Naturopathy is based on a simple premise: your body has the ability to heal itself. Though its roots date back thousands of years and draw on the healing wisdom of many cultures, American naturopathic medicine can be traced back to 19th-century Germany, specifically the water cures of Father Sebastian Kneipp. In 1892, German émigré and Kneipp disciple Benedict Lust brought hydrotherapy and naturopathy with him to the US, where in 1901 he established the American School of Naturopathy in New York City. Today, naturopathic medicine encompasses a wide array of modern and traditional therapies including nutrition, herbal medicines, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, massage, and even Chinese medicine.
How to Choose an Alt Doc
Finding a provider requires time and energy, but once you find her or him, the relationship can be life-changing. Here are five tips to help you narrow the playing field.
1. Ask friends and family for recommendations. You might even ask your primary care physician for a referral. Many Western docs in the Portland area regularly see acupuncturists or naturopathic doctors (NDs).
2. Do a short phone interview. Most practitioners will field a few questions over the phone for no charge. Ask them if they’ve treated your particular condition and what their experience has been. (If they haven’t, ask them to refer you to a colleague who has.) If your insurance doesn’t cover them (complementary-medicine services have historically been left out of many mainstream health plans, though coverage is on the rise), don’t be afraid to ask how much they charge for a new-patient visit.
3. Find out what services are available. Naturopathic clinics often offer acupuncture, massage, and homeopathy—and some even do basic lab tests, minor surgery, and EKGs in-house.
4. Prioritize clinical experience. If you have a choice between someone who has been practicing for a decade and someone who is just out of school, go with the former.
5. Use local schools. For lower-income patients, those with no insurance, or anyone who just wants to sample natural medicine, the National College of Natural Medicine staffs nearly 20 community clinics in the Portland area. It also has an on-site teaching clinic at its Southwest Portland campus. For a relatively small fee, you can see a team of student naturopaths or acupuncturists. Initial appointments are $50–60, and follow-ups are $25–35; lab tests also have low fees. 3025 SW Corbett Ave; 503-552-1551; ncnm.edu.
If you’re seeking a natural cure for insomnia or your child’s seasonal cough, head to the Herb Shoppe (3327 SE Hawthorne Blvd; 503-234-7801). Owner J. J. Pursell, a naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist whose patients call her Dr. J.J., sells an variety of custom-blended bulk herbal teas, including “sleep tea” (a potent mix of hops, chamomile, mugwort, rosemary, lavender, and valerian), and children’s respiratory tonic. You’ll also find tinctures, flower essences (from local company 3 Flowers Healing), Eva’s Herbucha on tap, and Portland-made facial cleansers, body oils, and soaps. If you’re keen to learn more about plant-based medicine, drop by for a free Wednesday-night lecture on anything from Bach Flower Remedies to herbs that support the immune system. Pursell also teaches a 10-month Herbal Certification Course that’s structured around renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar’s course “The Science and Art of Herbalism.” The $695 class, which includes medicine-making workshops and herb walks to Powell Butte and Oaks Bottom, meets one Sunday a month from September to June.
Where to float in PDX
2927 NE Everett St
4530 SE Hawthorne Blvd
2627 NE Broadway
The Float Shoppe
1515 NW 23rd Ave
Over the past few years, Portland has become a major center for REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy)—otherwise known as floating. Invented by neuropsychiatrist John C. Lilly in the 1950s for use in sensory-deprivation experiments, float tanks allow you to bob supine in a soundproof tank of warm salt water. At Float On—one of four local flotation centers—the tanks often are booked through the night with clients wanting to zone out, spur creativity, or alleviate pain. (The therapy is especially popular in the wee hours with bartenders and insomniacs.) You experience zero gravity when you float, so joints and connective tissue get a rare chance for deep relaxation. Some people even say floating helps break addictive behaviors like overeating and smoking.
There is some scientific evidence to support this, but the most convincing studies, says Roderick Borrie, a clinical psychologist who has studied REST for almost 40 years, are on floating’s ability to offer pain relief. In fact, Borrie and a colleague, Dr. Tamara Russell, have begun an international study on the effect floating has on fibromyalgia, a syndrome characterized by chronic pain and muscle soreness.
Profiles in Treatment: Tori Hudson
When 38-year-old Catherine Allen* discovered she had an aggressive strain of human papillomavirus (HPV), her doctor recommended a colposcopy. The procedure, which includes a biopsy of the cervix, left her feeling violated. “I started bawling in the middle of it,” Allen says. “I felt like it was some kind of sanctioned mutilation.” The colposcopy also revealed that Allen had a high-risk form of cervical dysplasia, abnormal cell changes that can lead to cervical cancer if not treated. Reluctant to undergo further surgery, Allen saw a holistic-minded gynecologist near her hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, who handed her a copy of Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine by Tori Hudson, a naturopathic doctor. Allen read the book cover to cover, making an appointment to see the Portland-based doctor shortly thereafter.
Hudson, a nationally recognized expert on women’s health, pioneered a protocol for managing abnormal Pap smears that now is taught at major naturopathic colleges across the US. The months-long botanical and immune system–boosting regime she prescribed for Allen had a dramatic effect. After less than three months of taking daily supplements (folic acid, selenium, vitamin C, green tea extract, and DIM, a concentrated nutrient that’s found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables) and a suppository treatment that included vitamin A and green tea, her dysplasia had disappeared completely. “My gynecologist’s jaw dropped,” Allen says. “She couldn’t believe it.”
Hudson’s expertise extends to other, uniquely female conditions (menopause and endometriosis) and some that are more common in women, such as anxiety, depression, and autoimmune diseases. She also tackles ailments like heart disease that tend to manifest differently in women than in men. She developed a line of herbal supplements for women, called Vitanica, that’s sold in Portland and at health food stores from Hawaii to New York City. Her latest product, Bacteria Arrest, is a homeopathic suppository for bacterial vaginosis (the most common vaginal infection).
In her latest work, Hudson is studying the Vietnamese herb Crinum latifolium and Siberian rhubarb. Both have been found to quell menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and moodiness.
*Catherine’s last name has been changed to protect her privacy.