What is a Naturopathic Doctor?


A Naturopathic Doctor is a Health care professional trained in conventional primary care medicine as well as alternative therapies and Naturopathic Medical Philosophy.  To become a Licensed Naturopathic Doctor one must complete a Bachelors degree with a pre med emphasis, a 4 year post graduate medical degree in Naturopathic Medicine, pass a rigorous set of board exams, and stay current on continuing education requirements as well as in good standing with their professional licensing board.  Currently there are 5 accredited Naturopathic Medical Schools in the United States.  The education of a Naturopathic Doctor is similar in many ways to that of a conventional Medical Doctor, with a few important differences.  Training includes all the basic science, anatomy, and medical classes that a medical doctor would take as well as training in the use of pharmaceutical medicines, and minor surgery, however, in Naturopathic Medicine a different philosophy is taught as well as many, many tools of alternative medicine.  Along with conventional western treatment methods and training in oncology, geriatrics, pediatrics, gynecology etc., a Naturopathic Doctor has an extensive education in western herbal medicine, homeopathy, chiropractic type bone manipulation, IV therapy, flower remedies, massage, physical therapy, counseling, nutrition and many others.  

The profession of Naturopathic medicine is very broad.  Practitioners have a wide range of training and experience, and are drawn to very different modalities or therapies.  One Naturopath for example may be almost indistinguishable from a conventional medical doctor if you were to observe their practice, however they prescribe herbs and vitamins along with pharmaceutical medicines.  Another Naturopathic doctor may use only sunshine, nutrition, hot and cold water, and rest to help her patients return to health.  Though it may be confusing to patients that different Naturopaths use different methods, it is a wonderful situation for a patient because it means there are professionals perfecting many different techniques and with some work and patience you can find the doctor who has the approach that will benefit you.  

The Philosophy of Naturopathic Medicine has at its core treating the individual not the disease.  It may sound like a subtle distinction but it makes a tremendous difference in treatment.  

There are 6 principles which tie together the broad range of practices of Naturopathic Medicine.  

They are:

Vis Medicatix Naturae- trust the healing power of nature, the body has inherent wisdom of how to heal itself, if we remove obstacles to healing and support the process, healing will naturally occur.

Tolle Causum- Identify and treat the underlying cause of ill health, avoid suppression and suppressive therapies, address issues of toxicity

Tolle Totem- Treat the whole person; mind, body, spirit, emotions

Docere- Doctor as Teacher

Do no harm

Prevention- identify and treat obstacles to cure

For More information on Naturopathic Medicine and the training of Naturopathic Doctors please visit the website for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians