Naturopathy or naturopathic medicine is a form of alternative medicine based on a belief in vitalism which posits that a special energy called “vital energy” or “vital force” guides bodily processes such as metabolism, reproduction, growth, and adaptation. Naturopathy favors a holistic approach with non-invasive treatment and generally avoids the use of surgery and drugs. Practitioners of naturopathy often prefer methods of treatment that are not compatible with evidence-based medicine, and in doing so, reject the tenets of biomedicine and modern science. Naturopathic medicine is replete with pseudoscientific, ineffective, unethical, and possibly dangerous practices.
The term “naturopathy” is derived from Latin and Greek, and literally translates as “nature disease”. Modern naturopathy grew out of the Natural Cure movement of Europe. The term was coined in 1895 by John Scheel and popularized by Benedict Lust, the “father of U.S. naturopathy”. Beginning in the 1970s, there was a revival of interest in the United States and Canada, in conjunction with the holistic health movement. Today, naturopathy is primarily practiced in the United States and Canada. The scope of practice varies widely between jurisdictions, and naturopaths in unregulated jurisdictions may use the Naturopathic Doctor designation or other titles regardless of level of education.
Naturopathic practitioners in the United States can be divided into three categories: traditional naturopaths; naturopathic physicians; and other health care providers that provide naturopathic services. Naturopathic physicians employ the principles of naturopathy within the context of conventional medical practices. Naturopathy comprises many different treatment modalities, including nutritional and herbal medicine, lifestyle advice, counseling, flower essence, homeopathy and remedial massage.
Much of the ideology and methodological underpinnings of naturopathy are in conflict with the paradigm of evidence-based medicine. Many naturopaths have opposed vaccination based in part on the early views that shaped the profession. According to the American Cancer Society, “scientific evidence does not support claims that naturopathic medicine can cure cancer or any other disease, since virtually no studies on naturopathy as a whole have been published.”