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FAQ’s about Naturopathic Medicine

Q: Is naturopathic medicine covered by MSP?

A: Provincial subsidies for naturopathic medicine were cut by the liberal government on January 1, 2002. At present there is no MSP coverage available for visits to an ND unless you are on premium assistance. However, the coverage available for premium assistance patients is still limited. Before making an appointment, be sure to find out if you have coverage and whether your ND sees premium assistance patients. Most extended health plans (i.e., private plans through your employer) do cover visits to NDs paying 80% of patient visits but make sure you clarify coverage with your benefits manager.

Q: Can I see an MD who is also an ND?

A: No. In BC doctors must be licensed as either an MD or an ND. They cannot be licensed as both at once. In addition, there is no billing fee code for alternative or complementary medicine. There is a fee for alternative medicine provided by an MD (e.g., chelation). NDs are trained as and licensed as doctors. However, most NDs do provide primary healthcare. All NDs are trained, and complete board exams, in both pharmacology and pharmacognosy.

Q: What are Naturopathic Physicians?

A: Naturopathic Physicians, or NDs, are trained as primary care physicians and perform physical exams, Pap smears, diagnostic laboratory tests and imaging studies familiar to all types of family physicians andgeneral practitioners. Naturopathic physicians are also trained in when and how to refer to specialists and for urgent care. They have been licensed in British Columbia for nearly 70 years.

Q: How are NPs Different from Regular Physicians?

A: A Naturopathic Physician is trained in the methods of treatment commonly referred to as alternative medicine. When you see an ND for health care your treatments may include therapeutic diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes, such as a stop smoking program, herbal medicines, nutritional medicines, manual manipulation or physical therapies. Your naturopathic physician may refer you for massage, acupuncture or midwifery services as needed. You and your chosen ND would work together to determine the best possible treatments available including those traditionally provided by specialists such as cardiologists, allergists, pulmonary specialists and so on.

Q: What is the difference between a naturopathic doctor and a homeopath?

A: There are three major differences. The first is training. The second is regulation. The third is treatment.
Training: naturopathic doctors are generalists in alternative medicine. They receive at least 3-years pre-medical training at university, then 4-years at an accredited naturopathic college. They are primary care physicians using a variety of therapies and modalities according to each patient’s need.
Regulation: In BC and many other provinces and US states naturopathic medicine is regulated just as MDs, nurses, chiropractors and other health professionals are licensed and regulated. At present, homeopathy is not a licensed or regulated health profession in BC. In a sense, only NDs are licensed to practice homeopathy.
Another difference is treatment. A homeopath would only prescribe a homeopathic medicine. An ND may use botanical medicine, homeopathic medicine, physical medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, or any combination to treat a patient.

Q: Can you describe what homeopathy is in more detail?

A: Yes. Homeopathy is a highly systematic, scientific method of therapy that respects the wisdom of the body. It is a method based on the implementation of a pharmacological law called Similars. A German doctor, Samuel Hahnemann first pronounced this law, in 1796. He described it in this manner:

“Any substance which, when given in a strong dose, produces specific symptoms in a healthy person, is likely, if given in a homeopathic [i.e., infinitely small] dose, to cause those same symptoms to disappear in a sick person.”
Homeopathic medicine will not result in toxic or allergic side effects. Homeopathy stimulates the body’s natural healing mechanisms. Proper nutrition, rest and exercise will enhance its effectiveness.
We thank the British Columbia Naturopathic Association for this article.

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