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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

What Is Naturopathic Medicine, Anyway?: And When to Call a Naturopathic Physician

Sep 26, 2014 06:47PM ● By Delayne Gratopp, ND

Dr. Delayne Gratopp with patient in her Scarsdale office

Simply put, naturopathic medicine is based on naturopathic principles, which understand the body’s innate ability to help itself heal from illness. A naturopathic physician treats the whole person, not the individual symptoms of the person’s disease.

Naturopathic medicine strives to “Do no harm” and to boost the body’s natural immune response. The treatment options are called “modalities,” and there are many to choose from. Nutrition, oriental medicine and acupuncture, botanical medicine, homeopathy and hydrotherapy are some of the modalities naturopathic physicians may choose to use. They also are knowledgeable about Western medical treatments such as pharmaceuticals.

Centuries of tradition

Different forms of naturopathic medicine have been around for centuries, and it is currently experiencing resurgence in popularity.

In the early part of the 20th century, all physicians practiced naturopathic medicine, and that continued to be the case until the mid-1950s. That was the dawn of the age of penicillin, when many of the formerly popular treatments were set aside in favor of the latest pharmaceutical on the market.

But even when naturopathic medicine was not popular, its remedies continued to be passed down from one generation to the next. (Chances are your grandma used at least one naturopathic remedy; maybe she even passed it along to you!) And there’s a reason these remedies are still passed down today: they are simple, elegant, and inexpensive, and they work.

With a strong underground support system that began in the early 1970s, naturopathic medicine is back and growing in force. Currently there are four naturopathic medical schools in the United States and one in Canada that offer the necessary education and clinical training for primary-care naturopathic physicians.

When to call a naturopathic physician

So what’s an appropriate time to choose a naturopathic physician rather than an allopathic one? Here are a few good examples:

You know that certain vitamins can improve health, but the vitamin you’re taking doesn’t seem to be doing what it promised. So what’s the problem—is it the brand, the dosage or maybe the vitamin itself? A naturopathic physician can help you assess and refine your diet and vitamins to reach optimum health.

You’re tired of being rundown, sick or in pain all the time. Naturopathic medicine is particularly effective for treating chronic and debilitating diseases such as arthritis, back pain, diabetes, chronic fatigue and menopause symptoms.

You’re worried about the long-term effects and side effects of pharmaceuticals. When naturopathic physicians treat a patient, the first thing they do is use natural medicines to boost the patient’s immune system. Only if the patient’s immune system is overwhelmed and cannot fight off the disease will the physicians use Western medicine pharmaceuticals as a last resort.

These are all good reasons to consult a naturopathic physician, and it’s easy to find one at That’s the website for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), which provides an online directory of licensed, qualified physicians in each state.

One word of caution: There are people out there advertising as naturopaths—and several correspondence schools offering degrees in naturopathy. These terms are red flags that the people (and schools) do not practice or represent naturopathic medicine. People who call themselves naturopaths are not physicians. If you have any doubts about whether the doctor you have chosen is an authentic naturopathic physician, contact the AANP at

Happy searching and here’s to your health!

Delayne Gratopp, ND, is director of functional medicine at Scarsdale Integrative Family Medicine, located at 2 Overhill Rd. Ste. 260, Scarsdale, NY. For more info, call 914.722.9440 or visit