Open Access Open Badges Research article

Naturopaths practice behaviour: provision and access to information on complementary and alternative medicines

Caroline Smith1*, Karen Martin1, Elizabeth Hotham2, Susan Semple2, Geraldine Bloustien3 and Deepa Rao2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

2 School of Pharmaceutical Molecular and Biomedical Sciences, University of South Australia, North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

3 School of Communication Information and New Media, University of South Australia, St Bernards Road, Magill, South Australia, Australia

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2005, 5:15  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-5-15

Published: 11 July 2005



The increasing use of complementary and alternative medicines in Australia has generated concern regarding the information on these products available to both healthcare providers and the public. The aim of this study was to examine the practice behaviours of naturopaths in relation to both the provision of and access to information on complementary and alternative medicines (CAM).


A representative sample of 300 practicing naturopaths located nationally were sent a comprehensive survey which gathered data on self reported practice behaviour in relation to the provision of information on oral CAM to clients and the information needs of the practitioners themselves


A response rate of 35% was achieved. Most practitioners (98%) have a dispensary within their clinic and the majority of practitioners perform the dispensing themselves. Practitioners reported they provided information to clients, usually in the form of verbal information (96%), handwritten notes (83%) and printed information (75%). The majority of practitioners (over 75%) reported always giving information on the full name of the product, reason for prescribing, expected response, possible interactions and contraindications and actions of the product. Information resources most often used by practitioners included professional newsletters, seminars run by manufacturers, patient feedback and personal observation of patients. Most practitioners were positive about the information they could access but felt that more information was required in areas such as adverse reactions and safe use of CAM in children, pregnancy and breastfeeding. Most naturopaths (over 96%) were informed about adverse events through manufacturer or distributor newsletters. The barriers in the provision of information to clients were misleading or incorrect information in the media, time constraints, information overload and complex language used in printed information. The main barrier to the practitioner in information access was seen as the perceived division between orthodox and complementary medicine practitioners.


Our data suggest most naturopaths were concerned about possible interaction between pharmaceuticals and CAM, and explore this area with their patients. There is scope to improve practitioners' access to information of adverse events including an increased awareness of sources of information such as the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) website.