Naturopathic medicine emphasizes prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances. This form of alternative medicine employs an array of pseudoscientific practices based on vitalism and folk medicine. Naturopathic practitioners often recommend that patients refrain from utilizing modern medical practices, which include medical testing, drugs, vaccinations, and surgery. Rather, naturopathic study and practice rely on unscientific beliefs. As a result, many in the medical field believe naturopathic medicine to be ineffective and possibly harmful.
On its own, naturopathy is not harmful. Methods include herbalism, homeopathy, acupuncture, applied kinesiology, color therapy, cranial osteopathy, hair analysis, psychotherapy, reflexology, and massage therapy. Nature cures are very common in this form of medicine; this includes exposure to the natural elements, such as sunshine, fresh air, or natural heat and cold, as well as nutritional advice like following vegetarian and whole food diets. Naturopathy preaches “mindfulness” through meditation, relaxation, and other methods of stress management. These methods, while potentially ineffective, are not dangerous.
However, the beliefs associated with naturopathy, such as antivaccination stances and advising against the use of Western medicine, can be incredibly harmful to patients. The advising of individuals to refrain from medical treatment and diagnosis has brought up several ethical questions within the medical community. There is concern that naturopathy as a field tends toward isolation from general scientific discourage; natural substances, known as nutraceuticals, show little promise in treating severe diseases—especially cancer. While recreational use of naturopathy is not harmful, adopting its hardline positions on Western medicine can cause significant harm.
Naturopaths represent a diverse group of practitioners: those with a government-issued license, those who practice outside of an official status, and those who are primarily another type of health professional who may also practice naturopathy. Licensed naturopaths must pass the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations, which is administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners.