Naturopathic medicine is a confluence of Western science, natural therapies, and holistic approaches that focus on the use of natural remedies to help the body heal itself. Naturopathic medicine aims to treat the whole person -- mind, body, and spirit -- in order to heal the root causes of an illness, as opposed to merely treating the symptoms. A naturopathic doctor, or doctor of naturopathic medicine (ND), is trained in naturopathic medicine.
What is the Difference Between a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) and a Medical Doctor (MD)
Naturopathic physicians attend an accredited 4-year naturopathic medical college. Their training consists of a comprehensive study of the conventional medical sciences, as well as an in-depth study of a range of natural therapies.
Like traditional medical doctors, ND’s are required to take a professional board exam to become licensed. Residency training is not required for ND licensure, although some ND’s do choose to participate in residencies.
What Does a Naturopathic Doctor Do That a Traditional Doctor Does Not?
Traditional doctors take a more biological approach to treatment and healing, as their education is disease-specific. They provide medical solutions to alleviate a disease-centered around treating the disease symptoms. A naturopathic doctor, on the other hand, treats the body as one. Instead of simply treating the symptoms, they aim to find the root cause behind the disease, which can require a variety of therapeutic modalities.
Let’s take eczema, for example. If you visit a medical doctor to treat your eczema, they may give you a prescription cream. This cream should help alleviate the physical symptoms of your eczema (itchy, dry, irritated skin) but won’t prevent your eczema from returning once you stop using the cream. Instead of prescribing a cream, a naturopathic doctor may suggest dietary and lifestyle changes. They might also recommend using the cream, in addition to natural home remedies like oatmeal baths.
What to Look For in a Qualified Naturopathic Doctor
Before choosing a naturopathic practitioner, it is important to consider a few key elements: their education/training, licenses, certifications, experience, as well as your state’s licensing requirements.