment and maintenance of optimum health and balance. Wellness is a state of being healthy, characterized by positive emotion, thought and action. Wellness is inherent in everyone, no matter what disease(s) is/are being experienced. If wellness is really recognized and experienced by an individual, it will more quickly heal a given disease than direct treatment of the disease alone. (This principle was adopted by InterAmerican University and added to the six principles.)


The term “naturopathy” was coined in 1892 to describe a rapidly growing system of natural therapeutics, originally organized in response to the increasing disillusionment of physicians and patients with the toxic and ineffective methods of the so-called heroic age of medicine.

The philosophy and the therapies, which have their origins in Hippocrates and the traditional and indigenous medicines of the world, first became a distinct profession in Germany in the mid-1800s. In 1896, Dr. Benedict Lust (MD) brought naturopathy to America and established the first naturopathic college, the Yungborn Health Institute in New Jersey.

The resurgence of naturopathic medicine today is yet another chapter in the millennia-old division between two different views of medicine, well-symbolized by the Grecian myths of Hygieia and Asclepius. Rene Dubois speaks of these symbols in The Mirage of Health:

“The myths of Hygieia and Asclepius symbolize the never-ending oscillation between two different points of view in medicine. For the worshippers of Hygieia, health is the natural order of things, a positive attribute to which men are entitled if they govern their lives wisely. According to them, the most important function of medicine is to discover and teach the natural laws which will ensure a man a healthy mind in a healthy body.

“More skeptical, or wiser in the ways of the world, the followers of Asclepius believe that the chief role of the physician is to treat disease, to restore health by correcting any imperfections caused by the accidents of birth or life.”

Today’s naturopathic physician easily blends modern, state-of-the-art diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and research with ancient and traditional methods, uniting Hygieia and Asclepius. We represent a thoroughly rational, evenhanded balance of tradition, science and respect for nature, mind, body and spirit.

Naturopathic medicine’s rebirth in the last quarter of the twentieth century has also resulted from a growing consumer movement to solve the health care puzzle using prevention, wellness and respect for nature’s inherent healing ability. These fundamental, unifying principles of naturopathic medicine can be identified in disciplines as diverse as constitutional hydrotherapy and homeopathy, as well as those more traditional in the Western view of health care, such as nutrition and botanical medicine.

Legal Status

As of April, 2002, naturopathic physicians are licensed as health care providers in Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In the District of Columbia and Kansas, naturopathic physicians must register in order to practice. Legislation was passed in Puerto Rico, but the licensing structure is not yet in effect. Legal provisions allow the practice of naturopathic medicine in several other states. Efforts to gain licensure elsewhere are currently under way. Thirty-three states and territories in the United States have professional associations for naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic physicians are also recognized in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan.

Licensure Requirements

All states and provinces with licensure laws require a resident course of at least four years and 4,100 hours of study from a college or university recognized by the state examining board. To qualify for a license, the applicant must satisfactorily pass the naturopathic physicians licensing examinations (NPLEX) which includes basic sciences, diagnostic and therapeutic subjects and clinical sciences. While test results on the state of Washington NPLEX licensing exams are not an indicator of whether or not someone will be a good doctor, they do demonstrate the knowledge base that an individual will take into his or her practice of naturopathic medicine. InterAmerican University students have historically done extremely well on the NPLEX exams.

Applicants must satisfy all licensing requirements for the individual state or province to which they have applied as well. Please consult the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians’ website for current licensure information:

For extensive information about licensing requirements for your state, visit The Alliance Legislative Workbook.

Programs of Study


Program Information

The naturopathic medicine department educates future physicians in the tradition of medical science and art of natural healing. We do this by providing a comprehensive understanding of the basic medical sciences, accurate diagnostic skills and the ability to apply the natural and minimally invasive methods of whole-person health care characteristic of naturopathic medicine.

A graduate of InterAmerican University’s Naturopathic Medicine Program will:

Be an empowered, strong practitioner.
Be a primary care physician.
Be a provider of excellent and consistent, quality patient care.
Practice the principles of naturopathic medicine.
Be an integrated, active participant in the community.
Scope of Practice

Naturopathic medicine is defined by principles rather than by methods or modalities. Diagnostic and therapeutic methods are diverse and will continue to evolve as knowledge of health and disease evolves. The current scope of practice for a naturopathic physician covers the general practice of naturopathic medicine, as a primary care physician. This scope of practice includes, but is not limited to, the following diagnostic and therapeutic modalities: nutritional science, natural hygiene, botanical medicine, naturopathic physical medicine (including the therapeutic application of water, heat, cold, air, earth and light), homeopathy, Ayurvedic medicine, counseling, spirituality, minor surgery and methods of laboratory and clinical diagnosis. The scope of practice is defined by state or provincial statute. The curriculum at InterAmerican University matches the requirements listed by the Washington Department of Health. Students have the responsibility to be informed on licensure and scope of practice in the legal jurisdiction in which they choose to practice.

Career Opportunities

Many InterAmerican naturopathic graduates create private practices. Some seek additional training through the naturopathic midwifery certificate program or take a dual track with the master of science in acupuncture and Oriental medicine, broadening the services they can offer their patients. An increasing trend is the establishment of associate practices and interdisciplinary clinics, bringing together the services of a diverse group of practitioners. Faculty and administrative positions are current career opportunities for InterAmerican-trained physicians. Clinical research on natural therapies is also becoming an increasingly important professional opportunity for naturopathic graduates.


Licensure Requirements

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine, a discipline that bridges the medicines of East and West, is one of the fastest growing health care professions in America today. InterAmerican University, with its broad curriculum and deep respect for both traditional methods and rigorous Western science, is an ideal setting for foundation study in acupuncture and Oriental medicine.

InterAmerican’s combined bachelor’s/master’s program awards student both a bachelor of science in natural health sciences and a master of science in acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Students who have completed at least 2 years at the undegraduate level (60 semester or 90 quarter credits) have the opportunity to earn their bachelor’s degree in combination with either the master of science in acupuncture or the masters of science in acupuncture and Oriental medicine.

Undergraduate Program: Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Program Information

The field of acupuncture and Oriental medicine in America is rooted in the traditional medicine of China that has evolved over the past several thousand years. The contemporary model of natural health care education and practice in China is the combined system of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Western medicine. This system has strongly inspired the current programs in acupuncture and Oriental medicine at InterAmerican University. These programs are closely interrelated and require the same foundation studies in traditional Chinese medicine.

InterAmerican offers the following degree/certificate options:

Bachelor of Science in Natural Health Sciences/Master of Science in Acupuncture (BSNHS/MSA)
Bachelor of Science in Natural Health Sciences/Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (BSNHS/MSAOM)
Master of Science in Acupuncture (MSA)
Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (MSAOM)
Combined Bachelors/Masters Program (BSNHS/MSA or BSNHS/MSAOM):

Students who have completed at least 2 years at the undergraduate level (60 semester credits or 90 quarter credits) have the opportunity to earn their bachelor’s degree in combination with either the master of science in acupuncture or the master of science in acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Master’s program prerequisites must also be met prior to matriculation. The bachelor’s degree is awarded at the time of graduation from the master’s program.

Master of Science in Acupuncture

The MSA provides the didactic and clinical training necessary for eligibility for the national acupuncture board exams and for licensing in most states. This is a three calendar year course of study.

Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

The MSAOM is the model comprehensive degree program. It includes all the didactic and clinical training of the MSA but also includes Chinese herbal medicine and Chinese medical language. This is a three and a half calendar year course of study.

New Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Doctoral Program

The mission of the acupuncture and Oriental medicine doctoral program at InterAmerican University is to train qualified practitioners in an integrated clinical approach to oncology. This is accomplished through: 1) rigorous training in advanced concepts of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and biomedical theory and 2) an emphasis on training practitioners to be able to work in collaborative clinical settings. The program is committed to producing graduates who are prepared for lifelong learning in the field.

The AOM clinical doctorate is focused on training students in cancer care and treatment with an emphasis on training in integrated clinical settings. Courses include Advanced Chinese Medical Classics, Advanced Acupuncture Techniques, Chinese herbs and therapeutics classes. Basic science classes focus on oncology pertaining to pathology and pharmacology. The program also includes nutrition, grand rounds and counseling courses. A research project is required. This course of study is intended to be taken on a part-time basis over 11 quarters.

The degree title is “DAOM,” doctor of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. At the present time, there is no change in scope of practice for doctoral students. Students would choose to pursue this training if they are 1) interested in a doctoral degree in TCM, 2) interested in oncology care and /or 3) interested in learning to conduct research. This is a clinical doctoral degree, not a PhD program.

The acupuncture and Oriental medicine program is very excited about this new doctoral degree. Additional information is available pending approval of the doctoral program by the university’s regional accreditor (NASC).


The Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at InterAmerican University integrates the rich history of Chinese acupuncture methods with the study of modern medical sciences and the contemporary practice of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. In addition to the fundamental traditional Chinese methods of diagnosis, therapeutics, techniques and Chinese herbal medicine, courses are offered in five element style acupuncture, acupuncture detoxification and electroacupuncture.

Graduate clinical training is guided by experienced Asian- and Western-trained acupuncturists at the InterAmerican Center for Natural Health and at various off-site clinic placements. An exciting adjunct to the clinical internship is the option of a clinical intensive at the Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine — both in China.


The Nutrition Department of InterAmerican University offers a Bachelor of Science in Natural Health Sciences with a major in Nutrition. This undergraduate bachelor’s completion program is the only nutrition-based program in the country associated with an accredited school of naturopathic medicine. The curriculum offers a well-rounded, holistic learning base that incorporates both traditional and innovative knowledge and practices.

Students in the undergraduate nutrition program come from varied backgrounds, including nursing, culinary school and business. All bring an avid interest in health issues, adding richness to the close-knit student body which benefits, like all InterAmerican programs, from study within a diverse healing community. Nutrition students are preparing for roles as supportive nutrition educators under the supervision of health care professionals or for graduate work in related health sciences. The food industry and research also offer career opportunities for nutrition graduates.

Nutrition Program

The nutrition program offers a BS in natural health sciences with major in nutrition, as well as a new major in exercise science and wellness and an MS in nutrition. The program also features a didactic program in dietetics internship that meet the American Dietetic Association (ADA) academic requirements leading to eligibility for the registration examination for dietitians and active membership in the ADA. The university’s nutrition program is founded upon the holistic origins of the Greek word diaira (diet), “made of life,” and Latin diæta, “daily fare.” The nutrition program emphasizes the study of the physiological, biochemical, socioeconomic, political and psychological aspects of human nutrition and physical activity.

InterAmerican University’s nutrition program prepares graduates to critically evaluate the scientific literature and to incorporate current research and advances in nutrition and exercise science. The BS in natural health sciences with a major in nutrition prepares students for roles as supportive nutrition educators under the supervision of health care professionals or for graduate work in related health science fields. Graduates of the BS in natural health sciences with a major in exercise science and wellness may develop careers as exercise specialists, personal trainers, fitness leaders, and wellness or sports nutrition educators in both the nonprofit and corporate arenas. The MS degree prepares graduates for roles as professional nutrition consultants in food programs, outpatient clinic settings, or independent practices. The food industry, research, and health and fitness businesses also offer career opportunities for nutrition graduates.

The nutrition program is unique in its emphasis on whole foods and multicultural, political, and ecological dimensions of diet and world food supply within the overall context of basic, clinical and community nutrition. These aspects of nutrition, blended with biochemistry and physiology, reflect the university’s natural health sciences philosophy. The concept of food as medicine and the concept of diet as a critical component in healing are fundamental to natural therapeutics, optimal health and whole-person healing.

The goal of the exercise science and wellness major is to improve the health and well-being of the community through education, research, and the promotion of physical activity as a foundation for health. This academic program applies a holistic approach to exercise training, therapy, and performance, and encourages applied research within the areas of sports nutrition, exercise physiology, exercise science and movement therapies.
Legal Status Of Nutritionists

Students may inquire at their state or province licensing department to obtain information regarding certification or licensing as nutritionists.


The Master of Science in Nutrition is the only nutrition program in the country associated with an accredited school of naturopathic medicine. This translates into training in core competencies around issues and practices widely recognized within the field of nutrition, along with unique alternative opportunities. In addition, for those interested in becoming dietitians, InterAmerican offers the option of the Didactic Program in Dietetics.