Naturopathic physicians combine the wisdom of nature with the rigors of modern science. Steeped in traditional healing methods, principles and practices, naturopathic medicine focuses on holistic, proactive prevention and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. Naturopathic diagnosis and treatment emphasizes finding the cause and correcting it with substances and energies natural to our bodies whenever possible, rather than suppressing symptoms with patent medicines (“pharmaceutical drugs”). By using protocols that minimize the risk of harm, naturopathic physicians help facilitate the body’s inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health. It is the naturopathic physician’s role to identify and remove barriers to good health by helping to create a healing internal and external environment. NDs are educated to use patent medicines when absolutely necessary, although the emphasis of naturopathic medicine is the use of natural healing agents.
Professional Education & Curriculum
A licensed naturopathic physician (N.D.) has attended a college or University, both completing required “pre-requisites” such as undergraduate chemistry and biology, and earning a four-year B.A. Degree. He or she then has attended a four or five year graduate-level accredited naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an M.D., but also studies holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy extensively, with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness.
Naturopathic medicine students learn to treat all aspects of family health and wellness, from pediatrics to geriatrics. They attend four-year graduate-level programs at accredited institutions, where they are educated in the same basic sciences as allopathic physicians.
During their first two years of study, the curriculum focuses on basic and clinical sciences and diagnostics, covering:
Basic Science Curriculum
- Human physiology
- Human pathology
- Macro- and microbiology
For at least the final two years of their medical program, students intern in clinical settings under the close supervision of licensed professionals, learning various therapeutic modalities including:
- Botanical medicine
- Clinical nutrition
- Laboratory & clinical diagnosis
- Minor surgery
- Naturopathic physical medicine
- Nutritional science
Some schools in the American Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges actually require more hours of basic and clinical science than many top allopathic (MD) medical schools. Students of naturopathic medicine use the Western medical sciences as a foundation on which to build a thorough knowledge of holistic, non-toxic therapies and develop skills in diagnosis, disease prevention and wellness optimization.
A naturopathic physician takes rigorous professional board exams so that he or she may be licensed by a state or other jurisdiction as a primary care general practice physician. Many states, including Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona license naturopathic physicians. In Washington State, ND licensure includes minor surgery and prescriptions capability for bio-identical hormones, antibiotics, and naturally-based pain medications.
Additional information on naturopathic schools can be found on the American Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges web site and the American Association for Naturopathic Physicians.