Naturopathic Medicine is another title for what you may call Alternative or Complementary Medicine. It is a profession of health care which emphasizes prevention, treatment and the promotion of optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and modalities such as dietary therapies, nutrition and herbal medicines which stimulate the body’s inherent healing abilities. The principles of Naturopathic Medicine address the whole body and focus on identifying and treating the cause of an illness, rather than eliminating or suppressing symptoms.

A Naturopathic doctor is a doctor who is an expert in complementary medicines such as herbal medicine, nutritional science, naturopathic physical medicine, environmental medicine and homeopathy.

Naturopathic doctors are experts in complementary medicines and medical doctors are experts in drug therapy and surgery. Both attend a 4-year accredited medical school after completing a bachelor’s degree and premed requirements. Naturopathic medical schools, however, focus a great deal more on nutrition, herbal medicine, physical medicine and homeopathy than conventional medical schools. Both doctors are trained in western medicine, pharmacology and traditional diagnostic techniques and utilize therapies that are based in science and therefore, can work very well in a collaborative setting.

There is a lot of scientific evidence to support the use of herbal medicine as well as nutritional medicine. The National Library of Medicine, in fact, has a medical research database called PubMed which, as of August 2020, contains over 37,000 peer-reviewed, double blind placebo-controlled studies on herbal medicines and nutritional supplements combined. Most medical doctors are not familiar with the research on naturopathic medicine because they receive very little training on nutrition and herbal medicine while in medical school. After they graduate, they are often too busy to go the library and look up the research. Most of their new knowledge comes from medical conferences and continuing education seminars that are often sponsored by drug companies.

No. There are two main types of schools offering degrees in naturopathic medicine, 4-year graduate-level schools and correspondence schools. Currently there are about 25 states that have no licensing laws for naturopathic doctors (Massachusetts just passed a licensing law in 2019). In these states where there is no licensing law, an ND may have a 4-year graduate-level education or they may have a mail order degree. Before you see an ND you should completely research their background. They should have a bachelor's degree with premedical requirements like biology, chemistry and physics and they should have also attended one of these seven 4-yr naturopathic medical schools: Bastyr University, National University of Natural Medicine, National University of Health Sciences, Southwest College, University of Bridgeport, Boucher Institute or the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. These are the only schools that offer an in-depth training in both naturopathic and conventional medicine. The following table shows that naturopathic doctors from 4-year accredited naturopathic medical schools receive far more training in Western medicine and complementary medicine than naturopaths from correspondence programs.

Fall Courses Credits Winter Courses Credits Spring & Summer Courses Credits
Year 1
Biochemistry 14Biochemistry 24Fundamentals of Ayurvedic Med2
Human Physiology 1 Lec/Lab5.5Human Physiology 2 Lec/Lab5.5Biochemistry 34
Histology5Embryology3Human Physiology 33
Human Anatomy 1 Lec/Lab5.5Human Anatomy 2 Lec/Lab5.5Gross Human Anatomy 3 Lec/Lab5.5
Naturopathic Clinical Theory 12Research Methods & Design2Neuroscience5.5
Clinic Entry 11The Determinants of Health1.5Botanical Medicine 12
Principles of Chinese Medicine3The Vis Medicatrix Naturae1.5
Massage1.5Hydrotherapy/Physiotherapy Lab1
Hydrotherapy/Physiotherapy Lecture2Physician Heal Thyself2
Year 2
Human Pathology 14Human Pathology 24Human Pathology 34
Immunology4Infectious Diseases6.5Pharmacology5
Botanical Medicine 22Botanical Medicine 32Homeopathy 33
Homeopathy 12Homeopathy 23Clinical Lab Diagnosis 33.5
Clinical Lab Diagnosis 13.5Clinical Lab Diagnosis 23.5Physical/Clinical Diagnosis 3 Lecture2
Physical/Clinical Dx 1 Lec2Physical/Clinical Diagnosis 2 Lecture2Physical/Clinical Diagnosis 3 Lab2
Physical/Clinical Dx 1 Lab2Physical/Clinical Diagnosis 2 Lab2Clinic Entry 21
Naturopathic Counseling 13Naturopathic Counseling 23Preceptorship 11
Foods, Dietary Systems & Assessment3Macro & Micronutrients3Naturopathic Manipulation 12
Year 3
Botanical Medicine 42Botanical Medicine 52Botanical Medicine Dispensary Lab1
Normal Maternity3Naturopathic Clinical Theory 21Practice Management 12
Environmental Medicine1.5Dermatology2Clinical Ecology2
Public Health1.5Oncology2Neurology2
Gastroenterology2Gynecology3Pediatrics 22
EENT2Pediatrics 12Family Medicine2
Naturopathic Manipulation 23Naturopathic Manipulation 33The Healing Systems1
Orthopedics2Sports Medicine/Therapeutic Exercise2Naturopathic Manipulation 43
Psychological Assessment2Addictions & Disorders2Naturopathic Counseling 32
Diet & Nutrient Therapy 13Diet & Nutrient Therapy 231-2 Clinic Shifts2-4
1-2 Clinic Shifts2-41-2 Clinic Shifts2-4Naturopathic Case Analysis & Mgmt 11.5
Minor Surgery3
Medical Procedures3
1-2 Clinic Shifts2-4
Year 4
Urology1.5Diagnostic Imaging2Practice Management 22
Naturopathic Case Analysis & Management 21Rheumatology1.5Radiographic Interpretation 23
Adv. Naturopathic Ther. 12Adv. Naturopathic Therapeutics 22Pulmonary Medicine1.5
3-4 Clinic Shifts6-8Preceptorship 21Preceptorship 31
3-4 Clinic Shifts6-83-4 Clinic Shifts6-8
Radiographic Interpretation 1 Lecture3
Radiographic Interpretation 1 Lab1
3-4 Clinic Shifts6-8
History of NaturopathyBody Awareness & Physical MovementThe Client-PractitionerIntro to Homeopathy
Foundations of NaturopathyAlternative Approaches to ArthritisRelationshipClassical Homeopathy
Nutrition & DiseaseManual Therapies: Massage, Reflexology & Acupressure3 ElecticesHerbology 2
Detoxification & HealingBuilding & Maintaining a Consulting PracticeConsulting PracticumHolistic Human
IridologyEssentials of Nutrition 1Development
Essentials of Nutrition 2Holistic Human
Intro to HerbologyDevelopment

Naturopathic medicines can be very safe if used under the proper supervision of a licensed naturopathic doctor because he/she is well trained in the research on drug metabolism and the interactions of natural medicines. Many adverse effects from dietary supplements occur in people taking poor quality products and in people taking medications along with supplements that may be contraindicated. It is best to see a licensed naturopathic doctor before taking nutritional supplements and not treat yourself or see an unqualified practitioner.