Naturopathic doctors (ND’s) are currently licensed in 16 states, 2 US territories, and 4 Canadian provinces. California became a licensed state in 2004. ND’s attend four-year, graduate-level, accredited naturopathic medical schools where they are trained as primary care doctors of natural medicine. The training consists of comprehensive study of the conventional medical sciences, including anatomy, physiology, pathology, microbiology, immunology, clinical and physical diagnosis, laboratory diagnosis, cardiology, gastroenterology, gynecology, etc., as well as an in depth study of natural therapeutics. Medical training is similar to conventional medical schools, yet with pronounced differences in philosophy and treatment protocols and special focus on preventive medicine. ND’s practice as independent primary care general practitioners, with the ability to diagnose and treat medical conditions, perform physical exams, and order laboratory testing.
Naturopathic doctors use a variety of natural and non-invasive therapies, including clinical nutrition, homeopathy, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, physical medicine, and counseling. Many naturopathic doctors have additional training and certification in acupuncture and natural child birth. Naturopathic treatments are effective in treating a wide variety of conditions without the need for additional intervention. Naturopathic doctors are also able to function within an integrated framework, and naturopathic therapies can be used to complement treatments used by conventionally trained medical doctors. The result is a patient-centered approach that strives to provide the most appropriate treatment for an individual’s needs without the side-effects of pharmaceutical medications.
To become a licensed naturopathic doctor, one must graduate from one of the seven accredited, graduate-level schools in North America and pass a national licensing exam (NPLEX). These schools are: Bastyr University, National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, University of Bridgeport – College of Naturopathic Medicine and Boucher Institute Naturopathic Medicine. The education, training, and licensing of naturopathic doctors distinguish them from lay practicioners called “traditional naturopaths”.