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, both naturopathic doctors and traditional naturopaths practice naturopathic medicine. A licensed naturopathic doctor (ND) attends a 4-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school where he or she studies basic sciences and therapies such as herbal medicine, homeopathy, and bodywork. Naturopaths may attend training programs that vary in length and content, but they usually aren’t licensed.

Most naturopathic doctors and naturopaths believe in natural therapies, such as nutrition and lifestyle counselling. They may also suggest herbal medicines, homeopathic dilutions, physical medication (for example, therapeutic massage) or nutritional supplements. In some provinces, naturopathic doctors can also prescribe medications such as antibiotics.


What is naturopathy used for?

Some people use naturopathic medicine to promote good health, prevent disease, and treat illness. Most naturopathic doctors can treat earaches, allergies, and other common health problems.

Talk with your medical doctor about any complementary health practice that you would like to try or are already using. Your medical doctor can help you manage your health better if he or she knows about all of your health practices.

Naturopathy licensing varies from province to province. Not all provinces require naturopathic doctors 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 naturopathic doctor, 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.

Naturopathic doctors address the fundamental causes of disease, heal the whole person through individualized treatment, and teach the principles of healthy living and preventative medicine. The Doctor of Naturopathy degree program provides more than 3,000 hours of classroom training and 1,200 hours of clinical experience. The foundation for a successful career as a naturopathic doctor is gained through courses in:

  • History, philosophy and principles of naturopathic medicine;
  • Art and practice of naturopathic medicine;
  • Foundations of naturopathic medicine; and
  • Biomedical sciences.