What is naturopathic medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a primary care discipline that emphasizes prevention and the self-healing process through the use of natural therapies. Naturopathic physicians focus on identifying the underlying causes of disease. Naturopathic treatments are supported by research drawn from peer-reviewed journals from many disciplines.

Naturopathic medicine has developed over many centuries from many different cultures and medical traditions, with consistent philosophical foundations: the body has the potential to heal itself given the right tools and support, and each patient has their own unique needs. The selection of treatments is based on the physician’s assessment of these needs and the underlying causes of illness for each individual patient. Treatments may include the use of botanical medicines, nutritional support, lifestyle counseling, physical medicine, and other supportive interventions. A naturopathic physician’s approach is to help the patient heal themselves with appropriate natural medicines and activities that do not cause harm to the patient.

What type of education does a naturopathic physician receive?
A licensed naturopathic physician (ND) attends a four-year, graduate-level accredited naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as a conventional medical doctor, but also studies holistic and non-toxic treatments with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. In addition to the standard medical curriculum, naturopathic physicians is required to complete of training in clinical nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, and counseling (to encourage people to make lifestyle changes in support of their personal health).
What kind of license does my naturopathic physician receive and what do they have to do to maintain it?
Naturopathic physicians are licensed in seventeen states – including Oregon, Washington, Utah, Alaska, Montana, and Colorado – and must complete a four-year graduate-level medical degree program at a federally accredited naturopathic medical school. Graduates must pass a national biomedical and clinical science licensing exam in order to become licensed (in all states that license naturopathic physicians). A licensed naturopathic physician is responsible to their licensing board for the quality of their work, and is required to continue lifelong learning. This protects the public and allows for confidence that the physician has satisfactorily completed an education that has been approved by the United States Department of Education (USDE).
What can I expect at my first visit?
A naturopathic physician takes a complete history at the first visit and performs any necessary physical examination. Often, the questions that a naturopathic physician asks may be more detailed than those of other providers, to get a picture of the patient that has the illness, not just the illness that has the patient. Patients can expect a longer visit as their physician gathers this information. Laboratory evaluations may be performed when needed, as well as other diagnostic procedures.

A naturopathic physician may ask you about aspects of your history that may surprise you. It is not always what you are experiencing physically that needs clarification, but what may be an underlying cause of your problem that has never been determined. This can be especially true in chronic conditions, where the illness itself can impact many areas of life. Your naturopathic physician may talk with you about physical, mental, emotional or spiritual aspects of your being, and support you in recognizing whether there are connections in those areas that might be affecting your health.

Most importantly, the goal is to identify the cause of your disease or discomfort, utilize safe and effective natural means of treating your symptoms, and help you make sustainable changes in your life to prevent further problems.

Can I see my naturopathic physician as my primary care provider (PCP)?
Some patients may choose to have a naturopathic physician as their primary care provider. Others may see a naturopathic physician for a specific condition. There may be times when your naturopathic physician will need to work in cooperation with other healthcare providers. They are skilled in working with conventional medical doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and other medical providers as a team when this is warranted. This will deliver the best of integrated care when you need it.

There will be limitations and exclusions associated with your health plan contract. Please familiarize yourself with these to ensure that the care you receive will be covered. If you have questions regarding covered services, please contact our customer service department.

What kind of conditions does a naturopathic physician treat?
 While the primary goal of naturopathic medicine is to prevent disease and health problems, naturopathic physicians are trained in primary care and treat a wide variety of conditions. Licensing and scopes of practice for naturopathic physicians vary by state, but some conditions that respond well to naturopathic medicine include:

• Allergies/Asthma
• Anemia
• Anxiety
• Common cold
• Conditions of the digestive system
• Fatigue
• Fibromyalgia
• Gout
• Headaches
• Men’s health
• Women’s health


Discuss any current healthcare concerns with your provider before beginning treatment.