top of page

What is a Naturopathic Doctor?

Updated: Feb 12

A licensed naturopathic physician (ND) attends a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an MD, but also studies nutrition, counseling, herbal medicine, physical medicine (adjusting and manual therapies), homeopathy, and yes, even pharmacology. The difference is that we take a whole person approach, putting together all the jigsaw puzzle pieces you bring in. All those pieces contribute to one big picture that may include multiple diagnosis', but each piece is important.

The goal of a naturopathic doctor is to:

  1. Find and treat the cause.

  2. Treat the whole person.

  3. Use minimally invasive therapies, first do no harm.

  4. Educate.

  5. Prevention.

  6. Respect what the body is naturally trying to do by strengthening weakened systems and nurture where depleted.

What is the difference between an ND, DO, and MD?

Regarding education, our basic curricular system is very much the same with some differences. An ND's hours in pharmacology will be much less than the other 2 fields but the hours in nutrition, herbal medicine, and counseling are much more extensive.

A major difference between the training of MD's and naturopathic doctors is medical residencies. MD residencies are mandated and regulated by conventional medical schools. As a result, many opportunities for residencies exist at a wide variety of medical facilities and are funded by the federal government.

Naturopathic medical residencies are not nearly as common because they are not yet required by most states (Utah is an exception) or funded by the federal government. In place of a residency, many new naturopathic doctors choose to practice with or shadow an experienced doctor before setting up their own practices.

License and certification

Licensure and certifications are the highest forms of regulation and are there to protect the public by ensuring competency in a particular field and a set of standards to practice within.

There are currently 20 states licensed. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands are also a part of this list.

Because Summit Vitality is located in North Carolina, I would like to mention that the North Carolina of Naturopathic Physicians have been working on licensure for 18 years now without success. The amazing people involved in this process are still pushing hard and going strong.

For more information, please visit or

Dr. Lexi


bottom of page