About Naturopathy

The Six Principles

The term “naturopathy” was coined in 1892 to describe a rapidly growing system of natural therapeutics that drew from Hippocrates and the traditional and indigenous medicines of the world. Today’s naturopathic doctors blend modern, science-based diagnostic and therapeutic procedures with ancient and traditional methods. Naturopathic physicians follow six fundamental principles of naturopathic medicine:

  1. The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Nature)Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent ability in the body which is ordered and intelligent. Naturopathic physicians identify and remove obstacles to recovery and facilitate and augment this healing ability.
  2. Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle Causam)Naturopathic physicians seek to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness, rather than to eliminate or merely suppress symptoms.
  3. First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere)Naturopathic medicine follows three principles to avoid harming the patient:
    • Use methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects.
    • Avoid, when possible, the harmful suppression of symptoms.
    • Acknowledge and respect the individual’s healing process, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat illness.
  4. Doctor as Teacher (Docere)Naturopathic physicians educate the patient and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also acknowledge the therapeutic value inherent in the doctor-patient relationship.
  5. Treat the Whole PersonNaturopathic physicians treat each patient by taking into account physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual path.
  6. PreventionNaturopathic physicians emphasize disease prevention, assessment of risk factors, hereditary susceptibility to disease and making appropriate interventions to prevent illness. Naturopathic medicine strives to create a healthy world in which humanity may thrive.

Wellness follows the establishment and maintenance of optimum health and balance. Wellness is a state of being healthy, characterized by positive emotion, thought and action. Wellness is inherent in everyone, no matter what diseases are being experienced. If wellness is really recognized and experienced by an individual, it will more quickly heal a given disease than direct treatment of the disease alone. (This principle was adopted by Bastyr University and added to the six principles.)

Licensure Requirements of Naturopathic Doctors

All states and provinces with laws regulating the practice of naturopathic medicine require a resident course of at least four years and 4,100 hours of doctoral-level study from a college or university recognized by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). To qualify for a license, the applicant must satisfactorily pass the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX), which includes basic sciences, diagnostic and therapeutic subjects and clinical sciences.

Applicants must satisfy all licensing requirements for the state or province to which they have applied. Please consult the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) website for current U.S. licensure information.

Legal Status of the Profession

Naturopathic doctors are licensed or registered as health care providers in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Legal provisions allow the practice of naturopathic medicine in several other states. Naturopathic doctors are also recognized in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. Efforts to gain licensure elsewhere are currently underway.

Additionally, professional associations exist in 42 states and 11 provinces.

For more information about naturopathy, including its history, see the What is Naturopathic Medicine section of the Bastyr University website.