Topic Overview

What is naturopathic medicine?

Naturopathic medicine (or naturopathy) is based on the belief that the body can heal itself. It aims to improve health, prevent disease, and treat illness through the use of organic foods and exercise; a healthy, balanced lifestyle; and the use of treatments from other areas of complementary medicine. (These treatments include ayurveda, homeopathy, and herbal therapies.)

Naturopathy was developed in the late 1800s in the United States. Today, a licensed naturopathic doctor (ND) attends a 4-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school. He or she studies basic sciences and alternative therapies, such as herbal medicine, homeopathy, and bodywork.

Most traditional naturopathic physicians (naturopaths) believe in natural therapies, such as nutritional and lifestyle counselling. They tend to avoid prescribing medicines or doing surgery. Some naturopaths prescribe herbal medicines, homeopathic dilutions, or nutritional supplements. Some may perform minor surgeries.

What is naturopathy used for?

People use naturopathic medicine to promote good health, prevent disease, and treat illness. Most naturopaths can treat earaches, allergies, and other common health problems. Naturopathy tries to find the cause of the problem rather than just treating symptoms.

Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy or are thinking about combining one with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to rely only on an alternative therapy.

Naturopathy licensing varies from province to province. Not all provinces require naturopaths to be licensed. Also, not all naturopathic training programs are the same. Some schools grant degrees that are not accepted by provincial licensing boards. In Canada and the United States, the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) is the only agency recognized by government-appointed regulatory boards to accredit naturopathic programs and universities.

Before you choose a naturopath, find out if the person graduated from an accredited university. Also check to see if your province has licensing laws that govern the practice of NDs. If your province licenses NDs, ask the ND if he or she is licensed.



  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). Some common misconceptions about vaccination and how to respond to them. Available online:

Other Works Consulted

  • Zeff JL, et al. (2013). A hierarchy of healing: The therapeutic order. In JE Pizzorno, MT Murray, eds., Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 18–33. St. Louis: Mosby.


Adaptation Date: 7/14/2016

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Date: 7/14/2016

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC