Naturopathic Medicine for Alcoholism: Effectiveness

naturopathic medicine for alcoholismNaturopathic medicine for alcoholism is a holistic approach to health. It mat include diet and nutrition, homeopathy, acupuncture, and herbal medicine. Also hydrotherapy, exercise, spinal manipulation, and massage. Its therapies may include the use of electric currents, ultrasound, and light.

The Theory

The National Association of Naturopathic Physicians explains Naturopathy.

The primary cause of disease is reaction to unnatural environment . . . . When the body is weighted down by toxins in excess of the amount with which the vital force is able to cope, then enervation… supervenes and there is a lag in the body’s power to expel the “ashes” of metabolism….  Enervation leads to the secondary cause of so-called disease — toxemia.

It describes toxemia.

Toxemia is the state of auto-intoxication resulting from the accumulation of poisons in the body – poisons taken in from without in the form of incorrect food, impure water, vitiated air, etc., and which are not thrown off by the body because of its enervated state, and in addition thereto the poisons formed within the body itself by the processes of metabolism. . . . The presence of these poisons within the blood stream and tissues causes the vital force to make efforts to eradicate toxemia, and these efforts are what is called “diseased crises.”

It asserts that

Disease, therefore, is not a hostile entity to be attacked, but is rather a manifestation of vital force in its efforts to continue to live and to remove anti-vital conditions caused by man’s deliberate, or ignorant, breaking of the laws of health and life ….  Disease, then, is the result of stagnation and accumulation of filth in the blood stream and in the tissues1. The goal of naturopathy is to return the body to a natural state of purity and good health.


A naturopathic medical school elaborates.

Naturopathic medicine (sometimes called “naturopathy”) is a distinct system of primary health care that emphasizes prevention and the self-healing process through the use of natural therapies. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) blend centuries-old knowledge and a philosophy that nature is the most effective healer with current research on health and human systems.2

The Six Principles

There are six principles of naturopathic medicine described by the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges.

  1. First Do No Harm. Utilize the most natural, least invasive and least toxic therapies.
  2. The Healing Power of Nature. Trust in the body’s inherent wisdom to heal itself.
  3. Identify and Treat the Causes. Look beyond the symptoms to the underlying cause.
  4. Doctor as Teacher. Educate patients in the steps to achieving and maintaining health.
  5. Treat the Whole Person. View the body as an integrated whole in all its physical and spiritual dimensions.
  6. Prevention. Focus on overall health, wellness and disease prevention.3

Given the nature of alcoholism it would appear that naturopathic medicine for alcoholism might be effective.

Effectiveness of Naturopathic Medicine for Alcoholism

Unfortunately, medical research has not found naturopathic medicine for alcoholism treatment to be effective. It’s no more effective for alcoholism than the use of a placebo (“sugar pill”).

The most popular approach to alcoholism is through the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.). Yet it has a success rate of only about 5%. This is a very large failure rate. If a medication or other therapy had no better success rate, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) would not approve its use. Indeed, those who seek no help have a much higher success rate.

Naturopathic medicine for alcoholism may be ineffective. And A.A. is only effective with a small minority. But there are many effective non-12-step programs. Some help people abstain. Others teach moderation techniques. They both help people live free of alcohol problems.


Atwood, K.C. Naturopathy. Medscape Med., March 5, 2004.

Beyerstein, B.L., and Downey, S. Naturopathy. In: Sampson, W. and Vaughn, L. (Eds.) Science Meets Alternative Medicine. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2000. Pp. 141-163.

Guendling, P., et al. Requirements and barriers for practice-based research in naturopathy and complementary medicine. Foc Alt Comp Ther, 2007, 12, 25-42.

DeGrandpre, Z. The Naturopathic Treatment of Alcoholism. N.D. (Doctor of Naturopathy) diss. Portland, OR: Nat Coll Natural Med, 2007.

Telles, S., et al. Research on traditional medicine. Evid-Base Comp Alt Med, 2014, Supp., 25-30. Article ID 495635.

Other Resources

Naturopathic Diaries
American Naturopathic Medical Association.
Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges.
Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.
Australian Naturopathic Practitioners Association.
American Naturopathic Medical Certification Board.
Association of Naturopathic Practitioner.
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.
How to Help Someone Who Drinks Too Much.


1. National Association of Naturopathic Physicians (NANP). Outline for Study of Services of Practitioners Performing Health Services in Independent Practice. (Report submitted to the Public Health Service by NANP), pp. 3-4.

2. Bastyr University. What is Naturopathic Medicine?

3. Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. What is Naturopathic Medicine?