What is the Difference Between a Naturopath and a Homeopath?

By Michael Edmonds 23/01/2012 19


This week there have been several articles in the media about homeopathy, including one online at stuff.co.nz. In this article it was stated that 51% of New Zealanders believe in homeopathy, however, one commenter suggested that this could be because “”In general people don’t know what it[homeopathy] is. They get it confused with naturopathy. It’s not just members of the public it’s doctors as well.”

My immediate question was, so what is the difference between a naturopath and a homeopath?

A homeopath prepares and prescribes extremely dilute solutions (so dilute that they seldom contain any active ingredient) in the belief that they can help treat disease.

A naturopath is someone who can treat a client with a wider range of “natural” therapies. According to the prospectus for the Naturopathic College of New Zealand, naturopaths are trained in anatomy, physiology, nutrition, iridology, colour therapy, reflexology, herbal medicine, hydrotherapy AND homeopathy.

So while naturopaths learn a wider variety of therapies they still support homeopathy. If fact last year the Naturopathic College of New Zealand issued a press release supporting homeopathy.

The statement on stuff.co.nz implies that naturopathy is a more legitimate profession than homeopathy, however given they also offer homeopathy as a treatment, I find this difficult to swallow.  I can’t see that there is much difference between a naturopath and a homeopath when both use at least one* unproven, scientifically implausible therapy.

*Reflexology, iridology and colour therapy involve practices and explanations that are also considered to be scientifically implausible.


19 Responses to “What is the Difference Between a Naturopath and a Homeopath?”

  • Try not to lump all naturopaths into the one size fits all mentality. A lot use herbal medicines as well, which do have some scientific plausibility.

  • Susan,
    I agree herbal medicines certainly have evidence to support their use.
    Are you saying that there are some naturopaths who only use herbal medicines and do not use homeopathy?

  • Michael, have you read ‘Trick or treatment’ by Simon Singh and Edward Ernst? It’s supposed to be very good at reviewing the evidence for the efficacy of a wide range of altmeds.

  • hi Carol

    I think I have, but it was probably a while ago. Perhaps I need to get hold of it again.

  • I too am curious about any division within naturopathy.
    Is it similar to the difference between “Straight Chriopractic” (based on subluxations) and the attempt by some chiropractors to be strictly evidence based?

  • Irrespective of if some herbal remedies have some effectiveness that the Naturopathic College of New Zealand teaches remedies that are known to lack plausibility and have a lack of evidence supporting them shows that the College lacks (any/sufficient) critical judgement of what they offer in their courses.

  • Wot Grant said – AFAIK there’s no reliable evidence that “iridology, colour therapy, reflexology” actually do anything,

  • […] So while naturopaths learn a wider variety of therapies they still support homeopathy. If fact last year the Naturopathic College of New Zealand issued a press release supporting homeopathy . The statement on stuff.co.nz implies that naturopathy is a more legitimate profession than homeopathy, however given they also offer homeopathy as a treatment, I find this difficult to swallow. I can’t see that there is much difference between a naturopath and a homeopath when both use at least one* unproven, scientifically implausible therapy. A naturopath is someone who can treat a client with a wider range of “natural” therapies. What is the Difference Between a Naturopath and a Homeopath? | Molecular Matters […]

  • There is no difference. They both lie in the realm of faith-based rather than evidence-based practise, and are immune to (or devoid of) critical self-evaluation.

    Neither is medicine in any useful sense of the word, nor are they health practioners.

    Shyster I think is closest.

  • “Let they food be they medicine and they medice thy food.” ~ Hippocrates

    Conventional medicine has its purpose and applications (mostly corporate based and profit driven) and treat the disease.. not the person. Naturopath / Homeopaths treat the underlying problem of the disease (prevention is their dogma). Unfortunately naturopaths / homeopaths are not covered by the corrupt cartel driven health insurance policies.. rather they are usually paid in cash. The closest to naturopaths / homeopaths are ‘integrative doctors’ (MD / DO) that are covered by health ins.

  • Dan,

    You are incorrect on several counts:

    In New Zealand at least there are some health insurances which cover varous alternative treatments including homeopathy, which seems rather absurd given there is no evidence to support homeopathy.

    Your quote from Hippocrates is a good one and I think most “conventional” doctors are quite aware of the link between nutrition and health. My own GP is certainly active in advising me about nutrition and exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. However, this does not mean that food in itself can solve all health problems. I hardly think a hand full of herbs is applicable to cancer, septicemia or a greenstick fracture.
    Furthermore Hippocratic medical knowledge was based on the flawed four humours model of the body and at a time when microbes were not known. It is a great saying, but overlooks almost 2000 years of new medicinal knowledge.

    The suggestion that the purpose and applications of “conventional” medicine are to treat the disease and not the person is a false dichotomy – the disease and the “whole” person cannot be separated. Most modern doctors work with a holistic approach (at least that is my experience). Perhaps 20 or 30 years ago doctors focused too much on the disease, and overlooked some aspects of the “whole” person, but that is hardly an appropriate reference point to use today.

    In New Zealand it was recently reported that natural medicines were a 1 billion per annum business. That leaves plenty of scope for corporate and profit driven motives in the natural therapy industry. Similarly natural medicines are big business through out the rest of the world.

    While naturopaths may prescribe some therapies that evidence suggests will work, the moment they start selling pseudoscientifc products such as homeopathic solutions (i.e. pricy bottles of water) or various “energy” therapies such as reikki, their credibility disappears.

  • “What is the difference between a naturopath and a homeopath?”

    – I was hoping that was going to be the first line of a joke!

  • Naturopathy is a holistic method of healing which recognises the ability of the body to overcome disease. Treatments aim to support and aid the body to heal itselfwith the use of herbal medicine, homeopathy with nutritional and lifestyle advice.
    Naturopathy is a healing art based on holistic principles in conjunction with the healing power of nature. This includes treating the underlying cause within the body to achieve optimum health.

    • I was tempted to spam the previous message but then I thought it serves as a good example of the pseudoscience being sold under the term naturopathy.
      How does homeopathy (magic water) provide anything relevant to nutrition or lifestyle advice?
      What is the mechanism by which naturopathy “recognises the ability of the body to overcome disease”?
      Real medicine already treats the underlying causes of many diseases – parasites, viruses, bacteria, nutritional deficiencies, genuine (and rare) environmental toxicities and genetic based conditions.