Is Naturopathic Medicine Safe?

Safety is the core concept behind naturopathic medicine. Therapies that use natural, botanical medicine, exercise, nutrition and lifestyle modification aim to minimize side effects while maximizing results. Licensed naturopathic doctors must go through a medical school program comparable to that of conventional medical doctors, with the added demand of learning about natural medicine and other non-invasive therapies.

Naturopathic Medicine Offers a Holistic Approach to Health

To produce the best results for patients, naturopathic health care providers follow the Therapeutic Order. This approach to medicine:

  • Seeks to identify the underlying cause of every disease, rather than treating symptoms.
  • Encourages self-healing through personalized treatment plans.
  • Applies natural medicines when needed.
  • And recognizes the value of conventional medicine when aggressive interventions are demanded.

This final point deserves special attention. Naturopathic doctors emphasize prevention and seek to encourage the patient’s natural self-healing processes. The naturopathic process treats the whole person, rather than individual symptoms or health issues.

This practice does not exclude the need for conventional medicine; rather, it includes it within the framework of treatment, but as a last resort. As this becomes more and more understood throughout the medical community, interest in the potential of natural medicine has grown. This may explain the greater availability of integrative care and the cooperation between naturopathic and conventional doctors.

Naturopathic Medicine is Safe and Effective

It may also explain the increased number of studies examining the safety and effectiveness of naturopathic medicine in the treatment of many common conditions. One recent study completed by University of Washington researchers in a joint effort with the Kaiser Permanente Health System found naturopathic care was effective in easing lower back pain and cost less than conventional treatments.[i] The results of this study confirmed the conclusion of early study on the success and lower cost of naturopathic care for lower back pain in warehouse workers.[ii]

These studies show naturopathic medicine works for chronic lower back pain. Other studies have indicated it safe and effective for –

  • Anxiety[iii]
  • Diabetes[iv]
  • Heart and cardiovascular conditions [v]
  • Support for cancer patients[vi]

These studies reflect only a few of the conditions for which naturopathic medicine provides relief. Patients often seek naturopathic care for chronic conditions conventional medicine has not been able to treat like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, life-style induced metabolic disorders, and chronic digestive problems. Many patients have turned to naturopathic doctors for primary care to help establish healthy lifestyles, prevent disease and also as the Kaiser Permanente study showed, for its lower cost.

A Cost-Effective Approach to Medicine

Nutrition and lifestyle choices represent simple ways to sustain a state of health. These are also initial steps in the Therapeutic Order followed by naturopathic doctors. If these restore balance and encourage the body’s self-healing, they also cost less. After all, a vitamin or nutrient supplement has a lower cost than pharmaceuticals.

Another factor in healthcare costs concerns medical malpractice insurance rates. Higher rates mean a higher cost of doing business. Naturopathic doctors have some of the lowest malpractice insurance rates among medical care providers. Their rates are five times lower than those of traditional MDs.[vii]

Naturopathic Medicine: It Works. Is Safe. And Cost-effective.

Naturopathic medicine continues to grow in popularity among patients and medical providers for many reasons. The fact research finds it safe and effective is a primary reason. Being a lower cost therapy that works is another.

For the best care, patients should seek out licensed naturopathic doctors. There are a lot of resources to find quality care. Is naturopathic medicine right for you? A licensed naturopathic doctor can help.


[i] Herman PM1, et al. Cost-effectiveness of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Versus Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Usual Care Among Adults With Chronic Low Back Pain. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2017 Oct 15;42(20):1511-1520. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000002344. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28742756

[ii] Herman PM1, et al. Cost-effectiveness of naturopathic care for chronic low back pain. Altern Ther Health Med. 2008 Mar-Apr;14(2):32-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18383988

[iii] Cooley K1, et al. Naturopathic care for anxiety: a randomized controlled trial ISRCTN78958974. PLoS One. 2009 Aug 31;4(8):e6628. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006628. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19718255

[iv] Oberg EB, Bradley R, Hsu C, Sherman KJ, Catz S, Calabrese C, et al. (2012) Patient-Reported Experiences with First-Time Naturopathic Care for Type 2 Diabetes. PLoS ONE 7(11): e48549. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0048549

[v] Dugald Seely, et al. Naturopathic medicine for the prevention of cardiovascular disease: a randomized clinical trial. CMAJ June 11, 2013 185 (9) E409-E416; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.120567http://www.cmaj.ca/content/185/9/E409

[vi] Jeitler M1,2, et al. Mind-body medicine and lifestyle modification in supportive cancer care: A cohort study on a day care clinic program for cancer patients. Psychooncology. 2017 Dec;26(12):2127-2134. doi: 10.1002/pon.4433. Epub 2017 May 9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28370730

[vii] http://www.naturopathic.org/files/FINAL%20INM%20AANP%20FAQ%2012%20Is%20naturopathic%20medicine%20safe.pdf

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