Naturopathy—also called naturopathic medicine—is a medical system that has evolved from a combination of traditional practices and health care approaches popular in Europe during the 19th century.
People visit naturopathic practitioners for various health-related purposes, including primary care, overall well-being, and treatment of illnesses.
In the United States, naturopathy is practiced by naturopathic physicians, traditional naturopaths, and other health care providers who also offer naturopathic services.
What Naturopathic Practitioners Do
Naturopathic practitioners use many different treatment approaches. Examples include:
- Dietary and lifestyle changes
- Stress reduction
- Herbs and other dietary supplements
- Manipulative therapies
- Exercise therapy
- Practitioner-guided detoxification
- Psychotherapy and counseling.
Some practitioners use other methods as well or, if appropriate, may refer patients to conventional health care providers.
Education and Licensure of Practitioners
Education and licensing differ for the three types of naturopathic practitioners:
- Naturopathic physicians generally complete a 4-year, graduate-level program at one of the North American naturopathic medical schools accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education, an organization recognized for accreditation purposes by the U.S. Department of Education. Some U.S. states and territories have licensing requirements for naturopathic physicians; others don’t. In those jurisdictions that have licensing requirements, naturopathic physicians must graduate from a 4-year naturopathic medical college and pass an examination to receive a license. They must also fulfill annual continuing education requirements.
- Traditional naturopaths, also known simply as “naturopaths,” may receive training in a variety of ways. Training programs vary in length and content and are not accredited by organizations recognized for accreditation purposes by the U.S. Department of Education. Traditional naturopaths are often not eligible for licensing.
- Other health care providers (such as physicians, osteopathic physicians, chiropractors, dentists, and nurses) sometimes offer naturopathic treatments, functional medicine, and other holistic therapies, having pursued additional training in these areas. Training programs vary.
Remember that regulations, licenses, or certificates do not guarantee safe, effective treatment from any health care provider—conventional or complementary. To learn more, see the NCCIH fact sheet Credentialing, Licensing, and Education.
Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
For More Information
The NCCIH Clearinghouse provides information on NCCIH and complementary and integrative health approaches, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.
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Know the Science
NCCIH and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provide tools to help you understand the basics and terminology of scientific research so you can make well-informed decisions about your health. Know the Science features a variety of materials, including interactive modules, quizzes, and videos, as well as links to informative content from Federal resources designed to help consumers make sense of health information.
Explaining How Research Works (NIH)
Know the Science: 9 Questions To Help You Make Sense of Health Research
A service of the National Library of Medicine, PubMed® contains publication information and (in most cases) brief summaries of articles from scientific and medical journals. For guidance from NCCIH on using PubMed, see How To Find Information About Complementary Health Approaches on PubMed.
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NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.