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By Steven Novella, MD

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Naturopathy began as a formal health care system in the US during the early 1900s. Founded on the healing power of nature, naturopathy emphasizes

  • Prevention and treatment of disease through a healthy lifestyle

  • Treatment of the whole patient

  • Use of the body’s natural healing abilities

Some of this system’s principles are not that different from those of traditional healing systems such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine.

Naturopathy uses a combination of therapies, including acupuncture, counseling, exercise therapy, medicinal herbs, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, natural childbirth, nutrition, physical therapies (eg, heat or cold therapy, ultrasound, massage), guided imagery, and stress management.

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians tends to discourage childhood vaccinations.

Evidence for Naturopathy

Many naturopathic diagnostic and treatment methods are unproved or even disproved. An example is hydrotherapy (application of cold or hot water compresses), which is used to treat many conditions; this therapy is specific to naturopathy. Despite a wide range of claims made for hydrotherapy, no published studies demonstrate its efficacy1.

  • 1 Kamioka H, Tsutani K, Okuizumi H, et al : Effectiveness of aquatic exercise and balneotherapy: a summary of systematic reviews based on randomized controlled trials of water immersion therapies. J Epidemiol 20(1):2–12, 2010. [Epub 2009 Oct 31.]

* This is the Professional Version. *