What is naturopathic medicine?
medicine (or naturopathy) is based on the belief that the body can heal itself. It aims to improve health, prevent disease,
and treat illness through the use of organic foods and exercise;
a healthy, balanced lifestyle; and the use of treatments
from other areas of complementary medicine. (These treatments include ayurveda, homeopathy, and
Naturopathy was developed in the late 1800s in
the United States. Today, a licensed naturopathic doctor (ND) attends a 4-year,
graduate-level naturopathic medical school. He or she studies the same basic sciences
as a medical doctor (MD). But the ND also studies alternative therapies, such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, and bodywork.
traditional naturopathic physicians (naturopaths) believe in natural therapies,
such as nutritional and lifestyle counseling. They tend to avoid prescribing
medicines or doing surgery. Some naturopaths prescribe herbal medicines,
homeopathic dilutions, or nutritional supplements. Some may perform minor surgeries.
disagreement over practice guidelines and licensing requirements in
different states has led to some public confusion about the role of the
What is naturopathy used for?
naturopathic medicine to promote good health, prevent disease, and
treat illness. Most naturopaths can treat earaches, allergies, and other
common health problems. Naturopathy tries to find the cause of the
problem rather than just treating symptoms. A properly trained
naturopath works with other health professionals. He or she will refer people
to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when needed.
Is naturopathy safe?
Two common concerns about
naturopathy are the use of fasting and a bias against
- Talk with your MD before fasting. Fasting means not eating or drinking, or consuming only liquids for a period of time.
Fasting can be dangerous, especially if you have a disease such as
- Some naturopaths do not believe
immunization is necessary. Before vaccines became
available, childhood illnesses caused large numbers of deaths and long-term
health problems but gave survivors natural immunity. The benefits of
vaccines greatly outweigh the risks.1
Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative
therapy or are thinking about combining one with your
conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to rely only on an alternative therapy.
Naturopathy licensing varies from state to state. Not all states require
naturopaths to be licensed. Also, not all naturopathic training programs are
the same. Some schools grant degrees that are not accepted by state licensing
boards. In the United States, the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education
(CNME) is the only agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to
accredit naturopathic programs and colleges.
Before you choose a
naturopath, find out if the person graduated from an accredited college.
Also check to see if your state has licensing laws that govern the
practice of NDs. If your state licenses NDs, ask the ND if he
or she is licensed.
- Chronic Pain
- Complementary Medicine
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). Some common misconceptions about vaccination and how to respond to them. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/6mishome.htm.
Other Works Consulted
Zeff JL, et al. (2013). A hierarchy of healing: The therapeutic order. In JE Pizzorno, MT Murray, eds., Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 18–33. St. Louis: Mosby.