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What is a naturopathic physician?

Naturopathic physicians are licensed healthcare providers who are specialists in the natural treatment and prevention of disease.

Naturopathic physicians attend four-year graduate schools that are nationally accredited by the Council for Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). The CNME is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, which classifies the ND degree as a Doctorate-Professional degree, on par with MD and DO. Currently 6 schools in the US and Canada are accredited through the CNME to provide naturopathic medical education.

The naturopathic program consists of at least 4 years of study with over 4,100 clock-hours in the classroom or clinic. A minimum of 1,200 hours are spent in clinical education with direct patient contact under supervision.


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years of graduate school

(Not including undergraduate premedical training)

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credits per year

(on average)

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hours of clinical education

(time spent in direct contact with patients)

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hours in classroom or clinic

(total. That's a lot of hours of medical school!)


The main difference in education between a naturopathic physician (N.D.) and a medical doctor (M.D.) is in the the area of specialization. By definition naturopathic physicians are specialists in natural treatment of primary care conditions. While MD students do rotations in specialty fields in their 3rd and 4th years (like Oncology, Obstetrics, Surgery, etc), ND students do clinical work in naturopathic primary care, learning huge volumes of natural health material, including medical herbs, manipulation techniques, nutrition, vitamin/mineral supplementation, and more.

Also, naturopathic care differs from conventional medical care in that we tend to avoid the use of pharmaceuticals and major surgery unless absolutely necessary. Our training includes the appropriate use of these tools, but we prefer to save them for times of absolute medical necessity.

The goal of a naturopathic physician is to determine why someone became ill in the first place. This is why a naturopathic physician typically spends 2-3x the face-to-face time with patients as does a conventional medical doctor. To treat the underlying cause ND's use tools like counseling, botanical medicines, nutrition, homeopathy, naturopathic manipulation, vitamin/mineral supplementation, hydrotherapy and more.

Where can I find a naturopathic doctor?


Find a naturopathic doctor who is a Naturopathic Pediatrics contributor. (Work with the experts!)

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Find a licensed naturopathic physician that specializes in pediatrics

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Find a licensed naturopathic physician that specializes in perinatal care (fertility, pregnancy and birth).

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Find a licensed naturopathic physician for general care.

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Currently, 17 states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands have licensing or regulation laws for naturopathic doctors. In these states, naturopathic doctors are required to graduate from an accredited four-year residential naturopathic medical school and pass an extensive postdoctoral board examination (NPLEX) in order to receive a license.

If you live in one of the blue highlighted states, then your state has licensure laws in place to protect patients from unregulated, minimally educated "naturopaths." You can simply Google search for Naturopathic Doctor in your area. There are also qualified naturopathic physicians practicing in unlicensed states as Health Counselors or Health Advisors. Always ask about the qualifications of a naturopathic physician in an unlicensed state - they should be graduates of 4-year accredited naturopathic medical schools. Most ND's in unlicensed areas generally hold a license in another state. It is our hope that all 50 states will develop laws and licensure for naturopathic physicians in order to protect patients from unqualified practitioners.

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