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What is a Naturopathic Doctor (N.D.), Physician, or Practitioner, or Naturopath?

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on June 12, 2023

In the realm of alternative medicine, the role of a Naturopathic Doctor (N.D.), Physician, or Practitioner, commonly referred to as a Naturopath, is increasingly gaining recognition. With a focus on holistic healing and natural remedies, these professionals play a vital role in providing comprehensive healthcare options. In this article, we will explore the education, licensure, and scope of practice of naturopathic doctors, referencing the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP). (1)

Education and Accreditation

Naturopathic Doctors undergo rigorous training to ensure their competence in providing safe and effective healthcare. They attend accredited naturopathic medical schools recognized by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). These programs typically span four years and require a bachelor's degree as a prerequisite for admission. (2)

During their four-year medical education, Naturopathic Doctors study basic medical sciences, such as anatomy, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology. They also receive specialized training in natural therapies, including herbal medicine, clinical nutrition, homeopathy, physical medicine, and lifestyle counseling.

Licensure and Regulation

Naturopathic Doctors are licensed healthcare professionals in many states across the United States. Each state has its own regulatory board or licensing authority that oversees the licensure process for naturopathic doctors. The specific requirements for licensure vary by state, but generally include graduation from an accredited naturopathic medical program, passing the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination (NPLEX), and meeting additional state-specific criteria. (3)

Licensing grants naturopathic doctors the authority to diagnose and treat illnesses within their scope of practice. It is important to note that the scope of practice can vary from state to state, so naturopathic doctors must comply with the regulations set forth by their licensing boards.

Scope of Practice

Naturopathic doctors are trained to provide primary care services and can serve as primary care physicians in some states. They offer a patient-centered approach, focusing on identifying and addressing the underlying causes of illness rather than merely treating symptoms. This often involves personalized treatment plans that integrate natural therapies, lifestyle modifications, and, when necessary, conventional medicine.

Naturopathic doctors may also have the authority to prescribe medications in states where they are granted prescription rights. These prescribing privileges are typically subject to strict regulations and limited to certain medications within their scope of practice.

Role in Complementary Healthcare

Naturopathic doctors play a significant role in the field of complementary and integrative medicine. They often collaborate with other healthcare professionals, including medical doctors, to provide comprehensive and individualized care to their patients. This integrative approach recognizes the value of both conventional and natural medicine, ensuring that patients receive the most appropriate and effective treatments for their specific needs.

Naturopathic Doctors, Physicians, or Practitioners, commonly known as Naturopaths, are highly trained healthcare professionals who provide holistic and natural approaches to healthcare. Their education at accredited naturopathic medical schools, licensing in multiple states with prescription rights in some, and adherence to the scope of practice guidelines demonstrate their commitment to providing safe and effective care. As they continue to contribute to the field of complementary medicine, Naturopathic Doctors serve as valuable healthcare providers, offering patients alternative options for achieving optimal health and well-being.

(Note: The information provided in this article is based on general knowledge about naturopathic doctors and their education and practice. Specific regulations and requirements may vary by state. For accurate and up-to-date information, it is recommended to consult the official websites.)


  1. American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP). (n.d.). Retrieved from [https://naturopathic.org/]
  2. Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). (n.d.). Retrieved from [https://cnme.org/]
  3. National Association of Boards of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE). (n.d.). Retrieved from [https://nabne.org/]

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