Naturopathic doctors study a variety of practices, including herbology.
Naturopathic doctors are primary care physicians who receive specialized training in natural healthcare and treatment. Naturopathic medicine focuses on health maintenance and disease prevention through a combination of holistic approaches. The qualifications to become a naturopathic doctor vary by state, but all doctors must go through extensive education and training equivalent to that of a traditional MD.
Like general practitioners, naturopathic doctors go through four years of graduate-level schooling comprised of classroom, clinical and practical work. According to the Alternative Medicine Foundation, the requirements for entry into naturopathic medicine programs are on par with requirements for traditional medical schools. Naturopathic programs combine eastern and western medicine that takes a preventative, holistic approach to health. The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges lists accredited naturopathic medical programs in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Chicago, Illinois; Phoenix, Arizona; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Toronto; Ontario. After completion of a program, naturopathic students must pass board examinations to obtain their Naturopathic Doctoral (ND) degree.
The NPLEX (Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations) is the national board examination that graduates of a naturopathic medical program must take after completing an approved program. The exam, given by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners, is divided up into two parts: Biomedical Science Examination and Core Clinical Science Examination. According to the NABNE, the Biomedical Science Examination “covers the topics of anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and genetics, microbiology and immunology, and pathology.” The Core Clinical Science Examination “is an integrated case-based examination that covers the following topics: diagnosis (physical, clinical, and lab), diagnostic imaging, botanical medicine, nutrition, physical medicine, homeopathy, counseling, behavioral medicine, health psychology, emergency medicine, medical procedures, public health, pharmacology, and research.” Students must pass part one of the exam before taking part two.
Naturopathic doctors combine eastern and western practices to diagnose patients and refer them to specialists when necessary. However, naturopathic doctors do not write traditional prescriptions for pharmaceutical drugs. They become skilled in nutrition, homeopathy, Eastern medicine, hygiene, botanical medicine and other disciplines. Naturopathic medicine focuses on treating patients on a case-by-case basis with a focus on prevention of disease and maintenance of overall health, including mental, emotional and social factors.
According to the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Colleges, six naturopathic principles focus around working with the body to prevent disease and maintain health. One of them, for instance, involves listening to the body in order to work with each patient’s natural self-healing powers. As well, naturopathic doctors look for the root of the problem rather than treating symptoms in order to treat the underlying cause of the illness. A naturopath also strives to avoid any procedure or medications that will cause the patient further harm in the form of side effects or unnecessary force.
As of July 2009, 15 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands contained licensing laws for naturopathic doctors. In these states and territories, practitioners of naturopathic medicine must follow their specific state’s guidelines for continuing education requirements.