Naturopathy – Natural Medicine Basics, Definition, Practices

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S


Naturopathy is a form of alternative medicine. It is a broad spectrum of many type of practices using natural resources such as mud, water, herbs, etc. 

Body heals by itself – Naturopathy believes that the human body has an ability to heal itself. This happens through a special force or ‘vital energy’. This force being inside our body would guide the bodily processes to keep going. If the processes go wrong, the inner force will help in recovery and healing and establishes the regain of functions.

Salient features

Salient features of Naturopathy (Naturopathic Medicine)
It is a form of alternative medicine.
It includes a wide array of therapeutic practices which are considered as ‘natural’, ‘non-invasive’ & ‘promoters of self healing’.

Methods followed

Methods followed in Naturopathy
The practices of Naturopathy may include one or more of the below mentioned methods –

Herbalism – study and use of plants intended for medicinal / diet purposes

Homeopathy – It is a system of alternative medicine developed by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796. It is based on his doctrine of ‘like cures like’. According to this doctrine, any substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people.

Acupuncture – It is a form of alternative medicine in which thin needles are inserted into the body. It is a component of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).

Nature cures – This includes a range of therapies based on exposure to the natural elements such as sunshine, fresh air or heat or cold. It also includes nutrition advice such as following a vegetarian and whole food diet, fasting and abstinence from alcohol and sugar.

Physical medicine – Physical medicine and rehabilitation (physiatry) is a medicinal branch which aims to enhance and restore the functional ability and quality of life to those with physical impairments or disabilities. The physiatrists restore optimal function to people with injuries related to the muscles, bones, ligaments and nervous system.

Applied kinesiology – It is a technique claimed to diagnose an illness or choose treatment by testing muscles for strength and weakness.

Colonic enemas – It encompasses a number of alterative medical therapies. They claim to remove nonspecific toxins from the colon and intestinal tract by removing any accumulations of feces. It is also called colon hydrotherapy, colonic or colonic irrigation.

Chelation therapy – It is a medical procedure that involves the administration of chelating agents to remove heavy metals from the body.

Color therapy – It is also called as chromotherapy, colorology or cromatherapy. It is an alternative medicine (pseudoscience). Chromotherapists claim to be able to use light in the form of color to balance ‘energy’ lacking from a person’s body, whether it be on physical, emotional, spiritual or mental levels.

Cranial osteopathy (CST) – It is a form of bodywork or alternative therapy. Here gentle touch is used to palpate the synarthrodial joints of the cranium. The practitioner of CST may also apply light touches to a patient’s spine and pelvic bones. They believe that this palpation regulates the flow of CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) and aids in primary respiration.

Hair analysis – In this the chemical analysis of hair sample is done. It is a method of investigation to assist alternative diagnosis.

Iridology – It is an alternative medicine technique. The proponents of this practice claim that patterns, colors and other characteristics of the iris can be examined to determine information about a patient’s systemic health. Iridologists see the eyes as ‘windows’ into the body’s state of health.

Live blood analysis (LBA) – It is also known as live cell analysis, hemaview or nutritional blood analysis. In this high-resolution dark field microscopy is used to observe live blood cells. Its practitioners believe that it helps in diagnosing many diseases.

Ozone therapy – It is a form of alternative medicine treatment that purports to increase the amount of oxygen in the body through the introduction of ozone.

Psychotherapy – It is the use of psychological methods, particularly when based on regular personal interaction, to help a person change and overcome problems in desired ways. It aims to improve an individual’s well-being and mental health, to resolve or mitigate troublesome behaviors, beliefs, compulsions, thoughts or emotions and to improve relationships and social skills.

Public health measures and hygiene – It is the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting human health through organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals. Analyzing the health of a population and the threats is the basis for public health.

Reflexology (zone therapy) – It is an alternative medicine involving application of pressure to the feet and hands with specific thumb, finger and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on a pseudoscientific system of zones and reflex areas that purportedly reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work effects a physical change to the body.

Rolfing – It is a form of alternative medicine, developed by Ida Rolf as a part of Structural Integration. It is based on his ideas about how the human body’s energy field can benefit when aligned with the Earth’s gravitational field.

Massage therapy – Massage is to work and act on the body with pressure. Massage techniques are commonly applied with hands, fingers, elbows, knees, forearm, feet or a device. It is generally used to treat body stress or pain. People who are professionally trained to give massages were traditionally known as masseurs or masseuses. The term massage therapist has been promoted.

Traditional Chinese Medicine – It is a style of traditional medicine built on a foundation of more than 2,500 years of Chinese medical practice that includes various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, exercise (qigong) and dietary therapy.

Naturopathy practitioners

Naturopathy practitioners and their methods

  • Many Naturopaths consider themselves as ‘primary care providers’.
  • Many would adopt natural ways of healing. Some may prescribe drugs.
  • Some others may blend minor surgery and also integrate other conventional medical approaches such as diet and lifestyle counseling in their practice.
  • Traditional naturopaths deal exclusively with lifestyle changes. They are not worried on diagnosing or treating the diseases.

Most Naturopaths, in their practice totally follow a holistic approach. They completely avoid use of drugs and surgery to cure diseases. They also would not recommend vaccines and antibiotics. Their aim is to prevent illness through essential changes made with respect to diet and lifestyle, reducing stress and rejection of the methods of evidence-based medicines.

Consultation of patient – includes a lengthy interview of the patient and focus on their lifestyle, medical history, emotions, physical features and physical examination.

Naturopathic practitioners or Naturopaths represent a diverse group of practitioners. They are categorized into 3 groups –

Naturopaths with a government issued license (Licensed Naturopaths) – They must pass the NPLEX i.e. Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE).

Naturopaths who practice outside official status (Traditional Naturopaths)

Naturopaths who are basically another kind of health professional who also practices naturopathy

In different countries Naturopathy, if allowed as a part of health care system, is run by many rules and regulations depending on the country or countries in which it is practiced. In India, naturopathy is overseen by the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH). There is 5 ½ years degree in BNYS (Bachelor of Naturopathy and Yogic Sciences’.

Other facts and figures

  • According to medical profession – Naturopathy is ineffective and harmful practice.
  • Naturopathy practitioners are looked upon as quacks.
  • Naturopaths have been criminally liable in the courts of law around the world.
  • Naturopaths and Naturopathic doctors are not considered as medical professions in many countries. Practice of naturopathy in such countries is a criminal offence.
  • According to the American Cancer Society, ‘scientific evidence does not support claims that naturopathic medicine can cure cancer or any other disease’.
  • In 2015, the Australian Government’s Department of Health published the results of a review on alternative therapies. Naturopathy was one of the 17 therapies evaluated for which no clear evidence of effectiveness was found.

History of Naturopathy

Naturopathy = Naturo (birth) + Pathos (suffering), therefore, Naturopathy = ‘Natural Healing’.

First advocator of Naturopathic medicine (when this term did not exist) – Hippocrates

19th century – Roots of naturopathy are found in ‘Nature Cure Movement’ of Europe.

1880’s – Hygienic Medicine = natural diet and exercise + avoidance of tobacco and overwork – advocated by Thomas Allison in Scotland.

1895 – John Scheel coined the term Naturopathy. Later the term was purchased by Benedict Lust (Father of U.S. Naturopathy). Lust included techniques like hydrotherapy, herbal medicine and homeopathy, eliminating of overeating, tea, coffee and alcohol in Naturopathy.

1901 – American School of Naturopathy was founded by Lust in New York.

1902 – The original North American Kneipp Societies were discontinued and renamed ‘Naturopathic Societies’.

1919 – Naturopathic Society of America was dissolved. Lust founded the ‘American Naturopathic Association’. Naturopathy was adopted by many chiropractors. Several schools offered both ND (Doctor of Naturopathy) and DC (Doctor of Chiropractic) degrees.

After 1930s – Decline of Naturopathy for several decades. Criticism in journals, advent of penicillin and consequent popularity of modern medicine contributed to the decline of naturopathy.

1968 – United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare issued a report recommending against expanding Medicare coverage to include naturopathic treatments. In 1977 an Australian committee did not recommend licensure for naturopaths.

1970s – Following ‘holistic health’ movement, there was revival of interest about naturopathy in United States and Canada.

2009 – 15 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia licensed naturopathic doctors. The State of Washington requires the insurance companies to offer reimbursement for services provided by naturopathic physicians.
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2 thoughts on “Naturopathy – Natural Medicine Basics, Definition, Practices”

  1. Just waste of time. There is nothing called Naturopathy. No means of diagnosis or preventive care. There is big lobby behind it that is why it is existing. Ayurveda includes everything but even Ayurveda doctors, law makers are afraid of saying it. I will never tryt Naturopathy treatment provided at Naturopathy centers.

    Recently Essel group owner Subhash chandra opened a luxury Naturopathic center in US called YO1. He has no guts to call in Yoga center or Ayurveda center or Traditional medicine center etc. Because it is bussiness.

  2. Dear Dr. Kamath, NATUROPATHY is a modern name to a combination of treatments which includes AYURVEDA, ACUPRESSURE, ACUPUNCTURE, YOGA, UNNANI, SIDHA, HOMEOPATHY, ETC. NATUROPATHY means no use of allopathy medicines, just using NATURAL things and ways to cure a disease.

    Dr. Vmal Sharma. MD


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