Naturopaths use a wide variety of treatment modalities, focusing on the concept of natural self-healing rather than any specific method. Some methods rely on immaterial “vital energy fields”, the existence of which has not been proven, and there is concern that naturopathy as a field tends towards isolation from general scientific discourse.The effectiveness of naturopathy as a whole system has not been systematically evaluated, and efficacy of individual methods used varies.
A consultation typically begins with a lengthy patient interview focusing on lifestyle, medical history, emotional tone, and physical features, as well as physical examination. The traditional naturopath focuses on lifestyle changes, not diagnosing or treating diseases. Practitioners of naturopathic medicine hold themselves to be primary care providers and in addition to various natural approaches seek to prescribe prescription drugs, perform minor surgery and apply other conventional medical approaches to their practice. Naturopaths do not generally recommend vaccines and antibiotics, and may provide alternative remedies even in cases where evidence-based medicine has been shown effective. “All forms of naturopathic education include concepts incompatible with basic science, and do not necessarily prepare a practitioner to make appropriate diagnosis or referrals.”
The particular modalities used by an individual naturopath varies with training and scope of practice. The demonstrated efficacy and scientific rationale also varies. These include: Acupuncture, applied kinesiology, botanical medicine, brainwave entrainment, chelation therapy for atherosclerosis, colonic enemas, color therapy, cranial osteopathy, hair analysis, homeopathy, iridology, live blood analysis, nature cures—i.e. a range of therapies based upon exposure to natural elements such as sunshine, fresh air, heat, or cold, nutrition (examples include vegetarian and wholefood diet, fasting, and abstention from alcohol and sugar, ozone therapy, physical medicine (e.g., naturopathic, osseous, and soft tissue manipulative therapy, sports medicine, exercise, and hydrotherapy), Psychological counseling (e.g., meditation, relaxation, and other methods of stress management ), public health measures and hygiene, reflexology, rolfing, and traditional Chinese medicine.
A 2004 survey determined the most commonly prescribed naturopathic therapeutics in Washington State and Connecticut were botanical medicines, vitamins, minerals, homeopathy, and allergy treatments.
Many forms of alternative medicine, including naturopathy, homeopathy, and chiropractic are based on beliefs opposed to vaccination and have practitioners who voice their opposition. This includes non-medically trained naturopaths. The reasons for this negative vaccination view are complicated and rest, at least in part, on the early views which shape the foundation of these professions. A survey of a cross section of students of a major complementary and alternative medicine college in Canada reported that students in the later years of the program opposed vaccination more strongly than newer students.