National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)

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Naturopathy

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
  • Homeopathy
  • 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 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.