Naturopathic Doctors vs Naturopaths – there is a difference!

It’s really common that people use the terms Naturopath and Naturopathic Doctor interchangeably, when in fact, these are two rather different professions. In this video, Dr. Lauren Hacker and Dr. Kelsey Asplin break down the difference between a Naturopath and a Naturopathic Doctor.

Naturopaths are lay people who have or think they have obtained some additional knowledge surrounding human health and natural healing modalities. Some Naturopaths may have attended a 2-year learning program that emphasizes this approach, but these are not nationally accredited programs. Many of the programs are a distance learning format, which does allow attendees to learn from their own living room but that also means they lack hands-on, clinical based education. A person who attends one of these schools may call themselves a Naturopath, but is not awarded any credentials that would allow them to practice as or hold themselves out to be a Naturopathic Doctor. They are able to consult with clients on their health and discuss research related to various health topics, but they are not allowed to draw lab work, refer for imaging, interpret labs, diagnose, or treat.

Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) have other, more specific qualifications. They must attend a 4-5 year graduate level Naturopathic college or university* that is nationally accredited and based in clinical experiential learning – this means they have to complete over 1200 hours in face-to-face patient care, under the supervision of a credentialed practitioner. Their schooling includes the same biomedical sciences as conventional MD students (including pharmacy training) and also encompasses all the naturopathic specialities (herbal medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, physical medicine, nutrition, lifestyle counseling). Naturopathic Doctors have to pass two sets of national licensing exams before they can qualify to apply for licensure or registration in each state. While scope for Naturopathic Doctors varies some state by state, they are legally allowed to practice as doctors and use the credentials ND or NMD or RND (Registered Naturopathic Doctor). These providers can, depending on the state they are in, order lab work and imaging, interpret results, diagnose and treat, provide physical and annual exams, prescribe nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals, perform minor surgery, and provide IV therapy.**

If you are interested in seeking guidance from a natural health provider, make sure you understand what qualifications matter to you, and ask your provider questions to make sure they have the training you would expect.

* There are currently 7 nationally accredited Naturopathic Colleges/Universities in North America. They are: Bastyr University, National University of Naturopathic Medicine, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, National University of Health Sciences, University of Bridgeport – College of Naturopathic Medicine, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine

** As of 2019, Colorado NDs are not able to prescribe pharmaceuticals, perform minor surgery, or provide IVs without having a MD or NP performing or overseeing, and writing off on these procedures. Scope varies state by state so be sure to ask questions or contact someone from your state naturopathic board for guidance on choosing the right person for you.


  1. R. E. on June 2, 2021 at 3:54 am

    Can you explain, what is this BRITT HERMES lady, who says she USE TO BE A NATUROPATHIC DOCTOR. She tries to debunk them now. Please youtube her or google her. She sounds very angry and bitter now.

  2. David S on June 2, 2021 at 3:57 am

    You’re a fraud, so is your whole field. Your ‘degree’ is useless. Soon enough, licensing of the institutions that teach this rubbish and pseudoscience will be revoked. You’re not a doctor and the school you went to isn’t ‘medical’ school. You’ll never be respected. Not very different from witches. You and people like you will be working at the fast food drive thrus very soon. Try studying things that are fact based, you quack.

  3. glam queen 14 on June 2, 2021 at 3:58 am

    What’s the difference in those to and a DNM Doctor of natural medicine

  4. T Mc on June 2, 2021 at 4:01 am

    There is a licensing for naturopaths who want to open their own practices now and there is alternative medicine licensing for them as well. I love naturopaths because they are the original doctors for older communities around the world, especially those in the developing countries and they do a great job! THey are also not limited by bureaucrats like some other professions nor are they trying to SELL something or be pretentious. And THEY ARE WAY MORE THAN INTENTIONAL DO GOODERS that you’re trying to call them. SMH

  5. Tree Gee on June 2, 2021 at 4:01 am

    Thanks a lot . I’m sure they both can be helpful

  6. AllPro777 on June 2, 2021 at 4:05 am

    Important to note that "nationally accredited" is not a coverall. There is a distinction between national accreditation and regional accreditation, and AFAIK there are only regionally accredited ND programs that are legal for practice.

  7. Dr. Vishavajeet Beniwal on June 2, 2021 at 4:08 am

    My self Dr vishavjeet Beniwal from india
    A Naturopathy physician Doctor
    & Yoga science
    Plz contact me
    Whatshapp- 9462568354

  8. N S on June 2, 2021 at 4:19 am

    Stop saying alternative medicine.

  9. Dr Ondria Rodgers on June 2, 2021 at 4:19 am

    Thank you for this definition

  10. Chris Zauzig on June 2, 2021 at 4:35 am

    Hey team,

    Can you point me to insurance providers which cover ND consultations and associated costs?

  11. m hanusa on June 2, 2021 at 4:37 am

    what about a Doctor of Naturopathic medicine that is Board Certified in NY and also a Licensed nurse Licensed massage therapist Craniosacral therapist Reflexologist Ayurvedic Practitioner and Reiki master teacher Holistic therapist and Oriental medicine practitioner …..thanks for belittling ! and have a 4 year degree plus 5 other years of schooling …maybe cover that !..I think someone is going to choose me ….over a Regular doc who can’t do all that !and your not licensed to touch or do any energy medicine what so ever…you all need to get off your high horses !

  12. edwong3 on June 2, 2021 at 4:39 am

    I think you two young ladies for explaining the differences between the two types of naturopathic approaches but please allow me to interject what I know about the subject. Disclaimer: I am not a member of any physical healing arts profession. I am actually a doctor of ministry (D.Min) in spiritual counseling of all things. But the term generally used to describe a practitioner who is not graduated from any of the accredited schools is called a, "traditional naturopath". And while you did note that there are some institutions that use online or correspondence training, a number of them do grant an "ND". Reason being, prior to the appearance on the scene of schools like Bastyr, traditional naturopathy was the modality practiced almost exclusively.

    I lived on the island of Puerto Rico for the better part of the 1970s and 1980s. It was around 1979 when I met a gentleman by the name of Dr. Mariano Rivera Sanchez who was a prominent naturopath locally. He had a very successful practice and he was giving a presentation at a business school I was attending about natural medicine. The real treat was when he introduced one of his patients, an older gentleman who had been diagnosed with 5 brain tumors and that were largely inoperable, at least at that time anyway. Long story short, the patient had been seen by some of the "finest" specialists from all over including one of Japan’s top surgeons who said to this man, "there is nothing we can do, you might as well be thrown into the garbage bin". Yes! That is what he said. Luckily he found Dr. Rivera and within weeks, he had gone into full remission and healed. And all this was done without a single chemical medication. Mariano Rivera was a traditional naturopath and a very good one at that.

    Now, although at the time, the practice of naturopathy was not regulated, him and his colleagues could practice freely, they wanted to gain more legitimacy (at least they felt that way) by introducing a legislation that would licence the practice of "natural medicine" or as they called it on the island, "medicina natural". There was a lot of push back from the conventional medical community who lobbied hard to keep naturopathy from becoming a licensed healthcare profession and there were a lot of hearings in the Senate discussing the topic. Finally, after much deliberation back and forth, naturopathy was recognized as part of the island’s healthcare system and introduced licensure. I am pretty certain that those who had been practicing before the legislation went into effect, were grandfathered in. And I don’t believe that there were requirements to be graduated from an "accredited" medical school of any kind, just have a credential and be able to pass the examination. Now this might have changed in all these years. Dr. Rivera himself had gotten his naturapathic degree from a home study school.

    So, my point is, I don’t understand why naturopathy had to divide into two factions. I have read arguments that anyone who wanted to practice any medical arts that use the conventional model should have just gone to a regular medical school and leave anaturopathy in it’s original form with or without any licensing requirements since it’s practice is non-invasive. Traditional Naturopaths are truly doctors in the sense that they practice by educating their clients/patients on the ways towards regaiining their health. Practitioners who "do things to people", i.e. treat diseases without educating their patients shouldn’t be allowed to call themselves doctors. Just my opinion.

    And that’s my story and I am sticking to it.

  13. Jada Antoinette on June 2, 2021 at 4:39 am

    Can you recommend me other career option for those who want to study natural medicines & schools to go to outside of US. I’m 18 & have finally figured out what I’d like to study

  14. Queen Rebe on June 2, 2021 at 4:41 am

    This must be in America. In Australia naturopaths take a 4 year degree in Health science. They call themselves Naturopathic physicians. The course is heavily scientific and they can prescribe a treatment plan for patient’s. Can work with other physicians in other modalities to get blood tests done and then treat based on that. I’ve heard some not great stories of Naturopathic Doctors in the US. Perhaps because in some states they are not licensed but they are in between two modalities (natural/biomedical). I think maybe they need another label for that other than naturopathic doctors. Because the real nature of naturopathy is natural herbal medicine. A qualified naturopath after 4 years of focused training including 200 hours of clinical experience (like in Aust), is more than qualified to prescribe and make herbal medicine. We don’t consider uneducated physicians in Australia naturopaths we call them herbalists. I think they made a mistake to call NDs naturopathic. Its confusing for them and the public. There maybe needs to be another label for NDs. Because being in between modalities is not the same as being a pure naturopath. I have heard Australia has the best naturopathic training in the world. Maybe the US needs to better differentiate the two professions there to stop confusion. Here is an example :

  15. Jaguar Hot rod on June 2, 2021 at 4:43 am

    Learn about the lymph system and p.h. Levels, all else is bla

  16. Charles Coker on June 2, 2021 at 4:43 am

    How do Mds differ from you?

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