Despite the popularity of naturopathic and herbal medicine in New Zealand there remains limited data on New Zealand-based naturopathic and herbal medicine practice.In response, this paper reports findings from the first national survey examining the characteristics, perceptions and experiences of New Zealand-based naturopaths and herbal medicine practitioners across multiple domains relating to their role and practice.
An online survey (covering 6 domains: demographics; practice characteristics; research; integrative practice; regulation and funding; contribution to national health objectives) was administered to naturopaths and herbal medicine practitioners. From a total of 338 naturopaths and herbal medicine practitioners, 107 responded providing a response rate of 32%. Data were statistically analysed using STATA.
A majority of the naturopaths and herbal medicine practitioners surveyed were female (91%), and aged between 45 and 54 years. Most practiced part-time (64%), with practitioner caseloads averaging 8 new clients and over 20 follow-up clients per month.Our analysis shows that researched information impacts upon and is useful for naturopaths and herbal medicine practitioners to validate their practices.However, the sources of researched information utilised by New Zealand naturopaths and herbal medicine practitioners remain variable, with many sources beyond publications in peer-reviewed journals being utilised. Most naturopathic and herbal medicine practitioners (82%) supported registration, with statutory registration being favoured (75%). Integration with conventional care was considered desirable by the majority of naturopaths and herbal medicine practitioners surveyed (83%).Naturopaths and herbal medicine practitioners feel that they contribute to several key national health objectives, including: improved nutrition (93%); increased physical activity (85%); reducing incidence and impact of CVD (79%); reducing incidence and impact of cancer (68%).
There is a need for greater understanding and communication between practitioners of conventional care and naturopathic and herbal medicine which could support informed, coordinated and effective health provision within the New Zealand health care system. There is a need for further in-depth research examining naturopaths and herbal medicine practitioners’ perceptions and practices, to provide insights of benefit to all those practising and managing health services as well as those directing health policy in New Zealand.

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