Naturopathy is a branch of alternative medicine that treats medical conditions with natural remedies, including herbs, massage and body work, and homeopathy. In some places, naturopathic medicine is practiced by licensed practitioners. In others, naturopathy is completely unlicensed. As the status of naturopathy varies according to national, regional, and local law, there are many different types of naturopathy courses. These can range from unaccredited home study courses on natural healing methods to accredited doctoral programs.
Naturopathy courses can vary widely in both scope and teaching methodology in places where naturopathy is unlicensed. For example, in Australia and the United Kingdom, naturopaths are not licensed by the government, but are credentialed through professional associations, which may sponsor or recognize specific schools or courses of study. Depending on the type of course and the school that offers the program, a student of naturopathy may earn a certificate, diploma, or even a bachelor's degree. There are also numerous unaccredited programs that offer doctoral degrees in naturopathy, but these are generally not accepted by governments, the academic community, or many naturopathic professional associations.
In places where naturopathy is a licensed health care profession, naturopathy courses can be quite comprehensive and must meet the standards of the pertinent licensing board. In the United States and Canada, naturopathic doctors are licensed in specific states or provinces, which also regulate the naturopath's scope of practice. A licensed naturopath in the United States or Canada must usually complete both a bachelor's degree and a four-year doctoral program in naturopathic medicine, which includes both hard science courses such as chemistry and biology as well as training in specific alternative healing modalities, such as botanical medicine and clinical nutrition.
Naturopaths are sometimes only permitted by law to offer advice on the use of natural healing therapies. However, some governments give naturopaths much more medical authority, including the ability to diagnose illness, order tests and x-rays, prescribe drugs and medicines, and attend women in childbirth. As a result, the naturopathic doctor's education may go beyond standard naturopathy courses and include additional clinical training, courses in midwifery or natural childbirth, and pharmacology education. If an area regulates other alternative medicine practices, such as acupuncture or Oriental medicine, the licensing board in that area may require a naturopath to complete additional coursework. In addition, licensing boards often require that naturopaths complete continuing education courses as a condition of renewing their licenses.