What’s Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic physicians use traditional healing methods both validated by science and passed down through centuries of clinical observation. Naturopathic medical philosophy follows a therapeutic order and set of principles that starts with the least force and moves to more invasive measures as necessary. Naturopaths focus on the individual rather than just the disease, incorporating proactive prevention and comprehensive diagnosis in patient’s treatment plans. One of the core beliefs in Naturopathic philosophy is that we have an inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health given the ability to do so and it is the doctor’s role to identify and remove barriers or obstacles to cure.

Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.


Naturopathic physicians work in private practices, hospitals, clinics and community health centers. NDs practice throughout the United States and Canada. Qualified naturopathic doctors undergo rigorous training before they become licensed health-care practitioners. See below for overveiw of Naturopathic education.

NDs treat all medical conditions and can provide both individual and family health care. NDs can perform minor surgeries, such as removing cysts or stitching up superficial wounds. However, they do not practice major surgery. NDs are trained to utilize prescription drugs, although the emphasis of naturopathic medicine is the use of natural healing agents. See the principles of Naturopathic medicine below:

Naturopathic Education

message_bastyr_01Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are family practice-oriented primary health care physicians. Naturopathic training consists of a four year, graduate level, accredited naturopathic medical school. The five existing naturopathic colleges in the US are accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education, a specialized accreditor recognized by the US Department of Education. The first two years of schooling are like those of a conventional medical doctor (MD), the majority of classes consisting of basic sciences (anatomy, cellular biology, microbiology, pathology, etc). The additional two to four years consist of specialized academic courses (i.e. cardiology, EENT, gynecology, gastroenterology, urology, etc) as well as courses in naturopathic therapeutics like herbal medicine, homeopathy, body work, spinal manipulation, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, clinical nutrition, and counseling. After graduation, NDs must pass national board examination to become licensed.

Comparison with other medical programs?

Naturopathic physicians undergo training that is similar in structure and scope to that of medical and osteopathic doctors. Naturopathic medical colleges are four-year graduate schools with rigorous admissions requirements comparable to other medical schools. The Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND) degree is awarded after classroom, clinic and practical study.

Naturopathic physicians are trained in medical sciences including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, immunology, pharmacology, cardiology, neurology, radiology, minor surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, embryology, pediatrics, psychology, pharmacology, minor surgery, dermatology, and clinical and physical diagnosis.

The training also includes extensive study of naturopathic philosophy and therapeutics including therapeutic nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, ayurvedic medicine, hydrotherapy, manipulative therapy, and counseling. Because coursework in natural therapeutics is added to a standard medical curriculum, naturopathic doctors often receive significantly more hours of classroom education in these areas than the graduates of many leading medical schools, including Yale, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins.

ND MD Prerequisite Comparison

Comparison of ND and MD training and scope

Like many states and provinces, Washington’s laws require graduates of naturopathic medical schools to pass rigorous board examinations in order to qualify for licensure. Washington NDs must also complete 20 hours annually of continuing education training in order to maintain their license.

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