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Naturopathic medicine


Related terms
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Related Terms
  • Holistic medicine, natural health, natural medicine, nature cure, naturopath, naturopathic healing, naturopathic medicine, naturopathy, ND.

  • Naturopathy is the practice of the use of natural substances to provide a healthier balance of internal chemistry.
  • A naturopath is a therapist who practices naturopathy. Naturopathic physicians (N.D.s) are primary healthcare practitioners. Naturopathic physicians are the highest trained practitioners in the broadest scope of naturopathic medical modalities. In addition to the basic medical sciences and conventional diagnostics, naturopathic education includes therapeutic nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, natural childbirth, classical Chinese medicine, hydrotherapy, naturopathic manipulative therapy, pharmacology and minor surgery. Naturopathic practice excludes the use of most synthetic drugs and major surgery.
  • Naturopathic medicine is a natural and holistic approach to health and healing that recognizes the integrity of the whole person. Many treatment methods are used, including, nutrition, herbs, manipulation of the body, exercise, stress reduction, and acupuncture.
  • The practice of naturopathic medicine emerges from six underlying principles of healing. These principles are based on the objective observation of the nature of health and disease, and are continually reexamined in light of scientific analysis. It is these principles that distinguish the profession from other medical approaches: (1) The body has the inherent ability to maintain and restore health. (2) The physician aims to identify and treat the cause rather than the symptoms. (3) Methods designed to suppress the symptoms and not the cause are considered harmful and should be avoided or minimized. (4) The physician treats the whole person - taking into account the physical, spiritual, mental, and social aspects of the individual. (5) The physician plays a role in educating and encouraging the patient to take responsibility for his health. (6) The physician assesses risk factors and hereditary susceptibility to disease to make appropriate interventions to avoid further harm or risk to the patient.
  • The term natural medicine is not synonymous with alternative medicine. While most natural therapies are alternative, many alternative treatments are not natural (e.g., chelation therapy).

Theory / Evidence
  • There is no scientific evidence that naturopathic medicine can cure cancer or any other disease, since virtually no studies on naturopathy as a whole have been published. There have been no randomized clinical studies showing the effectiveness of naturopathic medicine as a whole. Most of the claims of effectiveness are based on individual cases, medical records, and summaries of practitioners' clinical experiences.
  • The individual methods used by naturopathic medicine vary in their effectiveness. For instance, studies have shown that a proper diet may lower the risk of severe illnesses like heart disease, and acupuncture may effectively reduce pain.
  • Some aspects of naturopathic medicine may be useful as complementary methods to conventional medical treatment.
  • For more information on individual topics covered under naturopathic medicine, please visit Natural Standard's Complementary Practices Database.


Author information
  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (

  1. American Cancer Society (ACS).
  2. Association of Accredited Naturopathic College.
  3. Naturopathic Medicine Network.
  4. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

  • Clinical nutrition: In most cases of disease or wellness, nutritional counseling and support are a major component of Naturopathic treatments. Naturopathic physicians use dietetics, natural hygiene, fasting, and nutritional supplementation in practice.
  • Botanical medicine: Botanical medicine is often used to treat many ailments.
  • Homeopathic medicine: Homeopathy is a system of medicine that is based on the Law of Similars, sometimes described as "like cures like." For example, a substance that causes vomiting when used full strength may be thought to prevent vomiting when used in a very low concentration.
  • Physical medicine: Naturopathic medicine has its own methods of therapeutic manipulation of muscles, bones, and spine. Physicians also use ultrasound, diathermy, exercise, massage, water, heat and cold, air and gentle electrical pulses.
  • Oriental medicine: Oriental medicine is a complimentary healing philosophy to naturopathic medicine. Meridian theory offers an understanding of the unity of the body and mind, and adds to the Western understanding of physiology.
  • Naturopathic obstetrics: Naturopathic physicians provide natural childbirth care in an out-of-hospital setting. They offer prenatal and postnatal care using modern diagnostic techniques.
  • Psychological medicine: Mental attitudes and emotional states may influence, or even cause, physical illness. Counseling, nutritional balancing, stress management, hypnotherapy, biofeedback, and other therapies are used to help patients heal on the psychological level.
  • Minor surgery: As general practitioners, naturopathic doctors (N.D.s) perform in office-minor surgery such as repairing superficial wounds or removal of foreign bodies or cysts.

  • There are five naturopathic colleges in North America, one of which is located in Ontario, Canada. The U.S. schools are located in Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Connecticut.
  • A licensed naturopathic physician (N.D.) attends a four-year graduate level naturopathic medical school, which includes about 4,500 hours of academic and clinical training.
  • In addition to a standard medical curriculum, an N.D. must study holistic and nontoxic therapies with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. The N.D. is required to complete four years of training in clinical nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology and counseling. A naturopathic physician takes rigorous professional board exams so that he or she may be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care general practice physician.
  • It is important to distinguish certified naturopathic physicians from non-certified who have completed just a short-term course-work mostly by correspondence.
  • Naturopathic physicians are well trained in all modern methods of diagnostic testing and imaging, including X-ray, ultrasound, and other imaging techniques.
  • The majority of Naturopathic Physicians are in private practice. Some N.D.s choose to emphasize particular treatment modalities or may concentrate on particular medical fields.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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