Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are primary care physicians clinically trained in natural therapeutics. The philosophy of the medicine is derived in part from a Hippocratic teaching more than 2000 years old: Vis mediatrix naturae – nature is the healer of all diseases.
Their practice is based on the same basic biomedical science foundation as allopathic practice; however their philosophies and approaches differ considerably from their conventional counterparts. Naturopathic doctors diagnose disease and treat patients by using natural modalities such as physical manipulation, clinical nutrition, herbal medicine, homeopathy, counseling, acupuncture and hydrotherapy, among others. They choose treatment based on the individual patient, not based on the generality of symptoms. This approach has proven successful in treating both chronic and acute conditions.
The 6 Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic medicine is defined by principles rather than by methods or modalities. Above all, it honors the body's innate wisdom to heal. Naturopathic physicians practice the six fundamental principles of naturopathic medicine:
- First Do No Harm – primum non nocere
Naturopathic medicine uses therapies that are safe and effective.
- The Healing Power of Nature – vis medicatrix naturae
The human body possesses the inherent ability to restore health. The physician's role is to facilitate this process with the aid of natural, nontoxic therapies.
- Discover and Treat the Cause, Not Just the Effect – tolle causam
Physicians seek and treat the underlying cause of a disease. Symptoms are viewed as expressions of the body's natural attempt to heal. The origin of disease is removed or treated so the patient can recover.
- Treat the Whole Person – tolle totum
The multiple factors in health and disease are considered while treating the whole person. Physicians provide flexible treatment programs to meet individual health care needs.
- The Physician is a Teacher - docere
The physician's major role is to educate, empower and motivate patients to take responsibility for their own health. Creating a healthy, cooperative relationship with the patient has a strong therapeutic value.
- Prevention is the best "cure" - praevenire
Naturopathic physicians are preventive medicine specialists. Physicians assess patient risk factors and heredity susceptibility and intervene appropriately to reduce risk and prevent illness. Prevention of disease is best accomplished through education and a lifestyle that supports health.
A Career as a Naturopathic Doctor
Because of the exploding interest in natural health care, there are more career opportunities in natural medicine than ever before. Graduates of naturopathic programs are establishing thriving practices, with many of them choosing multi–faceted careers. They are filling positions as:
- Primary care physicians in private practice and in integrative clinics
- Research scientists
- Faculty members in alternative or conventional medical institutions
- Natural pharmacists
- Wellness educators
- Public health administrators
- Research and development scientists in the natural products industry
- Consultants to industry, insurance companies, public service, political and other organizations
The broad scope and flexibility of natural medicine allows naturopathic physicians to create careers and lifestyles suited to their personality, their goals and dreams.
With the rising demand for natural health care, Americans are visiting NDs more frequently and spending more on natural health care services and products than ever before. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) predicts that consumer demand for alternative health care will continue to grow because of "research and changing attitudes about alternative, noninvasive health care practices." The DOL also forecasts that employment of physicians in general will grow faster than average for all occupations through 2014, driven in large part by the rapidly increasing older population. Read more about the future job outlook for NDs on the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC) web site.
Source: "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition," (December 17, 2009) and "Employment Outlook: 2004-14," (November 2005), Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.
Naturopathic Medical Education
Naturopathic medicine students learn to treat all aspects of family health and wellness, from pediatrics to geriatrics. They attend four-year graduate-level programs at accredited institutions, where they are educated in the same biomedical sciences as allopathic physicians.
During their first two years of study, the curriculum focuses on basic and clinical sciences and diagnostics, covering:
- Human physiology
- Human pathology
- Macro- and microbiology
For at least the final two years of their medical program, students intern in clinical settings under the close supervision of licensed professionals, learning various therapeutic modalities including:
- Botanical medicine
- Clinical nutrition
- Laboratory & clinical diagnosis
- Minor surgery
- Naturopathic physical medicine
- Nutritional science
Entrance into an accredited naturopathic medical program requires a bachelor's degree. Naturopathic medical students study the same core biomedical sciences as MD students. Their education consists of four years of very rigorous professional-level coursework. They spend hours in science and clinical laboratories learning to recognize and understand the root causes of illness and the tools and treatments available to help future patients to attain and maintain health. Most importantly, they spend many hours working directly with patients under the supervision of a licensed naturopathic physician.
There are a variety of ways for interested students with an aptitude for the health sciences to launch their career in the growing field of naturopathic medicine:
- Download a PDF brochure about becoming a naturopathic doctor.
- Subscribe to an AANMC e-newsletter.
- Request brochures and course materials directly from the AANMC-member school(s) of your choice.
- Or begin the application process.
The 7 Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges
The AANMC offers seven accredited North American schools to choose from. These superior colleges are accredited and meet both federal and academic standards. Explore all AANMC member schools to discover the unique qualities of each institution.
Note: Obtaining a license to practice naturopathic medicine can only be accomplished by graduating from an accredited naturopathic medical college.
- Bastyr University
- Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine
- Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM)
- National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM)
- National University of Health Sciences (NUHS)
- Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences (SCNM)
- University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine (UBCNM)
Content contributed by the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC).
The Philosophy and Principles of Naturopathic Medicine content contributed by the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine.
Coquina Deger, Managing Editor
Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC)
4435 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 403
Washington, DC 20016
Phone: 202.237.8150 or 866.538.2267 (toll-free)