What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathy is a distinct philosophy of health that seeks to maximize wellness by assisting the body's innate capacity to recover from illness and injury, and by increasing the function of biochemical processes that are necessary for health. Naturopathic doctors may employ any number of modalities, including herbs and dietary supplements, acupressure and acupuncture, nutrition and medical dietetics, mechanotherapy, hydrotherapy, counseling, minor surgery, and pharmacy. As a group, naturopathic practitioners embrace both scientific and non-scientific approaches to health and wellness, and individual practices may vary according to both style and training.

Naturopathic practitioners are health professionals with an eclectic background of education and training. Regulation and integration into the scientific consensus varies widely among regions of the world, and the United States.

Licensed naturopathic doctors complete a four-year medical program accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a national accrediting body, and pass medical board exams administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners.

The organization representing accredited naturopathic medical programs in the United States and Canada is the American Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges. Many naturopathic doctors are also members of state and national naturopathic organizations.

Naturopathy is a holistic system of medicine that is global in its scope of philosophy and practice. Its philosophical roots draw from the ancient Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, and Greek traditions as illuminated by the great philosophers of antiquity. In addition to ancient and traditional methods, its modern practice is informed by pharmacological and surgical methods as well as evidence-based medicine and systems biology.

Principles of Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic and Conventional Medicine Curriculum Comparison

The naturopathic medical curriculum about 75% similar to that of a medical doctor, and differs in other important respects. Training in the basic sciences like anatomy, physiology, and pathology are essentially identical. Both types of programs use the exact same textbooks and spend a similar amount of classroom hours on the basic sciences and diagnostics like lab tests and imaging. While both programs also include clinical nutrition and pharmacology, the naturopathic medicine curriculum is more heavily weighted toward clinical nutrition, while the conventional medical curriculum is more heavily weighted toward pharmacology. Naturopathic physicians learn minor surgical techniques while many medical doctors receive extensive additional training in surgical procedures.

Both kinds of doctors undergo supervised clinical training while in medical school. However since there are very few residency positions currently available for naturopaths, completing a residency is not as common for naturopathic doctors as it is for MDs.

For more specific information regarding the differences in curriculum between naturopathic and conventional medical school, please see: What Do Naturopaths Learn in Medical School?