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Brief history of Naturopathic Medicine

Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived 2400 years ago, first formulated the concept of “the healing power of nature”. This concept has long been at the core of medicine around the world and remains one of the central principles of naturopathic medicine. In North America, naturopathic medicine traces its origins to Dr. Benedict Lust. He used the term “naturopathy” to describe a clinical practice, which integrated such natural healing methods as botanical medicine, homeopathy, nutritional therapy, manipulative therapy, acupuncture and lifestyle counselling.

The American School of Naturopathy was founded by Dr. Lust in New York and graduated its first class in 1902. Dr. Benedict Lust summarized the philosophy of Naturopathy very succinctly in 1918: “The natural system for curing disease is based on a return to nature in regulating the diet, breathing, exercising, bathing and the employment of various forces to eliminate the poisonous products in the system, and so raise the vitality of the patient to a proper standard of health.”

Naturopathic practitioners formed the Naturopathic Society of America and established naturopathic colleges and large health centres throughout North America. By 1920, naturopathic practice was well established in Canada. Laws regulating naturopathic practice were enacted in Ontario by 1925, British Columbia in 1936, Manitoba in 1943 and Saskatchewan in 1952. The CAND has been representing the profession’s interests in Canada since 1955.

After the Second World War the trust of health care was placed on the advances in surgical techniques, the introduction of antibiotics and growth of the pharmaceutical industries. The more traditional healing practices lost ground. This was an era of scientific reductionism and an almost blind faith in the medical ‘miracle’. This approach continued through the 1950s.

In the last twenty years, public desire for greater control in their health care process and a growing dissatisfaction with high tech solutions to health problems has resulted in a resurgent interest in the natural methods of preventive health care. This trend has increased demand for naturopathic services as people seek ways to improve their health, cope with day-to-day stresses and avoid illness.

Naturopathic medical education began in Canada in 1978 with the founding of the Ontario College of Naturopathic Medicine (OCNM) in Toronto. OCNM offered post-graduate courses in naturopathic medicine to chiropractors, dentists and medical doctors. By 1983, the first four-year, full-time program was offered at OCNM and enrolment was expanded to include students with a University degree who had completed the appropriate prerequisites. In 1992, the College became the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) to better reflect its mandate to educate students from across Canada. Application rates for CCNM program have grown over 10 times since 1991. In 2000 the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine opened in British Columbia to further support the growing demand for naturopathic doctors in Canada.

Today, more people than ever before are seeking and benefiting from naturopathic medical care and the number of naturopathic doctors is growing at record rates to accommodate this increased demand. Currently there are naturopathic doctors practising in every province and territory in Canada. The more than 2,000 naturopathic doctors across the country continue to be an emerging answer to Canada’s health care concerns.

Naturopathic doctors are experiencing greater recognition as health care practitioners and as experts in the field of natural and preventive medicine. They provide leadership in natural medical research and enjoy increasing political influence. Positions for naturopathic doctors are opening up in hospitals, multi-disciplinary clinics and specialized health centres across Canada.

Naturopathic Medicine has been a regulated health profession in Ontario since 1925 under the Drugless Practitioners Act. With proclatmation of the Naturopathy Act 2007, that took place on July 01,2015, Naturopathic Medicine became a self-regulated healthcare profession under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA), similar to other health care professions such as physicians, chiropractors, pharmacists and dentists.

Of the 13 controlled acts that an authorized healthcare professional is allowed to perform, under the Ontario law, Naturopaths are now permitted to perform 7, including Administering, by injection or inhalation, a prescribed substance and Prescribing, dispensing, compounding or selling a drug designated in the regulations. This has giving us the largest scope of practice of any “natural medicine” practitioner. Only medical doctors (MDs), nurse practitioners, and dentists are authorized to perform more controlled acts. Also, NDs now have direct access to order lab testing which includes 194 lab tests on blood, stool, urine, saliva, hair, tissue/discharge and breath and perform 16 In House Tests.

The titles “Naturopath,” “Naturopathic Doctor,” and “ND” are now officially protected titles in Ontario.

As of July 1, 2015, NDs are regulated by the governing body, College of Naturopaths of Ontario (CNO), which replaced the former Board of Drugless Therapy – Naturopathy (BDDT-N)