Naturopathic medicine (or naturopathy) is an alternative medical practice based on the belief that the body can heal itself. It aims to improve health and prevent disease and illness through the use of organic foods and exercise; a healthy, balanced lifestyle; and the use of Ayurvedic, homeopathic, and herbal therapies.
Naturopathy was developed in the late 1800s in the United States. Today, both naturopathic doctors and traditional naturopaths practice naturopathic medicine. A licensed naturopathic doctor (ND) attends a 4-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school where they study basic sciences and therapies such as herbal medicine, homeopathy, and bodywork. Naturopaths may attend training programs that vary in length and content, but they usually aren't licensed.
Most naturopathic doctors and naturopaths use natural therapies, such as nutrition and lifestyle counseling. They tend to avoid treating with prescription medicines but may prescribe herbal medicines, homeopathic dilutions, or nutritional supplements.
Some people choose naturopathic medicine because of its focus on promoting good health. They also like the idea of using nutrition, healthful activity, and things like plant-based medicines to improve health.
Naturopathy is very safe as long as you are working with a qualified naturopathic doctor. Choose one who was trained in an accredited 4-year program. 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.
If you choose to see a naturopathic doctor, you may want to ask questions about what they would do if you had an illness that wasn't getting better, or if it was something serious like cancer, or if you needed surgery. Make sure they will refer you to a medical doctor if needed.
Current as of: September 8, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen M. Fairfield MD, MPH, DrPH - Internal Medicine