Naturopathic medicine

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This article is part of the branches of CAM series.
CAM Classifications
NCCAM: Alternative Medical System
Modality: Professionalized
Knowledge: Doctorate

Naturopathic medicine (also known as naturopathy) is a school of medical philosophy and practice that seeks to improve health and treat disease chiefly by assisting the body's innate capacity to recover from illness and injury. Naturopathic practice may include a broad array of different modalities, including manual therapy, hydrotherapy, herbalism, acupuncture, counseling, environmental medicine, aromatherapy, nutritional counseling, homeopathy, and so on. Practitioners tend to emphasize a holistic approach to patient care. Naturopathy has its origins in a variety of world medicine practices, including the Ayurveda of India and Nature Cure of Europe. [1] It is today practiced in many countries around the world in one form or another, where it is subject to different standards of regulation and levels of acceptance.

Naturopathic practitioners prefer not to use invasive surgery, or most synthetic drugs, preferring "natural" remedies, for instance relatively unprocessed or whole medications, such as herbs and foods. Practitioners from accredited schools are trained to use diagnostic tests such as imaging and blood tests before deciding upon the full course of treatment. If the patient does not respond to these treatments, they are often referred to physicians who utilize standard medical care to treat the underlying disease or condition.

With only a few exceptions, most naturopathic treatments have not been tested for safety and efficacy utilizing scientific studies or clinical trials. There is a concern in the scientific and medical communities that these treatments are used to replace well-studied and tested medical procedures thereby endangering the health of the patient.[citation needed]

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 but "according to the New York Department of State, and the Florida Report to Governor Leroy Collins, it appears that this naturopathic school was never anything but a diploma mill". [2]. 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 founding of several naturopathic colleges.

Naturopathic medicine went into decline, along with most other natural health professions, after the 1930s, with the discovery of penicillin and advent of synthetic drugs such as antibiotics and corticosteroids. In the post-war era, Lust's death, conflict between various schools of natural medicine (homeopathy, eclectics, physio-medicalism, herbalism, naturopathy, etc.), and the rise of medical technology were all contributing factors. 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 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—though at one point there were virtually no schools. 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 science with naturopathic principles and practice.

Naturopathy In India

Naturopathy is very popular in India, and there are numerous naturopathic hospitals in the country. There are also many doctors trained in conventional medicine who have acquired naturopathy degrees so as to integrate the insights gained into their system of practice.[citation needed]

The Indian stream of naturopathy differs from the Western stream in many ways, particularly in their emphasis on strict vegetarianism and yoga.[citation needed]

Naturopathic physicians and traditional naturopaths

There are two groups in North America calling themselves "naturopaths" who have recently been engaged in legal battles. The term when originally coined by John Scheel, and popularized by Dr. Benedict Lust was to apply to those receiving an education in the basic medical sciences with an emphasis on natural therapies. This usage best describes modern day naturopathic physicians. In the absence of universal regulation of naturopathy, another group of practitioners (the so-called 'traditional naturopaths') has emerged.

Naturopathic Physicians

Naturopathic physicians in North America are primary care providers trained in conventional medical sciences, diagnosis and treatment, and are experts in natural therapeutics. Licensing and training requirements vary from state to state, but at least 14 states, the District of Columbia, and four Canadian provinces have formal licensing and educational requirements. [3][4] In these jurisdictions, Naturopathic Physicians must pass comprehensive board exams set by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE)[5] after having completed training at a college certified by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Eductaion (CNME)[6].

Traditional Naturopaths

Traditional naturopaths are guided by the same naturopathic philosophies and principles as board-licensed Naturopathic physicians and often prescribe similar treatments but do so as alternative or complimentary practitioners rather than as primary care providers. Some may voluntarily join a professional organization, but these organizations do not acredit educational programs in any meaningful way or license practitioners per se. The training programs for traditional naturopaths can vary greatly, are less rigorous and do not provide the same basic and clinical science education as naturopathic medical schools do. The professional organizations formed by traditional naturopaths are not recognized by the U.S. Government or any U.S. State or Territory.

Regulation of naturopathic medicine

In some jurisdictions the practice of naturopathic medicine is unregulated and so the titles like "naturopath", "naturopathic doctor", and "doctor of natural medicine" are not protected by law. This may lead to difficulty in ensuring that a practitioner is trained to a particular standard or has adequate liability insurance.

Regulation in Australia

There is currently no state licensure in Australia, rather the industry is self regulated. There is no protection of title, meaning that technically anyone can practise as a naturopath. The only way to obtain insurance for professional indemnity or public liability is by joining a professional association, which can only be achieved having completed an accredited course and gaining professional certification.

It is generally thought that with registration, a minimum four-year degree and 400 hours of supervised clinical practice will be required for practice. Currently only a few institutions fulfil these requirements, including Health Schools Australia the Australian College of Natural Medicine's degree course, Southern Cross University Bachelor degree, and the University of Western Sydney's combined Bachelor of Applied Science (Naturopathic Studies) and Graduate Diploma in Naturopathy.

Currently the only registered modalities of natural medicine in Australia are those relating to Chinese medicine, and only in the state of Victoria.[citation needed] However the Victorian Government is currently reviewing this, and is looking to allow the registration of naturopaths along with homoeopaths and Western herbal medicine practioners.

Regulation in North America

Jurisdictions that currently regulate naturopathic medicine include:

Regulation in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, naturopathy as a profession is very closely aligned with osteopathy.[citation needed] There is no government sponsored regulation of the profession, the largest body, The General Council & Register of Naturopaths recognises three courses in the UK, two being taught at osteopathic schools: the British College of Osteopathic Medicine; The College of Osteopaths Educational Trust; and one at the University of Westminster School of Integrated Health under the auspices of the B.Sc Health Science (Naturopathy) course.

Members of this register will either have completed a three or four year full time degree level course or possibly be a healthcare professional (Medical Doctor, Osteopath, Chiropractor, Nurse) who has completed a two year post-graduate Naturopathic Diploma, the N.D. As the naturopathic profession has developed along different lines in the UK, naturopaths do not perform minor surgery or have prescribing rights.

Science and naturopathy

Some modalities used in naturopathy are controversial. Some medical doctors have cited the large differences among naturopathic practitioners and the lack of scientific documentation of the safety and efficacy of their practices in order to justify limiting naturopathic scope. Skeptics have labelled naturopathy as pseudoscience and criticise government legislation to license and accredit naturopaths and their organizations as giving the field unwarranted credibility.[10] Advocates claim that naturopathic practitioners find it difficult to obtain financing for research due to the lack of prior research in many areas. Proponents claim that this is slowly changing as naturopathic physicians develop research programs to help build up a foundation for evidence based treatment.

Conventional medicine is required to undergo rigorous scientific testing; drug trials often last for a decade. A criticism of alternative therapies is that they are not subject to detailed safety assessment. Advocates of naturopathy respond that many of their therapeutic interventions have been safely used for hundreds and in some cases thousands of years, claiming what is lost in formal study design is more than made up for by the breadth and depth of human experience with the interventions in question. Also of concern is the ambiguity of the word "natural" and poor agreement as to its meaning; 'natural' does not necessarily mean beneficial, or even benign. (See Naturalistic fallacy.)

Naturopathic modalities may be controversial (e.g. homeopathy, which several studies have indicated to be ineffective [11]), or have proven effectiveness only for very specific conditions (eg acupuncture, aromatherapy). Some of these modalities and remedies are known to be harmful if not used properly or under the care of a trained practitioner..[12][13][14]


  1. "History of Naturopathy". 2007.
  2. Fraud In New Hampshire
  3. American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
  7. American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
  8. Kansas State Board of Healing Arts
  9. Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors
  10. Robert Todd Carroll, The Skeptic's Dictionary. Wiley Press, NY, 2003.
  11. As a fourth study says it's no better than a placebo, is this the end of homeopathy?, The Guardian, August 26, 2005.
  12. "An Introduction to Naturopathy". NCCAM, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 2007-07-04.
  13. Smith C; et al. (2005). "Naturopaths practice behaviour: provision and access to information on complementary and alternative medicines". BMC Complement Altern Med. 5: 15.
  14. Lin V; et al. (November, 2005). "The Practice and Regulatory Requirements of Naturopathy and Western Herbal Medicine" (pdf). Latrobe University, School of Public Health. Retrieved 2007-07-04. Check date values in: |date= (help)

See also

External links


Naturopathic physician associations
Certifying Organizations
Traditional naturopaths


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