Merck Manual

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Denise Millstine

, MD, Mayo Clinic

Last full review/revision Sep 2018| Content last modified Sep 2018
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Naturopathy began as a formal health care system in the US during the early 1900s. Founded on the healing power of nature, naturopathy emphasizes

  • Prevention and treatment of disease through a healthy lifestyle

  • Treatment of the whole patient

  • Use of the body’s natural healing abilities

Some of this system’s principles are not that different from those of traditional healing systems such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine.

Naturopathy uses a combination of therapies, including acupuncture, counseling, exercise therapy, botanicals, hydrotherapy, nutrition, physical therapies (eg, heat or cold therapy, ultrasound, massage), guided imagery, and stress management.

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians encourages using vaccinations according to guidelines from authoritative sources (eg, United States Public Health Service) when contraindications are lacking.

Evidence for Naturopathy

Many naturopathic diagnostic and treatment methods have limited or low-quality evidence. Intravenous vitamin C infusions are commonly given by naturopathic providers despite lack of high-quality evidence for efficacy or safety (1). Many of the studies of the naturopathic approach are small but have demonstrated non-inferiority to conventional medicine approaches and cost effectiveness at times.


  • 1. Fritz H, Flower G, Weeks L: Intravenous vitamin C and cancer: a systematic review. Integr Cancer Ther. 13(4):280-300, 2014. doi: 10.1177/1534735414534463.

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