What is Naturopathy? Naturopathic medicine explained

Naturopathic medicine

Naturopathy – you’ve heard of it, but could you confidently explain what it is? If you’re feeling confused, you’re not alone.

Naturopathy is a wonderful, natural way to take care of your health. At Torrens University Australia we understand that not everyone is familiar with this health practice, so we spoke with Catherine Smith, Program Director, and Dr Greg Connolly, Associate Professor, about our Bachelor of Health Science Naturopathy course.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises Naturopathy as an important traditional, complementary and integrative medicine. It uses a combination of natural therapies to support healthy living and wellness, for disease prevention and to restore health.

The history of Naturopathy

As the World Naturopathic Federation explains, naturopathic practice is a traditional system of health care that has distinct philosophies and principles. They emerged from the healing practices of ancient cultures from around the world, including Greek (Hippocrates), Arabic, Egyptian, Indian and Chinese cultures.

In Australia, British settlers established herbal medicine gardens to treat common ailments. In those colonial days, Naturopaths learnt their skills through a practitioner and apprentice model. This mode of training continued until 1961, when the first formal school of Naturopathy was established – the Southern School of Natural Therapies, a foundation college of Torrens University Australia. In recent decades Naturopathy has become a university-accredited Bachelor Health Science degree.

Now it is a global profession and in 2014 the World Naturopathic Federation (WNF) was launched to support and promote the profession. Torrens University Australia is proud to be an educational member of the WNF.

How does Naturopathy work?

As we all have our own unique circumstances, Naturopathy provides care plans designed for the individual. It takes a holistic approach to healing the body, mind and spirit and emphasises the importance of treating all aspects of health, including lifestyle, social and environmental factors. The philosophy central to modern naturopathic practice is that health is enhanced by improving your vitality by using natural methods to restore the innate healing ability of the body.

The principles of naturopathic medicine

These principles are:

  • Do no harm
  • Act in cooperation with the healing power of nature
  • Seek, identify and treat the fundamental cause of illness
  • Treat the whole person using individualised care plans
  • Practitioner as teacher
  • Focus on disease prevention and health promotion
  • Wellness practices

What does a Naturopath do?

Naturopaths use a broad range of natural treatments, with the core modalities being herbal, nutritional and lifestyle medicine. Modern Naturopaths use knowledge drawn from traditional natural healing methods as well as contemporary research and their scientific training, which gives them an understanding of biomedical information and clinical research. Through their Bachelor of Health Science degree, Naturopaths have a solid understanding of pathophysiology, symptomatology and biochemistry.

Practitioners evaluate your health through physical assessment and functional pathology, together with traditional diagnostics. Consultations often take one hour or more, as the practitioner explores the whole health of the individual.

When should you consult a Naturopath?

There are so many reasons! You could consult with a Naturopath to gain assistance managing such issues as digestive, mental health, immune, respiratory, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and reproductive conditions. Naturopathic care is beneficial for reducing stress and improving sleep, energy and wellbeing. Also, women’s health is a focus of care in Naturopathy.


Naturopaths often work in conjunction with medical and allied health practitioners to offer Natural Therapy to clients with a range of acute and chronic health conditions.


Is naturopathy safe and evidence-based?

Naturopathic care offers effective preventative care and individualised health education. The Australian Naturopathic Council estimates that 1.5 million Australians consult with a Naturopath, and 7 out of 10 Australians regularly use complementary medicine.

The naturopathic community, led by the WNF, recently compiled the Health Technology Assessment (HTA). This comprehensive textbook provides an evidence-based summary of naturopathic practice. It explores practice efficacy, safety and the economics of naturopathic healthcare. In its 754 pages, it showcases three decades of international research on Naturopathy, with 2000 peer-reviewed scientific articles and 300 clinical studies.

What makes a successful naturopath?

Successful Naturopaths have a passion for natural health. They are deeply interested in taking a holistic approach to understanding what makes you healthy and what causes illness. Personal attributes that enhance successful naturopathic practice may include an analytical attitude, an interest in helping others and having a creative, practical, organised and enterprising approach to work tasks.

What qualifications do Naturopaths need?

A four-year Bachelor of Health Science in Naturopathy degree is the minimum standard of education recommended by the Australian Government. The degree is monitored to ensure graduates achieve a high level of cognitive, technical and communication skills and can work autonomously in complex and unpredictable environments. This requires well-developed critical analysis, judgement and decision-making clinical skills. Educational standards are in line with the qualifications required for allied health professions such as Nursing and Physiotherapy.

Torrens University Australia’s Naturopathy course offers core studies in Western herbal medicine, clinical nutrition, lifestyle, counselling, and elective subjects in traditional naturopathic practices such as iridology, homeopathy and flower essences.

What careers are available for qualified Naturopaths?

Naturopaths have broad career opportunities thanks to the depth of their training. Practitioners can work in their own private practice, in conventional health settings, such as integrative practice and community health, or have a corporate career in the complementary medicine industry. Senior Naturopaths can also choose an academic path, conducting scientific research and working in the education and clinical training of Naturopaths at the university level.

The demand for highly educated professionals in the complementary medicine field is expected to increase over the next 10 years. The Australian Government predicts almost 30% growth in demand for complementary therapists. A recent complementary medicine industry audit also reports strong and continued growth in the sector.

Is Naturopathy regulated in Australia?

Naturopathy is regulated by naturopathic professional associations, which approve education and clinical practice standards. Professional associations represent practitioners’ interests to the public, government and other agencies, such as the Therapeutic Goods Authority (TGA). They also determine practice standards by providing a code of conduct for members and setting standards for continuing professional education. Practitioners are encouraged to join and adhere to the standards of a professional association to gain professional indemnity insurance and other member benefits.

What is the difference between Western Herbal Medicine and Naturopathy?

A Bachelor of Health Science in Western Herbal Medicine is a three-year qualification with core studies in health science, Western herbal medicine and foundational studies in human nutrition. Graduates of WHM are herbal medicine specialists. In practice, they provide clients with a comprehensive herbal medicine treatment plan along with basic diet advice. The course also includes counselling techniques and clinical practice at the university student-led community clinics – The Practice Wellbeing Centre.

A Bachelor of Health Science in Naturopathy is a four-year qualification that has a broader range of studies, incorporating health sciences, herbal, nutritional and lifestyle medicine. With this training, the practitioner will have a deeper knowledge necessary to prescribe therapeutic diets and nutritional supplements. Torrens University Australia’s Naturopathy course allows students to choose elective subjects in specific areas of interest, such as traditional therapies. Students also complete clinical practice at The Practice Wellbeing Centre.

Dr Greg Connolly's advice for people interested in studying Naturopathy

If you are interested in a career where you will engage in lifelong learning, be part of a professional community that is welcoming and supportive, gain skills to create change in health outcomes and have a positive social impact, then Naturopathy is ideal for you.

Dr Greg Connolly is an Associate Professor of Naturopathy at Torrens University Australia. Greg was in full-time clinical naturopathic practice from 1988 to 2010 and was a part-time lecturer and clinical supervisor at Torrens University’s Fitzroy campus from 1993 to 2012. He completed his PhD in Medical Anthropology at The University of Melbourne in 2018. His topic was on natural therapy and cancer care. Greg has been a full-time academic and researcher at Torrens University since 2017.

Catherine Smith is the Program Director, Naturopathy and Western Herbal Medicine at Torrens University Australia. Catherine’s journey in Naturopathy began in the community sector and progressed to vocational and higher education roles.

Having practised as a Naturopath in natural medicine and integrative health clinics since her graduation from ACNT in 1999, she has helped many clients gain better health outcomes. As an educator, Catherine is passionate about ensuring TUA courses have the highest educational standards and prepare students for careers in health.

Check our Naturopathy Course to learn more
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