By Lisa M. Belisle, MD, MPH
Originally published January 2004, Parent & Family
Welcome to the new year! January is a wonderful time to look at what is working well in our lives, and consider opening our minds to new ideas. One of these ideas is integrative medicine. As we discussed in the December issue of Parent and Family, integrative medicine involves using different types of healing therapies in the search for optimal wellness. Last month we spoke with Dr. Donald Hankinson, an Osteopathic Family Physician who integrates Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine into his practice. This month we will be talking with Dr. Devra Krassner.
Devra Krassner, N.D., graduated from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in 1987. She has been in private practice for fifteen years, and is currently part of Maine Whole Health in Portland. She incorporates a variety of therapies into her practice, including homeopathy, therapeutic nutrition and botanical medicine. She is the President of the Maine Association of Naturopathic Doctors, and has lectured extensively on a variety of topics in the field of naturopathic medicine. Dr. Krassner will be featured in an upcoming MaineHealth Learning Resource Center lecture and on the CTV4 program Healthy Beings: Finding Integrative Healthcare in Maine. (See Resources, below).
Can you give me a little background on Naturopathic Medicine?
(DK): Naturopathic medicine has been in existence as a healthcare profession for 100 years. However, the natural therapies [used in Naturopathic Medicine] have been effectively used to treat diseases since ancient times. Based upon the philosophy that the body possesses natural healing abilities, Naturopathic Medicine uses a variety of therapies to treat a broad range of conditions. Some [of these therapies] include homeopathy, therapeutic nutrition, botanical medicine, natural childbirth, classical Chinese medicine, hydrotherapy and naturopathic manipulative therapy. In many licensed states, Naturopathic Doctors may also prescribe some medications and perform minor surgery.
What type of training does a Naturopathic Doctor have?
(DK): A licensed Naturopathic Doctor [N.D.] must graduate from a four year graduate-level Naturopathic medical school. Naturopathic Doctors are educated in the same basic [medical classes] as a MD or DO, and also study various holistic therapies, with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. Naturopathic Doctors must also pass rigorous national exams in [medical knowledge]. Currently Naturopathic Doctors are licensed in 12 states [including Maine], and the territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are an estimated 1500 Naturopathic Doctors in the United States.
Can you describe an office visit with a Naturopathic Doctor?
(DK): An initial visit with a Naturopathic Doctor generally lasts an hour to an hour and a half, during which time the doctor becomes familiar with the physical as well as emotional and often spiritual aspects of what that person is experiencing. The doctor will then prescribe an individualized treatment plan. A physical exam is performed when indicated, and lab-work is also ordered as needed.
You are known for using botanical medicine. Can you give me some information on this approach?
(DK): Botanical medicine is the use of herbs for the treatment of illness and the optimization of health. Herbs can be used in many forms, including teas, tinctures, capsules, salves and poultices. Tinctures [for example] are liquid preparations of the plant that use alcohol or glycerin to extract the constituents of the plants. Some herbs are safe to use daily tonics and others are prescribed for only short periods of time.
What type of research is there to support the use of botanicals?
(DK): Many studies have been done on the use of botanicals. These studies can be found in journals, and also located through various websites, some of which must be subscribed to, but others of which are free to the public. It is important to note that not all of the information available on the Internet is accurate. Likewise, botanical medicines are not regulated by any federal agency. Therefore, the quality and content of herbal medicines varies tremendously. It is very important to obtain botanical medicines through a naturopathic doctor or other trained professional, or through a reputable health food store.
Do botanical remedies have side effects?
(DK): Just because a medicine is natural does not mean that it is always safe for every person. Some herbs [may be poisonous when used incorrectly] and must be prescribed only by qualified clinicians. Others have potential risks that vary from one individual to the next.
Are there patients or conditions that botanical remedies are not suited to?
(DK): Pregnant or breastfeeding women, and people who are taking medications, must be extremely careful when using herbal therapies. While some herbs may be fine, and even very beneficial for such individuals, there [may be reasons not to take specific herbs]. Infants and small children can benefit greatly from the use of botanical medicines, but choosing the correct herbs at the [right] dosage is very important. These are all situations in which [it is important to work] with a Naturopathic Doctor or herbalist.
Do you work with other types of health care providers when treating patients?
(DK): I refer to many types of health care providers, including medical and osteopathic doctors, massage therapists, psychotherapists, chiropractors and acupuncturists. I believe that it is very important for medical professionals to work together?to provide the best health care possible for each person they see.
Is there insurance coverage for Naturopathic Medicine?
(DK): Insurance coverage varies with each insurance company and policy. To find our whether your company will cover Naturopathic Medicine, you must call and ask whether they cover Naturopathic Doctors who are licensed in Maine.
RESOURCES ON NATUROPATHIC AND BOTANICAL MEDICINE:
Maine Whole Health, Portland 207-773-2517
MaineHealth Learning Resource Centers
, Falmouth 207-781-1730, Scarborough 207-885-8570
Healthy Beings: Finding Integrative Healthcare in Maine
Community Television channel 4, times TBA
Sponsored by the Osteopathic Heritage Fund.
*Please note that some of these require a subscription.*