Fig 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Welcome back to The Naturopathic Kitchen! Each week we go back to the basics to use food as medicine in order to lead healthier lives. It can be intimidating to try new things especially when you don’t know what it is good for or how to prepare/cook it. Today we’ll be figuring out figs!

Figs 101

Are Fig Newtons or figgy pudding the first thing that comes to mind when you think fig? Let’s change that association! As one of the sweetest fruits available, figs are a great way to sweeten a dessert or add variety to any healthy dish.

Where do figs come from? Where can I find them?

Figs have a long history of use dating back as far as 5000 BC and is said to be one of the first fruits ever cultivated by humans. Figs were so popular in ancient Greece, that laws were enacted to prevent exportation. They are also a major part of the Mediterranean Diet which is considered one of the healthiest diets in the world.

Figs are the fruit of the fig tree and are actually inverted flowers. The flesh of the fig fruit is made from the mature flower, which blooms inside the skin and is never seen like a traditional flower.

Figs are easily found fresh in most major grocery stores between mid-June and mid-October. They can be purchased year-long dried, frozen or in jams.

How do figs help my health?

Naturally high in essential nutrients and fiber, figs are considered a very nutrient-dense fruit. Like other tree fruits, figs contain high amounts of polyphenols—a free radical scavenging family of compounds, as well as potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C, and various trace minerals. Research has shown figs help with conditions such as: liver disease, diabetes, anemia, skin cancer, and may even reduce skin wrinkles from aging. 1,2,3,4

What medical conditions/symptoms are figs used for?

When should fig be avoided?

Since figs can lower blood sugar, you should monitor your blood sugar closely when taking insulin for diabetes. Figs should also be avoided 2 weeks prior to surgery for this same reason.


Let’s try out some flavorful fig recipes!


Grilled Brie Stuffed Figs with Honey


8 fresh figs
1/4 wedge of brie cheese, cut into small 1/2-inch cubes
organic cold pressed olive oil
2-3 grill skewers
Freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the grill and make sure the surface is clean. Soak wooden skewers (if you are using wood). Press the figs onto the skewers. Lightly brush each side with olive oil. Grill until softened with the lid on the grill up so they don’t overheat and burst. When cooked, turn them inside and cool for five minutes. Remove from skewers. Make cross-shaped cuts from the top-down midway into the fig. Stuff with the brie cheese. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle cracked pepper on top to taste.

Thank you to Garden and Table for this recipe!


Balsamic and Mustard Glazed Chicken and Figs


1/2 c balsamic vinegar
2 T Dijon mustard
2 T olive oil, divided
1 T honey
1 T coarsely chopped fresh sage leaves
2 cloves
garlic, minced
2 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or breasts (4 – 6)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 fresh figs, halve


Place a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. To make the glaze, whisk the vinegar, mustard, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, honey, sage and garlic together in a small bowl; set aside. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large cast iron or oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering but not smoking. Add the chicken skin-side down and cook until the skin is crisp and golden-brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip the chicken and scatter the figs around it. Carefully pour the glaze evenly over the chicken and figs. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook, spooning some of the glaze in the skillet back over the chicken halfway through, until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, 10 to 12 minutes total. Serve the chicken with the sauce.

Thank you to kitchn for this recipe!

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Mindfulness Meditation

At the root of naturopathic medicine is the ability to listen to and be in tune with your body to allow it to reach its optimal state. There is an increasing body of scientific evidence supporting gratitude, resilience and positivity on long-term outcomes of illness and quality of life. Conditions like pain, anxiety and depression can all benefit from a whole-person, mind-body approach. One practice that can have a resounding impact on mental health and overall well-being is the art of being present through mindfulness. When we are fully present and in tune with our body, we can identify and correct an imbalance before it becomes a major issue.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is learned tool of self-awareness, self-care and empowerment that can be practiced anytime and anywhere. It is a non-judgmental, passive awareness of your present experience.

Why is Mindfulness so Powerful?

Mindfulness allows us to fully engage and focus on the opportunities in front of us. In doing so, it minimizes the stress that comes with the ‘what ifs’ in life. By embracing our power in the here and now, we minimize the stress that comes from worrying about the future or the past. Our focus on the present allows for better connection with our mind, body and environment.

6 Short Mindfulness Exercises

1) Two mindful bites – For the first two bites of any meal or snack you eat, pay attention to the sensory experiences – the texture, taste, smell and appearance of food and the sounds it makes. This practice is also helpful to raise awareness of eating on the go or emotional food behavior.

2) What one breath feels like – Feel the sensations of one breath flowing into and out from your body. Notice the sensations in your nostrils, your shoulders, your rib cage, your belly and connect with your breath to ground yourself

3) Take a mindful moment to give your brain a break – Instead of checking your email or social media in the five minutes between meetings try looking out your window and focusing on nature. Use mindfulness to give your brain a break rather than filling up every tiny space in your day by automatically reaching for technology.

4) Air on exposed skin – Pay attention to the feeling of air on your skin for 10-60 seconds. This is best done when wearing short sleeves or with some skin exposed. Why: You’re practicing being in experiential processing mode (as opposed to evaluative “judging” mode, which is our default).

5) Scan your body – This can be done in bed before going to sleep – and can even aid in relaxation for a better night’s rest. Start by getting in a comfortable and relaxed position. Slowly scan your body from top to toe for any sensations of discomfort or tension. Attempt to soften to the sensations of discomfort without judgment on why the tension is there or if you are successful in doing so. Next, scan your body for any sensations of comfort or ease.

6) Do one action mindfully – Pick something you do at the same time every day and plan to do that one thing mindfully. For example, putting on clothes in the morning can be done, focusing on each component and how the clothes feel on your skin.

Mindfulness is like a muscle, the more you practice, the easier it gets.


Beddoe, A. & Murphy, S. (2004). Does Mindfulness Decrease Stress and Foster Empathy Among Nursing Students? Journal of Nursing Education, 43(7), 305-312. 13.

Chapman, S.G. (2012) The Five Keys to Mindful Communication. Boston: Shambhala.

Davidson, R., et al. (2003). Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564-570. Hanh, T.N. (1987) The Miracle of Mindfulness. Boston: Beacon.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994) . Paying Attention in a Particular Way: On Purpose, in the Present Moment, and Nonjudgmentally, 4.

Lazar, S., et al. (2005). Meditation Experience is Associated with Increased Cortical Thickness. NeuroReport, 16(17), 1893-1897.

Lutz, A., et al. (2008). Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise. PLoS One, 3(3), 1-10.

Ricard, M. (2006) Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. New York: Little, Brown.

Semple, R., Reid, E., & Miller, L. (2005). Treating Anxiety with Mindfulness: An Open Trial of Mindfulness Training for Anxious Children. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 19(4), 379-392.

Shapiro, S., et al. (2005). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Health Care Professionals: Results from a Randomized Trial. International Journal of Stress Management, 12(2), 164-176.

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Learn more about becoming a naturopathic doctor. Receive information from one of our 8 accredited schools across the U.S. & Canada.

Cooking Oils 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Cooking oil is a staple in every kitchen, and one that is not often given much thought.  What you don’t know CAN hurt you! Let’s dig deeper and learn more about seven of the most common oils. Discover how the oils are made, what they are used for, their pros and cons.

UseHow is it Made?ProsCons
CanolaCandles, soaps, lipsticks, lubricants, inks, biofuels, insecticides and foodProduced from a genetically modified rapeseed plant
Cheap, wide range of industrial uses

Unhealthy - can damage kidneys, liver, and heart; can lead to hypertension, may retard growth

VegetableDeep frying, stir frying, sautéing, baked goods
Can be any of rapeseed, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, or other seed oils
Cheap and accessible
High amounts of omega-6 fatty acids that increase inflammation; contains trans fats when hydrogenated
AvocadoHigh-heat cooking, salads, frying

Pressed from the fleshy pulp surrounding the avocado pit
High smoke point, good raw or cooked; benefits skin health, arthritis and heart health
Expensive, not available in all stores or regions
GrapeseedDeep frying, stir frying, sautéing, baked goods
Pressed from the rock hard seeds of the grape plant
Higher proportion of healthier omega-6 fats
Can increase inflammation, cholesterol, weight gain and hormonal imbalance
OliveSalad dressings, condiment, medium-high heat cooking
Pressed from raw olives
One of the healthiest oils - contains high amounts of antioxidants, as well as a high percentage of monounsaturated fats
Can be expensive, especially if organic and extra-virgin
CoconutHigh-heat cooking, baking, cosmetics, sunscreens, desserts
Pressed from the white pulp of the coconut often giving it a pearlescent look when solidified

Great for high-heat cooking due to its high percentage of saturated fat. Becoming widely available. Has antimicrobial and antifungal properties.Contains a high percentage of saturated fat. Can be expensive. Has a specific flavor that may not work with all foods.
SesameMost common oil for cooking in India and Asian countries. Flavor-enhancer, as well as some industrial and cosmetic uses
Pressed or extracted from dehisced sesame seeds
Contains a moderate amount of vitamin K. Inexpensive, nutty flavor/aroma, withstands high heat
Low quality products may be extracted with chemical or high heat extraction methods, may be allergenic for some people

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Naturopathic Approaches for End of Life and Hospice Care

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

Learn how naturopathic approaches for end of life and hospice care can improve quality of life for patients and their loved ones.

Are you ready for end of life decisions with your family and loved ones?
These are important discussions to have well before issues arise. Too often health care providers see the chaos that lack of planning can have on families, and the unnecessary stress it can place on caregivers and relationships.

Hospice differs from other medical approaches in that the main focus is not on curing, but rather in providing comfort for a patient whose health condition is considered terminal or unlikely to be cured. Hospice patients receive compassionate individualized care based on physical, emotional and spiritual needs for what is expected to be the last six months or less of life.

Similar to hospice, palliative care focuses on the patient’s quality of life rather than trying to cure the underlying health condition. The goal of palliative care is to manage pain and symptoms. Hospice is palliative care, but not all palliative care is hospice.

Naturopathic doctors are an integral part of a large end-of-life patient support team made up doctors, nurses, hospice aids, social workers and clergy who each provide compassionate care addressing different physical, emotional or spiritual needs.

What do naturopathic doctors offer for end of life and hospice care?

Naturopathic medicine offers a holistic, whole-person approach to end of life care. When we accept that death is a natural consequence to being alive, we can embrace it fully. I participated in a joint study between University of Washington and Bastyr University in which  I facilitated over 500 bedside hospice meditations. Through the power of meditation, I watched hundreds of people reduce their anxiety and fear of death, decrease their pain, regulate their breathing and find relief from suffering weeks, days and even hours before their death. Helping people have an easy transition from this life is amazing honor and gift.

Brad Lichtenstein, ND, BCB-HRV

Professor, Bastyr University

Naturopathic medicine has so much to offer those at the end of life, and for those who are in need of palliative care. I use all of the modalities available including bodywork, botanical medicine, homeopathy, etc., while also aiding in the management of medications. Regardless of therapeutic direction, offering compassionate care to patients and their families is an opportunity to connect and support each other through this inevitable part of our lives.

Stephanie Kaplan, ND

Naturopathic doctors are gifted at BEING with patients in a way that is not as readily available to others in primary care.  We are intensely aware of the patterns and cycles of life and are well-equipped to bring quality of life to the final moments while offering therapies that ease the transition. The standard of care option often results in the patient being so highly medicated, that they are not able to stay present with their loved ones, which can cause distress for all involved.  I have heard many times how remarkable it is to see patients so comfortable, coherent, even joyful right up to their death. This optimization of health and quality of life into the dying process is how naturopathic medicine differs.  

Nasha Winters, ND, FABNO, LAc, Dipl.OM

Founder and CEO, Optimal Terrain Consulting

Death is a physiological process. Naturopathic medicine can make the difference between a terrifying death filled with unresolved issues, and a peaceful death filled with joy at one’s life. Naturopathic medicine can not only relieve pain and restore hope, but can also help individuals in resolving the issues so far unaddressed in their lives. Like all points of crisis, death offers a great opportunity. Previous suppression of our own psychological issues are removed, and our true selves, problems and issues emerge, much more visible to the practitioner to resolve.

Paul Theriault, ND

The Naturopathic Toolkit

Naturopathic doctors share their favorite tools for hospice and palliative care
  1. Presence – Being available to listen and to lean in to the difficult conversations and moments.
  2. Homeopathy – Pain, anxiety, delirium, fluid build-up in the lungs, constipation – often related to the dying process, but also the medication side effects often used for palliation, respond well to these easy remedies and are invaluable for end of life care.
  3. Acupuncture and tui na – Between touch and the manipulation of the conductance and resistance of energy flow in the body, acupuncture and body work can offer much physical and emotional pain relief, but also emotional.
Nasha Winters, ND, FABNO, LAc, Dipl.OM

Founder and CEO, Optimal Terrain Consulting

I offer craniosacral therapy to the patient and to his or her loved ones. Craniosacral therapy is a gentle, hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the functioning of the body. The craniosacral system comprises the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord; however, the treatment can be applied to all parts of the body. The results of this therapy is a calming and toning of the nervous system, which has a positive effect on the entire body, including managing pain.

Stephanie Kaplan, ND

Mind-body medicine – meditation, mindfulness, breathwork, guided imagery and deep relaxation technique training.  I have witnessed with over a hundred patients the power of relief from physical, emotional and spiritual suffering around the time of death.

Brad Lichtenstein, ND, BCB-HRV

Professor, Bastyr University

Naturopathic doctor shares a patient story

The most touching moments are those when the dying person chooses to have their memorial while still living. One of my patients had been bedridden for two weeks and was in end stage organ failure from Stage IV Inflammatory Breast Cancer. She had not ate or drank more than a few sips of water during that time, was weak, swollen and exhausted. She barely uttered a handful of words and simply acknowledged the stream of loved ones with a hand squeeze or a dreamy smile. 

But on the day she chose to have her memorial, she got up.  She showered.  She ate a meal.  There were 65 people standing in a circle and she STOOD! and continued to do so for three hours while each person expressed their love and shared stories of her life.

She was a wild life biologist, a dog trainer and a huge animal lover and requested that her loved ones give her an animal blessing.  She was given the powerful wings of an eagle in order to take flight, the resourcefulness of a tiny mouse in order to muster all her strength for her journey and the roar of a lion so that we could all hear her ferocious love of life.  She absolutely glowed, laughed, joked and hugged and kissed every person that came from all over the country to celebrate her amazing life. Her skin and eyes were dark yellow from liver failure and yet it was a most becoming color on her that day as the sun set  and she said her goodbyes.  She retreated back to her bed and within a few hours, took her last peaceful breath. 

Her family had been devastated by her diagnosis and decline. This powerful launch offered a healing balm and transformed beliefs around the death and dying process. 

Nasha Winters, ND, FABNO, LAc, Dipl.OM

Founder and CEO, Optimal Terrain Consulting

Resources for patients and loved ones

Naturopathic doctors provide comfort and support for patients and their loved ones

Death is a natural part of a life, though it may often be met with resistance and denial. Hospice provides education on the dying process and support services such as grief and bereavement counseling for loved ones. Another resource are Death Cafes – free gatherings in which people from all walks of life gather to discuss death in an open and supportive environment. By addressing and preparing yourself for the inevitable you may live your life to the fullest today.


Dying is an opportunity for us to tend to what has been left undone. With support and guidance we can forgive, apologize, be forgiven, rejoice, and express our love.  We can lean in when we have nothing to lose. Each death is as individual as each life; while we cannot predict, we can prepare.  

Stephanie Kaplan, ND

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Clove 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

You’ve heard us say it before, healthy living starts in the kitchen.  Many people find that cooking can be somewhat bland when first starting out, however, that need not be the case!  In The Naturopathic Kitchen, we discover how to make cooking fun and healthy. This week our focus is on cloves!

Clove 101

Cloves are one of the oldest and most popular spices in the world. Native to the Maluku islands in Indonesia, cloves are the flower buds of a variety of evergreen tree. In the kitchen, it is probably best known as a strong flavor in holiday dishes. Clove lends a pungent intense flavor that is both sweet and bitter. In line with its powerful flavor, clove comes with powerful health benefits that have a long history of use in traditional and world medicine.

Where do cloves come from? Where can I find them?

Clove has been popular in Asia for more than 2,000 years. It was commonly chewed by ancient Chinese courtesans before meeting the emperor in order to freshen their breath. Over time, it has made its way throughout the world and into most cultures’ cuisines. Today, Indonesia is the still the primary producer of cloves, although Madagascar cloves are considered to be superior to cloves grown in other parts of the world. Cloves are easily found in any grocery store’s dry herb section. You can find it either ground or whole. Clove essential oil can be found online or in specialty herb stores.

How do cloves help my health?

With such an intense flavor, you might be able to guess what clove can be used for. Studies have shown clove to have excellent antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-parasitic activity.1,2,3 Clove is also anti-inflammatory, anti-platelet, and has some antiviral activity.4,5,6

What medical conditions/symptoms is clove used for?

Can clove be used as an essential oil?

Most of the research done on clove has been conducted with essential oil for more potent effects. As always, essential oils should be used under the guidance of an experienced naturopathic physician.

When should clove be avoided?

It would be hard to consume large amounts of whole or ground clove due to its intense flavor, but since the essential oil is so potent it can be easy to consume too much. Ingesting clove should be avoided when taking blood thinning medications or during pregnancy. Don’t take clove longer than two weeks consecutively, and when taking daily doses, be sure to take a probiotic supplement to restore beneficial bacteria.


Let’s try out some fun clove recipes!


Honey Peppered Clove Strawberries



1 small container of strawberries sliced in half
3 T honey (may substitute maple syrup for a vegan diet)
1 T water 8 – 10 cloves, crushed
1 t black pepper, crushed
½ pinch salt


Place the water and honey in a saucepan and gently heat until honey dissolves. Add the crushed cloves and black pepper, and continue to heat until sauce is fragrant. Place the sliced strawberries in a serving bowl and drizzle with the sauce. Stir well to evenly coat the strawberries. Serve immediately. Thank you to Wander Cooks for this recipe!


Hot Apple Cider



6 c apple cider
1/4 c real maple syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
6 whole allspice berries
1 orange peel, cut into strips
1 lemon peel, cut into strips


Pour the apple cider and maple syrup into a large stainless steel saucepan. Place the cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries, orange peel and lemon peel in the center of a washed square of cheesecloth; fold up the sides of the cheesecloth to enclose the bundle, then tie it up with a length of kitchen string. Drop the spice bundle into the cider mixture. Place the saucepan over moderate heat for 5 -10 minutes, or until the cider is very hot but not boiling. Remove the cider from the heat. Discard the spice bundle. Ladle the cider into big cups or mugs, adding a fresh cinnamon stick to each serving if desired.

Thank you to All Recipes for this recipe!

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Sage 101: The Naturopathic Kitchen

Welcome to The Naturopathic Kitchen! Each week we dive into a different herb to learn how it can benefit our health and how we can incorporate it into tasty meals. This week is all about sage.

Sage 101

Sage is probably best known for its use as a spice in breakfast sausages and holiday stuffing. Not only does sage have many great uses in other types of entrees, it comes packed with health benefits that make it much too nutritious to only bring out during the holidays. Sage is famous for its use in the Native American ceremonial practice known as “smudging” in which it is burned and its smoke is spread around.

Where does sage come from? Where can I find it?

As with other herbs from the mint family, sage has its origins around the Mediterranean. It was commonly used in ancient Rome to help digest fatty meats and was regarded as one of the most appreciated herbs of the time. Sage was known as the “salvation plant” and was required to be grown outside of monasteries throughout western and central Europe.

Sage can easily be found in the dry herb section of most grocery stores and sometimes even in the refrigerated section. White sage, which is used for ceremonial purposes, is often found in specialty stores, dried and bundled for smudging. Sage can also be found as an extract at specialty herb or health stores.

How does sage help my health?

Throughout history sage has been used medicinally for a range of conditions including digestive and nervous issues, fertility, joint pain and even typhoid fever. Research has shown sage to be useful for dementia, diabetes prevention, cognitive performance, memory issues and menopausal hot flashes. 1,2,3,4

What medical conditions/symptoms is sage used for?

When should sage be avoided?

Sage contains a chemical called thujone that can be harmful when consumed in large amounts. For this reason, it is best to avoid sage during pregnancy, breastfeeding and if you have a seizure disorder. It is also recommended to avoid sage two weeks before and after surgery due to the possibility of it interfering with blood sugar control during the healing process.


Let’s try sage out with some delicious recipes!


Chicken Apple Sausage




1 lb ground chicken or turkey
½ c finely minced apples
½ t garlic powder
½ t dried sage
½ t paprika
1/4 t crushed fennel
½ t salt
¼ t black pepper
1-2 T coconut or avocado oil


Mix together the chicken, apple, spices, salt and pepper. Using wet hands, form meat mixture into 12 small patties (thin patties are good because they will shrink and fatten up in the pan). Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add oil (about half of a tablespoon per batch of patties, depending on the size of your pan). Add the patties to the pan, being careful not to overcrowd them to ensure they will brown well. Cook for about 4-5 minutes per side until browned and no longer pink in the center. Remove patties and place on a plate lined with a paper towel. Refrigerate in a sealed container for up to four days.

Thank you to The Real Food Dietitians for this recipe!

Butternut Squash Apple Soup with Parmesan Sage Croutons




2 T olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 large butternut squash, peeled and diced
4 medium apples, peeled, cored and diced
3-4 c organic chicken or vegetable stock — divided
1 1/4 t kosher salt

1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 t cayenne pepper


Adding croutons is optional. Substitute toasted pumpkin seeds for low carb or vegan diets.

6 c sourdough cubes
3 T olive oil
2 T minced fresh sage
1/2 t kosher salt
3 T freshly grated Parmesan


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a large, deep stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over low. Add the onions and cook until very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the onions cook, cut and peel the squash and apples. Add them to the pot, then add two cups of the stock. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat to low, then cover, and cook until the squash and apples are very soft, about 20 to 30 minutes depending upon how large you cut your squash and apple pieces (smaller pieces will cook more quickly). Meanwhile, prepare the croutons. Place the bread cubes on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sage and salt, then toss to coat. Spread the cubes in a single layer and bake until lightly crisp and brown, 10 to 12 minutes, tossing once halfway through. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, toss to coat, then set aside until ready to serve. Once the apples and squash in the soup pot are tender, puree the soup with an immersion blender or carefully transfer it to a food processor fitted with a steel blade to puree in batches. Return soup to the pot once complete. Add one cup of the remaining chicken stock, then stir, adding a bit more stock as needed to reach your desired consistency (the soup will thicken somewhat when stored). Leave the texture fairly thick and rich. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, black pepper and cayenne. Serve hot, topped with sage croutons.

Thank you to Well Plated by Erin for this recipe!

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Click below to receive information from the seven accredited naturopathic medical schools across eight North American campuses!