Naturopathy: what is it?

Naturopathy: what is it?

An overview of naturopathy, its characteristics and peculiarities. A small breviary to better handbook this natural discipline which considers man and his well-being under a holistic view.


  • What is naturopathy
  • History of naturopathy
  • Skills of naturopathy
  • Legislation
  • How to become a naturopath
  • Where the naturopath can work
  • Does naturopathy really work?

What is naturopathy

It is a composite discipline , resulting from multiple techniques, which approaches the disorder in different ways than medicine. Naturopathy is based on a global (holistic, from the Greek òlos meaning whole) approach to health : each individual is seen in his totality and uniqueness, as the sum of constitutional and lifestyle characteristics.  


Naturopathy does not cure, but balances, even in illness . It is dedicated to the maintenance of well-being, to the adaptability of the organism as a whole to changes in life, to the integration of mutations while respecting natural cycles.


The origin of the name is controversial: it derives from the English Nature’s path (“the path of nature”), or it also contains another interpretation (“to feel according to nature”, from the Latin nature and the Greek pathos ). The word ” nature ” is always at the center, the nucleus around which all naturopathy, its disciplines, its techniques revolve. Someone confuses naturopathy with herbal medicine  or equates it, but they are different training courses, but certainly complementary. 


The study of naturopathy includes elements attributable to classical medicine (anatomy, physiology, general pathology) and elements of traditional Chinese medicine , phytotherapy , aromatherapy , flower therapy , and other natural therapies.


Fundamental rules in naturopathy are: respect for the natural biological laws that regulate life; the attention paid to the person and not only to his disturbance; energy rebalancing; proper nutrition; detoxification of the organism.

Naturopathy: very short history

The birth of this “multidiscipline” can be traced back to the end of the second half of the nineteenth century by an American doctor, Dr. Sheel , who authorized the export of the term “naturopathy” in Germany thanks to the commitment and work of Father Kneipp , the creator of hydrotherapy . Germany represents the cradle of naturopathy, and the Heilpraktiker has seen his profession recognized since 1939. 


In reality the excursus starts from further away, from Hippocrates and the School of Cos: Hippocrates argued that the disease is one, under its various symptomatic aspects and that the means to fight it is given by internal cleaning for the elimination of toxins, thus introducing the theme of the “terrain”. 


In the Middle Ages there are testimonies of doctors dedicated to naturopathy and at the end of the 18th century it comes back into vogue with Boerhave, the promoter of super-caloric baths. At the same time, in France, Bordeu and Barthez developed the doctrine of Vitalism , which is the philosophical basis of naturopathy. This discipline will be taught at the Montpellier Faculty of Medicine.


From Europe, the new thinking reaches the United States, and the same word was coined by a New York doctor, John Sheel, in the early 1900s to describe his methods of treatment. He derived the term naturopathy from “Nature’s Path” which means, precisely, the “path of nature”, that is the therapeutic path indicated by nature.


The naturopathic tradition dominated scientific medicine until the 1930s, then, with the advent of chemistry, Pasteur’s theories, the development of the pharmaceutical industry, allopathic medicine and official medicine. 


The growing demand for psychophysical well-being has led to the research and study of natural medicines . Dietetics, breathing, hydrotherapy, movement, massage, phytotherapy, flower therapy, music therapy, chromotherapy, aromatherapy, are the foundations on which naturopathy has developed to date. 


The World Health Organization has reformulated the concept of health, making it official that it is not only the absence of disease, but it is a state of complete physical, psychophysical and social well-being and recommended – as a supplement to “scientific” medicine – inclusion of naturopathy in the various national health systems.


Skills of naturopathy

If we were to define what naturopathy is through its purpose, we would say that naturopathy is not aimed at diagnosing and treating specific pathologies but through drainage and rebalancing interventions, it can favor a possible healing process. 


The purpose of naturopathy is to educate about health and contribute to the energy balance of individuals. Naturopathy does not cure the disease but aims to maintain or restore the state of well-being “according to nature”, to research and act on the true origin and cause of the discomfort or disorder. 


Prevention, education and promotion of individual, social and environmental health are the skills of naturopathy and related practices.

We can extrapolate some fundamental references of the discipline to understand what naturopathy is, possibly trying to understand if they can also be valid for us.

  1. ” Primum non nocere “. That is, first of all, do not harm but provide the most effective support with the minimum risk for the patient.
  2. ” Vis medicatrix naturae “. Promote self-healing by stimulating the power of each and every person’s intrinsic nature.
  3.  “ Tolle causum ”. Remove the causes of the disease, rather suppress the symptoms.
  4. Stimulating a sense of personal responsibility for health and well-being to prevent disease for the individual, every community and our world.



The profession of naturopath  is governed by law 4/2013 and by the UNI -11491 standard defined as provisions relating to non-organized professions. This law guarantees the free movement of professionals, while registers and professional associations cannot be established.


Subsequently, Law 4/2013 specifies that the quality of professional performance must be defined in a UNI Technical Standard : The qualification of professional performance is based on its compliance with UNI ISO, UNI EN ISO, UNI EN and UNI technical standards, of hereinafter referred to as “UNI technical regulations”, referred to in Directive 98/34 / EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 22 June 1998, and on the basis of the CEN 14 guidelines of 2010 “(art. 6, paragraph 2).


The UNI-11491 Standard “Professional Figure of the Naturopath”
In accordance with Law 4/2013, the profession of the Naturopath is governed by the “STANDARD UNI-11491 Professional Figure of the Naturopath” (joined the Italian National Normative Body on 6 June 2013 ) which defines the professional field of the Naturopath as well as the knowledge, skills and competences necessary to carry out this profession. 


How to become a naturopath

The training course of the naturopath includes a three-year course with a very articulated study plan , with subjects such as anatomy, physiology, biology and then increasingly specific fields of study such as herbal medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, biodynamics, psychology, homeopathy , and more direct such as shiatsu , foot reflexology , craniosacral massage, applied kinesiology .


In Italy there are various schools, some of which are well-known, with teachers from various universities and professionals in the sector. The training process includes 3 preparatory years, internship and specialization courses . A trained naturopath must have dedicated at least 5 years to studies and practice.


Where the naturopath can work

The naturopath can open the VAT number and work on his own in his naturopathy studio, work as a wellness consultant in beauty centers, spas, in clinics in synergy with doctors, in herbal medicine.


Does naturopathy really work?

Lawful question, but perhaps wrongly posed. It’s like asking if psychology works or homeopathy works. The variables that come into play are many and first of all it often depends on the patient , on his intention of wanting to create that circuit of possibilities that promotes self-healing, and which includes and integrates more practices that can extend from herbal medicine to shiatsu for example.

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