Naturopathic medicine

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Naturopathic medicine is the practice of assisting in the health of patients through the application of natural remedies. Most naturopaths consider their care complementary, not supplementary, to the care of a traditional medical professional.

There are two groups of healers calling themselves naturopaths:

  • Naturopathic physicians hold medical degrees. These practitioners are often licensed or registered (jurisdictions that regulate naturopathic medicine are listed below) and are sometimes registered.
  • The second group refers to themselves as traditional naturopaths.

The two groups have recently held much animosity toward each other and have been in legal battles.


History of naturopathic medicine

The term naturopathy was coined before 1900, apparently by Benedict Lust (pronounced loost, from the German). Lust has 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.

Naturopathic medicine went into decline, along with most other natural health professions, after the 1930s. Lust's death, conflict between various schools of natural medicine (homeopathy, eclectics, physio-medicalism, herbalism, naturopathic medicine, etc.), the rise of medical technology, and consolidation of political power in convention medicine were all contributing factors. In 1910, 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 mostly was seen as an attack on low-quality natural medicine education. It caused many programs to shut down and furthered the monopoly on medicine by conventional medical doctors.

Naturopathic medicine never completely ceased to exist—there were always a few states in which licensing laws existed, though at one point there were no schools. One of the most visible steps towards the profession's modern renewal was the opening in 1956 of National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon. This was the first of the modern naturopathic medical schools offering four-year, science-based naturopathic medical training.

Naturopathic physicians

Naturopathic physician are primary care physicians with licenses or registration. They graduate from accredited four-year graduate schools and receive the same basic science and clinical training as conventional medical doctors. Their training with respect to modalities is different, with a focus on nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, physical manipulation, pharmacology, and minor surgery. Some naturopathic physicians have additional training in natural childbirth and/or acupuncture.

Traditional naturopaths

The second practice is so-called "traditional naturopathy". It recognizes that conventional medicine has value for individuals who are injured, suffering from trauma, suffering from congenital or genetic disorders, and otherwise need a highly-trained individual who can intercede to help them survive and recover. The traditional naturopath practices in a complementary fashion by applying natural means to improve the patient's health. Through application of good dietary and lifestyle practices, combined with the addition of modalities such as herbalism, bodywork, spiritual and mental exercises, this type of naturopath enables an individual to take ownership and better control of his or her own health and well-being. Naturopaths consider these practices as being complementary rather than alternative. Traditional naturopaths typically have correspondence-school training, and occasionally may participate in some type of apprenticeship program. They work with individuals who can, by application of these techniques, either enhance or regain their good health. They are not legally licensed to practice in any state in the United States, except Minnesota where their scope of practice is limited. Traditional naturopaths do not diagnose and they do not treat diseases. For these, they rely on medical doctors.

Traditional naturopaths believe there is a crucial relationship between the body, mind, and spirit and by using methods and practices that they believe have been successfully applied for centuries and in many societies, traditional naturopaths attempt to empower individuals to regain ability to live in the best possible state of health. Traditional naturopaths and medical doctors can work with the same individual cooperatively in order to help the patient recover.


The basic tenets.

The healing power of nature

The healing power of nature, that the body has the ability to heal itself and it is the physician's role to facilitate this natural process.

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 physician'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 these 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

Every individual deserves a personalized healing plan, and all the complex factors affecting a person's health and illness should always be considered.

The physician as teacher

It is the role of the physician to educate an individual 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.


Jurisdictions that currently regulate naturopathic medicine include:

Naturopathy vs. natural hygiene

The beliefs of naturopathy and natural hygiene are quite similar. Naturopathy developed from the water and nature cure in Europe during the 19th century. Natural hygiene developed from the water cure in America during the 19th century. Natural hygiene talks about blood toxemia while naturopathy talks about the accumulation of morbid matter. Naturopathy, however, is a lot more eclectic than natural hygiene is. Natural hygiene prohibits all use of drugs including herbal and homeopathic medicines. Natural hygiene's primary treatment method is fasting, and does not use any manipulative therapy. Naturopathy has many methods of treatment. Naturopathy as an eclectic art uses both herbal and homeopathic medicines as well as the manipulative therapies of body work or massage therapy, osteopathy, and chiropractic.


Most of the concerns of naturopathy are due to the large differences between naturopathic practitioners and the lack of scientific documentation of safety and efficacy of their practices. However, a large portion of standard medical practice has also never been rigorously tested. Naturopathic practitioners also find themselves in a Catch 22 situation when it comes to obtaining financing for research. Because of lack of prior research in many areas, granting institutions and other funding sources often turn down proposed research projects, making it difficult to do the research everyone seems to agree should be done.

While there have been several cases in which licensed naturopathic physicians and traditional naturopaths have harmed or even killed patients, this does not mean the entire profession can be condemned. The same is true of conventional medicine where of course individual practitioners cause patient injury or death, but this does not mean the entire system of medicine should be condemned.

See also

External links




es:Naturopatía it:Naturopatia


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