Naturopathy is an eclectic alternative medical system that focuses on natural remedies, and the body's vital ability to heal and maintain itself. Naturopathic medicine is the licensed practice which attempts to improve health through naturopathy. Naturopaths may promote healing and educate about healthy practices without either employing drugs or surgery (traditional naturopaths), or may prescribe some drugs or perform minor surgery when they are believed to be necessary (naturopathic physicians).

Naturopathy is a system of therapy based on preventative care, and on the use of heat, water, light, air, and massage as primary therapies for disease. Some naturopaths use no medications, either pharmaceutical or herbal. Some recommend herbal remedies only. A few who are licensed to prescribe may recommend pharmaceuticals in those cases where they feel their use is warranted.

History of naturopathic medicine

The term naturopathy was coined before 1900, by John Scheel, and used by Benedict Lust. Lust had been schooled in hydrotherapy and other natural health practices in Germany by Father Sebastian Kneipp, who sent Lust to the United States to bring them Kneipp's methods. In 1905, Lust founded the American School of Naturopathy in New York, the first naturopathic college in the United States. Lust took great strides in promoting the profession, culminating in passage of licensing laws in several states prior to 1935, including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington and the existence of several naturopathic colleges.

After the 1930s, with the discovery of penicillin, and advent of synthetic drugs such as antibiotics and corticosteroids in the post-war era, naturopathic medicine went into decline, along with most other natural health professions. Lust's death, as well as conflict between various schools of natural medicine (homeopathy, eclectics, physio-medicalism, herbalism, naturopathy, etc.), the rise of medical technology, and consolidation of political power in conventional medicine, were also contributing factors to the decline. In 1910, when the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching published the Flexner Report, which criticized many aspects of medical education in various institutions (natural and conventional), it was mostly seen as an attack on low-quality natural medicine education. It caused many such programs to be shut down, and contributed to the popularity of conventional medicine.

Naturopathic medicine never completely ceased to exist, however, as there were always a few states in which licensing laws existed, although at one point there were virtually no schools left. One of the most visible steps towards the profession's modern renewal was the opening in 1956 of the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon. This was the first of the modern naturopathic medical schools offering four-year naturopathic medical training with the intention of integrating mainstream science and naturopathic principles and practice.

Naturopathic physicians and traditional naturopaths

The term naturopath, when originally coined by John Scheel, and popularized by Dr. Benedict Lust (a German name pronounced "loost"), was to apply to those receiving an education in the basic medical sciences with an emphasis on natural therapies. There are today two main groups calling themselves naturopaths, who have recently been engaged in legal battles:

  • Naturopathic physicians
  • Traditional naturopaths

Naturopathic physicians

Naturopathic physicians are independent primary care providers with training in conventional medical sciences, diagnosis and treatment, and are experts in natural therapeutics. They must graduate from four-year naturopathic medical graduate schools accredited by the Council on Natural Medical Education (CMNE), and must pass board exams administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE) before being licensed to practice in one of the jurisdictions listed below. The standardized curriculum focuses on nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, physical manipulation, pharmacology, and minor surgery in addition to basic medical sciences. Some naturopathic physicians have additional training in the following: natural childbirth, acupuncture, and Chinese medicine. These subspecialties often involve additional years of study. Naturopathic physicians are required to attend continuing education yearly in order to maintain and renew their license.

Naturopathic physicians are licensed to diagnose and treat disease in Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Vermont, New Hampshire, Oregon, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Utah, and Washington.

Naturopathic physicians cooperate with all parties, conventional and alternative, to provide patients with complete medical care. They play a pivotal role with their training in both conventional and non-conventional treatment.

Traditional naturopaths

The traditional naturopath practices in a complementary fashion by applying natural means in an attempt to improve the patient's health. Through application of good dietary and lifestyle practices, combined with the addition of modalities such as herbalism (also known as botanical medicine), bodywork (also known as manual adjustment, physiotherapy, massage, physical medicine), spiritual and mental exercises, this type of naturopath attempts to return the patient's mind and body to balance. Traditional naturopaths employ the same naturopathic principles and often prescribe the same treatments as naturopathic physicians, but they do not seek to practice primary care or use the title 'doctor'.

It is often said that there is no central licensing body, and no standardized curriculum for these practitioners. This is not true in all or even in most cases. Many traditional naturopaths have in fact been licensed in the District of Columbia. Some naturopaths today are also licensed by the Naturopathic National Council (often deceptively listed under the "unrecognized accreditation associations"), which is an organization approved by the Federal Government itself, under the authority of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, to license the Doctor of Naturopathy, N.D.™, and exercise legitimate control over the field of traditional naturopathy. A traditional naturopath may have extensive training, considerable skill, and may have been trained under a program which is accredited by one or more reputable accreditation associations; however, it is also true that some may have no training or experience at all.

The health services consumer needs to exercise critical thinking in their decision to seek the services of a traditional naturopath, but should be no more, or no less vigilant as he would be with any other licensed or unlicensed health care provider. Sceptics often ignore the reality of conventional medical practice, and at their peril: "The most stunning statistic, however, is that the total number of deaths caused by conventional medicine is nearly 800,000 per year. It is now evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the US. By contrast, the number of deaths attributable to heart disease in 2001 was 699,697, while the number of deaths attributable to cancer was 553,251."[1]

The Principles of Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathy is based on six tenets or principles [1][2]:

  1. "The healing power of nature"
  2. "Identify and treat the cause"
  3. "First do no harm"
  4. "Treat the whole person"
  5. "The physician as teacher"
  6. "Prevention"

"The healing power of nature"

The healing power of nature, has two aspects: (1) basically the body has the ability to heal itself and it is the naturopathic doctor's role to facilitate this natural process, and (2) nature heals. This includes getting enough sleep, exercising, feeding the body nutritional food and, if needed, additional earth food such as herbs and algae which are a living food. Plants can and will gently move a body into health without the side effects of synthetic chemicals like pharmaceuticals.

"Identify and treat the cause"

The underlying root causes of disease must be removed for complete healing to take place. These root causes can exist at many levels: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It is the naturopaths's role to identify this root cause, in addition to alleviate suffering by treating symptoms.

"First do no harm"

The process of healing includes the manifestations of symptoms, so that any therapy that interferes with this natural healing process by masking symptoms is considered suppressive and should be avoided. The natural life force of the individual should be supported to facilitate healing.

"Treat the whole person"

One of the biggest tenants of naturopathy is the belief that conventional medicine does not treat the "whole person", and that naturopathy goes beyond treatment of symptoms and treats the entire body, as well as the spirit and mind.

"The physician as teacher"

It is the role of the naturopath to educate an individual in their practices, and encourage that individual to "take responsibility for their own health". This cooperative relationship between doctor and patient is essential to healing.


The ultimate goal of the naturopathic physician is prevention. The emphasis is on building health, not fighting illness. This is done by fostering healthy lifestyles.

Regulation in North America

Jurisdictions that currently regulate naturopathic medicine include:

  • US jurisdictions with full licensure: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Vermont, New Hampshire, Oregon, U.S. Virgin Islands, Utah, Washington
  • US state with registration for naturopathic physicians: Kansas
  • US jurisdictions with two-tier licensure: Puerto Rico
  • US states with legal basis for practice: Minnesota, Rhode Island
  • US states which specifically prohibit the practice of naturopathy: South Carolina, Tennessee
  • Canadian provinces with full licensure: British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan

Regulation in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, naturopathy as a profession is very closely aligned with osteopathy. There is no government sponsored regulation of the profession, the largest body, The General Council & Register of Naturopaths only recognises two courses in the UK, both being taught at osteopathic schools. Members of this register will either have completed a three or four year full time degree level course, or will be a health care professional (Medical Doctor, Osteopath, Chiropractor, Nurse) who has completed a two year post-graduate diploma. As the naturopathic profession has developed along different lines in the UK, naturopaths do not perform minor surgery or have prescribing rights.

Scope of practice

Since both naturopathic physicians and traditional naturopaths use the degree designation of N.D. (Doctor of Naturopathy) there is considerable confusion about the scope of practice, education and training of a naturopathic practitioner. There is great contention between the two factions, naturopathic physicians and traditional naturopaths, as their political agendas are in opposition to each other. Naturopathic physicians, whose national professional organization is the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, strive to recover licensure in all 50 states, whereas traditional naturopaths, whose professional organization is the American Naturopathic Medical Association, oppose licensure and often block licensing attempts. Negotiation is currently in progress between naturopathic physicians and traditional naturopaths to come to a resolution to this problem and agree to use different degree titles and designations.

See also


  1. Death by Medicine, Life Extension Magazine, August 2006.

External links


Naturopathic physicians:

Traditional naturopaths:

Accredited North American Schools & School Associations

UK Schools


Adapted from the Wikipedia article, "Naturopathy", used under the GNU Free Documentation License.