Naturopathic Doctors

Definition of a Naturopathic Doctor

A special law of Congress was enacted in February 1929, officially recognizing the Naturopathic Doctor. The definition of the profession was later clarified by Congress in 1931.

The Naturopathic Doctor:

Diagnoses, treats, and cares for patients, using system of practice that bases treatment of physiological functions and abnormal conditions on natural laws governing human body: Utilizes physiological, psychological, and mechanical methods, such as air, water, light, heat, earth, phytotherapy, food and herb therapy, psychotherapy, electrotherapy, physiotherapy, minor and orificial surgery, mechanotherapy, naturopathic corrections and manipulation, and natural methods or modalities, together with natural medicines, natural processed foods and herbs, and nature’s remedies. Excludes major surgery, therapeutic use of x-ray and radium, and use of drugs, except those assimilable substances containing elements or compounds of body tissues and are physiologically compatible to body processes for maintenance of life.

–Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), the United States Government’s book of jobs and job descriptions.

Today’s Naturopathic Doctor uses diverse techniques including modern and traditional, scientific and empirical methods. Although Naturopathy originated in the United States as an organized school of medical treatment, it is practiced all over the world with some variations.

Education of Naturopathic Physicians

A Doctor of Naturopathy (N.D.) or Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (N.M.D.) is the degree awarded in the United States, depending on the school. A Doctor of Natural Medicine (D.N.M.) is a degree that has appeared more recently in other countries.

The doctor may be educated in two ways. Some attend a four-year graduate level, exclusively naturopathic medical school. Others attend another type of medical college and take courses in natural medicine in addition. In either case, the schooling covers the same basic sciences as regular medical school, but those who become naturopathic physicians concentrate on a holistic approach rather than specializing (the vast majority are family practitioners), and learn natural pharmacology rather than the use of synthetic drugs.

In addition, naturopathic doctors receive training in such varied therapies as hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, joint and soft tissue manipulation, homeopathic medicine, clinical nutrition, Oriental medicine and acupuncture, counseling and psychology, natural childbirth, and minor surgery (although the scope of practice varies from state to state). A thorough national board examination is taken upon completing training. Several rigorous qualifying exams are administered; some take the United States Naturopathic Licensing Exam (USNLE), some take the Naturopathic Physician Licensing Examinations (NPLEX). Traditional or empirical naturopaths, who do not attend four-year medical colleges and function as nutritional or health counselors, take the Certified Traditional Naturopath (CTN) exam.