Difference Between Naturopathic & Holistic Medicine

Holistic Medicine
Alternative Medicine. Rosemary, mint, chamomile, thyme in a glass mortar. Essential oils and herbal supplements.

What is the Difference Between Naturopathic & Holistic Medicine?

In the past century, conventional medicine has seen some amazing advancements in fields such as emergency medicine, pathology, surgical interventions, and more. However, it has also received criticisms for categorizing each system individually and treating symptoms instead of recognizing the interdependency of the whole person—body, emotions, mind, and spirit—and seeking to treat underlying causes of disease.

Because of this, many individuals are recognizing the need for restoring and maintaining holistic, whole-person health.

One question many people ask is the difference between naturopathic and holistic medicine.

The Difference Between Naturopathic & Holistic Medicine

The difference between naturopathic medicine and holistic medicine is that naturopathic medicine is its own discipline of medicine with specific training rooted in natural remedies while holistic medicine is practiced by physicians with conventional medical training who have a holistic philosophy that centers on a mind-body-spirit approach to medicine.

Naturopathy uses natural remedies to help the body heal itself. It is a defined medical modality that uses primarily natural remedies such as herbs, massage, acupuncture, and exercise to restore and sustain health. Holistic medicine, however, is an ethos or philosophy of medicine used by physicians who have completed conventional medical training but also believe in treating the whole person—body, spirit, mind, and emotions—to restore and maintain health.

Because of its restorative and self-healing approach, naturopathy is also often used in integrative medicine and holistic medicine, which embrace conventional medicine in combination with other medical modalities to achieve whole-person health.

What is Naturopathic Medicine & How Does it Compare to Holistic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is the use of natural remedies to help the body heal itself. A naturopathic doctor will use remedies such as herbs, homeopathy, massage therapy, acupuncture, counseling, and nutritional coaching to enable the body to restore and maintain whole-person health.

Examples of naturopathic medicine treatments include:

  • Stress reduction
  • Homeopathy, or the use of minute natural substances to trigger the body’s natural defenses
  • Herbs
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Nutritional Counseling
  • Detoxification
  • Psychotherapy & Counseling

Naturopathic medicine often uses holistic medicine philosophies to treat the whole person—body, emotions, and spirit. it also places great importance on how all systems of the body—including the mind and gut—influence physical and emotional health.

What is Holistic Medicine?

Holistic medicine is a medical philosophy that believes a person can achieve optimal health by restoring and maintaining health not only of the body, but of the mind, spirit, and emotions as well. Holistic medicine is practiced by physicians who have undergone conventional medical training but also have a holistic philosophy that centers on a mind-body-spirit approach to medicine. 

One of the most popular forms of holistic medicine is holistic and integrative medicine, which combines conventional medicine with functional, alternative, and naturopathic medicine to achieve holistic health.

The Difference Between Naturopathic & Holistic Doctors

The main difference between naturopathic and holistic doctors is that a naturopathic doctor uses natural remedies to enable the body to self-heal, while holistic doctors use conventional medicine in conjunction with other systems of medicine and care to provide holistic health.

To become a licensed Doctor of Naturopathy (ND), a naturopathic doctor must graduate from a four-year, professional-level program at a federally-accredited naturopathic medical school (of which there are currently 7 worldwide). The first two years of medical school for a naturopathic doctor are similar to those of traditional medical students, focusing on biomedical and diagnostic sciences. The following two years cover naturopathic diagnostic and treatment techniques and include extensive clinical experience. After achieving their degree, a naturopathic doctor must pass the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX).

Holistic medical doctors are physicians that have completed conventional medical degrees. They are typically a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). However, they also have a philosophy of holistic health, meaning they believe the body works as interconnected systems and that optimal whole-person health includes the balance of not only the body, but the mind and spirit as well.