September of 2014 marked therapeutic recognition of naturopathic medicine at the national level by a Simple Senate Resolution. According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP),

“Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chair of the Appropriations Committee, has introduced S. Res. 420 to establish October 6-12 as the next Naturopathic Medicine Week.  She’s joined by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Senator Angus King (I-ME).  In the House, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) has introduced an identical measure, H. Res. 508, which has both Republican and Democrat cosponsors.”

The resolution passed unanimously.

Even though Oregon has a very broad legal scope of practice for naturopathic medicine, the struggle for equality among licensed naturopathic primary care physicians continues at both the state and federal level. Despite the non-discrimination language in the new health care law only a few insurance companies in Oregon have stated their commitment to compliance and non-discrimination. Most seem to be waiting to see where the chips will fall. Most notably, Medicare does not yet recognize or reimburse naturopathic medicine, even with the above noted recognition at the federal level. Old habits, attitudes and prejudices often die hard, especially in committees.

In the wake of these events that are so important to naturopathic doctors, as well as their current and future patients, it seems appropriate to offer a reminder and some definitions. While I have written about this before, I can’t say it better than the AANP, so I will simply quote them:

“What is a naturopathic physician?

A naturopathic physician (ND or NMD) is an expert in natural medicine. NDs combine 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.

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 therapeu-tic 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 sub-stances 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.

Some ND’s also have special training in Oncology and a number of these doctors train with and/or work for organizations such as Cancer Treatment Centers of America as part of a team to improve outcomes for cancer patients.”


Dr. Ellen Sauter is a naturopathic physician practicing general family medicine at The Benchmark Clinic of Integrative Medicine in NW Portland. She treats patients on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and can be reached at 503-223-7067.