Naturopathic medicine is an important laboratory of integrative, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) research because of the breadth of the practice, its holistic philosophy inclusive of important CAM approaches, and its capacity to interface with conventional medicine in common physiological and psychological outcome measures. Its practitioners are trained in basic medical sciences and communicate with scientific colleagues interprofessionally. There is a growing cadre of cross-trained naturopathic physician-researchers.

The State of Naturopathic Medical Research

Naturopathic Medical Principles

  • ​The Healing Power of Nature 

  • ​Identify and Treat the Causes

  • First Do No Harm

  • Doctor as Teacher

  • Treat the Whole Person

  • Prevention 


Given its theoretical foundations and the reality of daily practice, it is challenging to study naturopathic practice in ways which do not distort it or violate its principles to the point of possibly rendering it apparently ineffective. These problems have been addressed in the Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda (1) and several book chapters (2,3,4). Biomedical research standards considered the gold standard by the scientific community, notably single agent randomized controlled trials, have typically been developed to provide reliable data on a single therapeutic intervention for a single disease. These methods have not been designed to assess multifactorial whole practice approaches to disease or to evaluating the support of overall health. As a result, research using these methods does not fully evaluate naturopathic medicine as practiced. More fundamentally, naturopathic medicine, in common with other complementary and alternative health disciplines, is already extensively used in the community, thus is not most efficiently assessed by the pharmaceutical research and development model which begins with basic sciences to identify mechanisms as drug targets and with therapeutic candidates being evaluated in animals before safety and efficacy studies in humans. Rather, its use in the community suggests a reversal of this process, with effectiveness being determined in the clinical practice and then disassembling the practice into components for exploration of mechanism. Health services research has been suggested as appropriate to natural medicine assessment(5) but has its own limitations(6). Some studies have been done to describe and evaluate naturopathic whole practice and its outcomes and others are currently underway. There has been little study of overall safety and the fit of naturopathic physicians in the larger health care system. In addition to whole practice studies, many components of care as understood by naturopathic clinicians have been explored by naturopathic physician-scientists.

Studies cited in the collections linked below are those specific to naturopathic medicine (distinguished from other CAM practices) that have been done in the US and Canada with reviews of the international literature to be added at a later date. Our intent is that the studies listed here are either based on original data or analyses or are systematic reviews. Literature reviews without an identified methodology may be separately categorized at a later date.

Physician and clinical descriptive data Whole practice clinical outcomes studies Research on components of practice Cost studies
Methodological studies in naturopathic practice

The collections are an ongoing effort. Notice of studies that fit our inclusion criteria but that do not appear here are welcome.

Standish L, C Calabrese, P Snider. The Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda. Bastyr University Press, 2005.

Calabrese C. Assessing the effectiveness of Naturopathic Medicine. In: Complementary Medicine in Clinical Practice. Eds: D Rakel, N
Faass. Jones and Bartlett, 2006

Calabrese C. Research in Natural Medicine. In: The Textbook of Natural Medicine, 3rdEd. Eds: J Pizzorno, M Murray. Elsevier, 2006.

Calabrese, C. Clinical Research Methods in Naturopathic Medicine. In Clinical Research in Complementary and Alternative Medicine; G Lewith, W Jonas, H Walach, eds; Churchill Livingstone, 2001.

Herman PM, D'Huyvetter K, Mohler MJ. Are health services research methods a match for CAM? AlternTherHealth Med. 2006 May-
Jun;12(3):78-83.

Coulter ID, Khorsan R. Is health services research the Holy Grail of complementary and alternative medicine research? AlternTherHealthMed. 2008 Jul-Aug;14(4):40-5. Type your paragraph here.

Naturopathic Medical Principles

  • ​The Healing Power of Nature 
  • ​Identify and Treat the Causes
  • First Do No Harm
  • Doctor as Teacher
  • Treat the Whole Person
  • Prevention 

Naturopathic Medicine aids to promote health and to diagnose and to treat disease through prevention, education and supporting the body's natural healing processes. 

Exploring the ways we Practice

​Naturopathic Medicine - the combination of the wisdom of nature and modern science