What is a Naturopathic doctor?

Naturopathic doctors are primary care doctors trained in medical diagnosis and treatment who follow five unique principles (see Philosophy of Naturopathic Medicine) to address the cause of illness. The educational and clinical training of naturopathic physicians are similar to that of a medical or osteopathic doctor.

 In addition, naturopathic physicians also have extensive training in natural therapies including: botanical medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, clinical nutrition, mind/body medicine and physical medicine. When possible, naturopathic physicians choose natural therapies which have few, if any, harmful side effects.

Naturopathic physicians who graduate from an accredited school receive a N.D. degree- Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine.

Specialties & additional degrees can be obtained in:

  • Homeopathy – Homeopathy Certificate
  • Natural Childbirth/Midwifery – Obstetrics Certificate from American College of Naturopathic Obstetrics (ACNO)
  • Traditional or Classical Chinese Medicine – Master of Oriental Medicine

What is the scope of practice of naturopathic doctors?

In Vermont, naturopathic doctors are licensed to diagnose and treat disease. This includes providing annual checkups, physical exams, and gynecological exams. NDs often order laboratory tests and refer patients for imaging tests such as x-rays and ultrasounds. NDs also licensed to administer intravenous vitamin and mineral therapy, vaccinations, and to write prescription medications.

In most cases naturopathic doctors will attempt to treat the cause of the disease so that no medication is required or use natural alternatives to these drugs instead. In Vermont, however, naturopathic physicians are licensed to prescribe prescription medications when needed. 

How does naturopathic medicine differ from conventional medicine?

The profession of naturopathic medicine is unique because it’s philosophy. We differ from conventional medical doctors in that our practice us guided by the following principles:

Use the Healing Power of Nature

The body has the ability to maintain and restore health. Healing occurs as a result of the revival of our “vital force” – qi, prana, spirit.

Treat the Cause

The simplest and wisest practice of medicine is to treat and remove the cause of illness rather than merely suppressing the symptoms.

First, Do No Harm

Naturopathic physicians prefer natural therapies that are less invasive and thus synergistic with the body’s healing process.

Doctor as Teacher

Naturopathic physicians educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility to achieve a state of good health.

Treat the Whole Person

Naturopathic physicians explore physical, mental, emotional, environmental, genetic and spiritual factors when treating a patient.

Emphasize Preventive Medicine

Naturopathic physicians strive to identify the factors that make one susceptible to illness and work toward preventing that illness.

How long has naturopathic medicine been practiced?

The roots of naturopathic medicine go back thousands of years to the Chinese, Greek, Indian, and European healing traditions. As a distinct American healthcare profession, naturopathic medicine is over 100 years old, tracing its origins to Dr. Benedict Lust. Dr. Lust came to the U.S. in 1896 from Germany to teach the natural healing methods practiced in Europe, and formed the first U.S. naturopathic medical school in 1898.

In the 1920s, Naturopathic medical conventions attracted more than 10,000 naturopathic physicians. There were more than 20 naturopathic medical colleges, and N.D.’s were licensed in a majority of states. Naturopathic medicine experienced a decline in the 1940s with the rise of pharmaceutical drugs and technological medicine. The National College of Naturopathic Medicine was founded in 1956 in Portland, Oregon to keep the profession alive.

Can Naturopathic Physicians practice in all states?

Currently, naturopathic doctors are licensed or regulated in 23 U.S. states, including California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Connecticut, Arizona, Utah, Alaska, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Montana. In addition, we are licensed to practice in Washington DC, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For more information on licensure, contact the American Association of Naturopathic Doctors at www.naturopathic.org.

How do I choose a Naturopathic Physician?

When choosing a naturopathic physician, it is important to ask where he or she received their training. The following are schools accredited or candidates for accreditation by the Council for Naturopathic Medical Education:

  • Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA & San Diego, CA
  • National University of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, OR
  • Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences in Tempe, AZ
  • National University of Health Sciences in Lombard, IL

I attended the National University of Naturopathic Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, Oregon. Founded in 1956, NCNM is the oldest naturopathic medical school in the United States and is renowned for it’s extensive community clinic program. Students have the opportunity to work with clients from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, including geriatrics, homeless teens, people with alcohol and drug addictions, migrant workers and community college students.