Licensed naturopathic doctors are primary health care doctors trained to use natural methods in preventing and treating disease. Naturopathic doctors focus on treating the whole person and promoting health. They are trained to conventionally diagnose and treat disease using the most up-to-date laboratory technologies and imaging techniques.
NDs use holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and wellness. They can perform all routine medical exams and minor surgeries in the office, but may also refer patients to medical specialists for more specialized testing or conventional intervention. Naturopathic doctors do not use synthetic drugs, nor do they perform major surgery.
Naturopathic doctors attend a 4-year graduate level naturopathic medical school. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, the naturopathic doctor is required to complete 4 years of training in clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, and hydrotherapy. The degree conferred is Doctor of Naturopathy. A naturopathic doctor uses the initials ND after their name to denote their degree.
A naturopathic doctor takes rigorous professional board exams to be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care physician. To be eligible to sit for the board exams, a candidate must have graduated from one of the three accredited schools in the United States. Currently, naturopathic doctors are licensed in Puerto Rico and 11 states: Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. Several states are currently creating licensing laws. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) is the professional organization that represents licensed naturopathic doctors.
Caution: There is a group of practitioners in the United States who call themselves naturopaths or naturopathic physicians that do not have the formal training necessary to obtain licensure or membership in the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP). Some may be certified by organizations that sound official or similar to the AANP. Certification is not the same as licensure. These "doctors" are not regulated. They may or may not have completed brief correspondence courses and may or may not be harmful to your health.
As with all health care choices, educate yourself. It is important to check the education and professional references of your doctors. If you are uncertain about the qualifications of someone using the ND title in an unlicensed state, contact the graduate institutions that educate NDs for alumni lists or contact the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP.) Membership in the AANP provides quality assurance that those persons identifying themselves as NDs meet the educational criteria for licensure.