Also called naturopathy
Naturopathic medicine focuses on health rather than sickness and uses “natural” approaches to healing. It is based on the belief that the body can be stimulated to heal itself using the healing power of nature.
Naturopathic medicine is a system of healing that began in Germany in the 1800s. The word naturopathy comes from Greek and Latin and means nature disease.
Use and claims
Naturopathic medicine uses the healing power of nature to promote and restore health. Naturopathic therapies have been used for a variety of conditions.
Naturopathic practitioners use natural methods, which are believed to be less invasive and cause fewer side effects than conventional medical treatments.
How it is given
Naturopathic medicine focuses on treating the whole person. The naturopath identifies and treats the cause of the condition or disease. Naturopathic medicine uses a wide variety of natural healing approaches, and practitioners also teach disease prevention. The main therapies used in naturopathic medicine include:
- traditional Chinese medicine practices such as acupuncture
- herbal remedies
- manipulative body-based practices such as massage or water treatments (hydrotherapy)
- nutrition such as dietary changes, nutritional supplements, vitamin or mineral supplements
- homeopathic medicine, which uses very small amounts of plant, animal or mineral substances
- lifestyle counselling about lifestyle choices that contribute to overall health
The naturopath examines the person and asks questions about their health history, lifestyle practices and reason for the visit. The naturopath may order diagnostic tests within the scope of their practice. The naturopath then decides on a management plan that may include one or more therapies. Some naturopathic methods are used along with conventional medicine.
In order to practice as a naturopathic doctor (ND), a practitioner must have a diploma in naturopathic medicine and be certified by an appropriate provincial or national board. Some provinces have licensing boards that regulate the practice of naturopathic medicine. Other practitioners are traditional naturopaths, who are self-taught or have learned by working alongside another naturopath (as an apprentice). They may focus on one or a few of the naturopathic approaches.
Summary of the evidence
A limited number of studies on individual naturopathic methods have been published. The available evidence is often based on historical or anecdotal information. Naturopathic medicine uses many different therapies, and there isn't adequate research to evaluate the effectiveness of naturopathic medicine as a whole system that combines several therapies.
Scientific evidence does not support naturopathic medicine as a treatment or cure for cancer.
Potential side effects and risks
Although naturopathic practitioners use methods and medicines that have minimal risk of harmful side effects, some naturopathic remedies may potentially cause harm. Some herbal remedies may interact with prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs or other herbs, which could be dangerous. Always tell the doctor, pharmacist and naturopathic practitioner about any medications, herbal remedies and herbs being taken.