Also known as: Nutritional and herbal medicine, Alternative medicine

What is naturopathy?

Naturopathic medicine is more than 100 years old. There are more than 3,500 licensed naturopathic doctors (ND) in the U.S. And there are 7 medical schools that are accredited for naturopathic medicine.

Naturopathic medicine is a lot like conventional medicine in terms of diagnosing disease. It uses lab tests, imaging tests, a physical exam, and health history. The difference between conventional medicine and naturopathic medicine lies in the types of treatment that are recommended. Naturopathic healthcare providers don't typically use prescription medicines as the first treatment offered. Instead, they use natural and lifestyle treatments. These include changes to diet, herbal medicine, homeopathy, exercise, dietary supplements, and acupuncture.

Naturopathy's main goal is to use the natural healing power of the body to fight disease. This power is also known as the Vis or life force. Almost any illness can be treated by naturopathic healthcare providers. In some states, naturopathic doctors are considered primary care providers. They can prescribe medicines in the same way as medical doctors (MDs).

Naturopathic treatments may include:

  • Botanical or herbal medicine

  • Nutrition

  • Homeopathy

  • Acupuncture

  • Oriental medicine

  • Hydrotherapy. This is using water as a medical treatment.

  • Manipulative therapy

  • Lifestyle medicine. This is using exercise, sleep habits, and changes to relieve stress.

  • Biofeedback and counseling

Naturopathic doctors often work with other healthcare professionals. They refer people to MDs or other specialists when needed.