Naturopathy is a system of healthcare with a deep history of traditional philosophies and practices, medically trained practitioners and a breadth of natural treatment options to serve patients.

Naturopathic History

Naturopathy has been part of Germany for centuries. Many of the principles and philosophies of naturopathy originated in Germany and Europe in the 16th and 17th century. The original naturopaths – prior to 1900s – from around the world, were trained by European doctors using hydrotherapy, herbal medicine and other traditional forms of healing. Currently, European countries consider their practice of naturopathy as a system of healthcare that has evolved by incorporating the traditional medicine of each country with the naturopathic principles, theories, modalities and traditions that have been codified in North America. Traditional forms of naturopathic teaching and practice are still common in Europe.

North America is considered the home of modern naturopathy, or naturopathic medicine. Most North American schools are government-accredited and all regions within North America are working toward regulation or licensure (with 50% of Canadian provinces and 38% of all states / regions in the USA regulated). There are strong national and regional naturopathic associations, ongoing naturopathic research and specialized groups and journals to support the practice of naturopathic medicine. North America is credited with codifying the naturopathic principles and for contributing some of the established theories and practices that are now used worldwide.

Throughout its history, naturopathy / naturopathic medicine is introduced into a country when a naturopath / naturopathic doctor that has been trained in North America or Europe moves and takes their skills with them. There is a synthesis of the European or North American training with the traditional systems of medicine in their country. For example, naturopathy was introduced to India after a medical doctor was trained by naturopaths in Europe; two of the respondents from South East Asia indicated that they were originally trained in the USA.

The World Naturopathic Federation is currently undergoing a research project to clarify and codify the historic roots of naturopathy from around the world.

Naturopathic Principles

Although there has been historically broad discussions on the principles and practice of naturopathic medicine, there was no formal codification process until 1986, when the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) formed a committee that consisted of naturopathic doctors Pamela Snider, Jared Zeff and others. These practitioners spent over three years reviewing the historic data and documents and interviewing over 1,000 people. In 1989, a definition of naturopathic medicine and the description of the six naturopathic principles was formally codified and accepted by the two North American national naturopathic associations (American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND)).Based on the 2014/2015 global naturopathic workforce survey these principles appear to have international recognition and acceptance.

The naturopathic principles taught in most countries include:

  • First, Do No Harm (primum non nocere)
  • Healing Power of Nature (vis medicatrixnaturae)
  • Treat the Cause (tollecausam)
  • Treat The Whole Person (tolletotum)
  • Doctor as Teacher (docere)
  • Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
  • Wellness

Naturopathic Theories

There are a number of naturopathic theories practiced around the world including:

  • Humoral Theory
  • Therapeutic Order
  • Emunctories
    Theory of Complex Systems

Naturopathic Modalities

The naturopathic modalities or therapies used around the world vary by country. Some of the most common naturopathic modalities include:

  • Clinical Nutrition
  • Botanical Medicine (Herbalism)
  • Homeopathic Medicine
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine / Acupuncture
  • Physical Medicine
  • Hydrotherapy – Water Cure
  • Prevention and Lifestyle Counselling
  • Hygiene Therapy
  • Nature Cure

Some naturopathic doctors will have additional training in other natural therapies such as:

  • Ayurvedic Medicine
  • Prescription Rights
  • IV Therapies
  • Chelation Therapy
  • Minor Surgery
  • Colon Therapy

Global Naturopathic Regulation

Naturopathy is practiced in every world region, spanning over eighty countries. Statutory regulation of the naturopathic profession currently exists in jurisdictions in North America, India, Europe and Latin America. To be a full member of the WNF, associations must support and be working toward regulation. They must also support educational accreditation and advancement of educational standards.

Naturopathic Regulatory Process
The statutory regulation of naturopathy, like all professionals, is strongly correlated with educational standards and is influenced by the political landscape in each country and the regulation of other traditional and complementary systems of medicine in the region. Every country or region that has regulation is supported by a professional naturopathic association. For those countries / regions that do not yet have regulation, the WNF encourages that professional naturopathic associations engage in self-governance activities that protect the public as they work towards regulation.

Overview of Statutory Naturopathic Regulation Globally
The regulation of naturopathic practitioners is diverse. It covers Naturopathic Technicians, Licensed Naturopaths, Diploma in Naturopathy and Naturopathic Doctors. Naturopathic practitioners in Europe are referred to as Heilpraktiker or Naturopaths. In North America and India, naturopathic practitioners are regulated as Naturopathic Doctors and/or Naturopathic Physicians. In Latin America, regulation exists for both Naturopathic Technicians and Doctors of Naturopathy. This difference reflects the educational differences, yet the foundational philosophy and principles are the same.

Click to read the WNF’s Global Naturopathic Regulation report