Naturopathy in Australia: Where are we now? Where are we heading?

Soo Liang Ooi, Lisa McLean, Sok Cheon Pak

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Naturopathy is the general practice of natural therapies. It emphasizes prevention, treatment, and promotion of optimal health through therapeutic modalities which encourage the self-healing process of the body. Formalized in the 19th century by the hydrotherapy and nature cure movement in Austria and Germany, naturopathy was introduced to Australia at the turn of the 20th century. It became popular since the 1970s due to social and cultural change characterized by the post-modern philosophy, as well as government policies highlighting individual responsibility and freedom of choice. Naturopathy is one of the most popular forms of complementary medicine in Australia today with naturopaths received 4.9 million consultations annually. Naturopathic consultations are sought for a variety of conditions and, in some areas, as a form of primary care, especially by middle-aged women who have a higher education level and a higher annual income. The number of Australian naturopaths was estimated to be over 4000 in 2017 and expects to grow to over 4600 by 2022, although this number is likely to be an underestimation. Australian naturopaths, as a predominantly female profession, work mainly in private clinical practice with nutritional medicine, herbal medicine, homeopathy, as well as massage therapies being the most common modalities used. There are also signs of greater integration with community pharmacies and integrative medicine clinics in major cities. The Bachelor's degree programs in Naturopathy has just become the only accredited entry-level qualification since late 2015. Currently, there are only 5 private colleges offering naturopathic education, a far cry from the 40 over in mid-2000. The profession continues to be self-regulated. There is no barrier of entry to practice and unqualified practitioners of naturopathy can potentially do harm to the public. The registration of naturopaths remains unresolved due to fragmented representation under many professional associations, disunity among the profession, and objections by certain health care lobbyists. There is a dearth of research demonstrating efficacy of the whole practice of naturopathy in Australia, which has directed the government's decision to withdraw it from private health insurance coverage from 2019. Moving forward, the whole system research of naturopathy in Australia will be in focus with the recent establishment of a practice-based research network and an international research consortium. With increasing scrutiny from evidence-based medicine, the present and future challenge to Australian naturopaths is centered on the integration of both scientific and traditional evidence to form the foundation of a person-centered, evidence-informed practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-35
Number of pages9
JournalComplementary Therapies in Clinical Practice
Early online dateJul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


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