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, a licensed naturopathic doctor (ND) attends a 4-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school. He or she studies basic sciences and alternative therapies, such as herbal medicine, homeopathy, and bodywork.
Most traditional naturopathic physicians (naturopaths) believe in natural therapies, such as nutritional and lifestyle counseling. They tend to avoid prescribing medicines or doing surgery. Some naturopaths prescribe herbal medicines, homeopathic dilutions, or nutritional supplements. Some may perform minor surgeries.
People use naturopathic medicine to promote good health, prevent disease, and treat illness. Most naturopaths can treat earaches, allergies, and other common health problems. Naturopathy tries to find the cause of the problem rather than just treating symptoms.
Naturopathy licensing varies from state to state. Not all states require naturopaths to be licensed. Also, not all naturopathic training programs are the same. Some schools grant degrees that are not accepted by state licensing boards. In the United States, the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) is the only agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit naturopathic programs and colleges.