Naturopathy or naturopathic medicine is a system of primary care practiced by a naturopath or naturopathic doctor. Naturopathy that proceeds under the assumption that the body has inherent properties that, if encouraged, will allow self-healing. Naturopathic treatments are holistic, involving mental, emotional, and physical aspects, and they are aimed at arriving at a natural cure rather than masking symptoms. Naturopaths do not prescribe pharmaceutical drugs, though they may give substances such as herbs and homeopathic remedies which are easily assimilable and naturally derived. Naturopathy can be particularly effective in treating chronic conditions that modern western medicine cannot treat.

The term naturopathy was only coined in 1895, but forms of naturopathic medicine have been practiced for centuries. Acupuncture, herbal medicine, homeopathy, and nutrition have all been utilized by physicians around the world - even in the west; many of these techniques used to be taught in medical schools along with surgery. Today, however, naturopathy is denigrated by mainstream medical doctors, particularly in North America.

Although skeptics consider naturopathy to be nothing more than quackery, the standards for being allowed to practice as a naturopath are quite rigourous and incorporate western scientific subjects. In North America, for example, the aspiring naturopath must complete a pre-med Bachelor degree, followed by a rigourous four-year diploma program which includes many of the same curricula as medical students cover, as well as subjects such as Chinese medicine, homeopathy, nutrition, and counselling. The program also incorporates one year of clinical internship to allow the students to practice in real-life situations with experienced naturopaths. Once the training is complete the proud graduate is legally entitled to use the title Naturopathic Doctor and the initials ND after his or her name.

Most naturopaths work out of private offices or clinics, and their services are increasingly covered by health insurance programs. So if you're open to alternative forms of treatment and even, perhaps, dissatisfied with western medicine, try naturopathy. I have found it to be quite effective.