Are you aware that there’s a difference between a naturopathic doctor and a naturopath? In case you have considered complementary or alternative approaches to medical or health treatment, and you are located in the right area, you might have access to both a top-rated naturopath and a naturopathic doctor.

Understanding these titles and what the credentials entail enables you to make the right decisions regarding the suitability of these two important healthcare professionals.

Naturopathic doctor or physician (ND or NMD)

To become a naturopathic doctor or physician, one needs to earn a degree in ND or NMD from a naturopathic medical school. They study all the foundational medical coursework as your typical doctor would. In addition to that, they also study the “more natural” sciences, such as botanical medicine (herbals) and nutrition, as well as mental health studies such as counseling and psychology.

Both the terms naturopathic doctor (ND) and naturopathic medical doctor (NMD) refer to the same thing. Depending on where a person who has earned this title obtained their medical training, they can choose which term they prefer.

Naturopathic doctors undertake regular MD board certification exams in order to obtain a license to be primary care (general practice) doctors. In most cases, their practices are integrative, which means that they can offer both mainstream Western medical advice as well as complementary or alternative medicine (CAM).

These doctors are not licensed in all states in the US or all provinces in Canada. A patient can find a licensed naturopathic doctor in 17 states as well as DC, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as of 2015. Canadians can find a licensed naturopathic doctor in Manitoba, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Ontario.

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If you are interested in a doctor that offers treatment from either or both the Western/allopathic world and the natural CAM field, then your best option is a naturopathic doctor.

Naturopath or naturopathic practitioner

There are some practitioners referred to as “naturopathic” who are not doctors or physicians. As a smart patient, you need to understand the difference between these naturopaths and naturopathic doctors.

Non-physician naturopathic careers are referred to with titles such as Naturopathic Practitioner or Holistic Health Practitioner. They study in non-medical institutions that include the terms “naturopathy” and “nature” in their degree titles. The curricula in well-established naturopathic schools are excellent and they produce some of the most top rated naturopaths in the country.

It is for the above reason that a non-medical naturopath may not be included in your medical insurance cover. To be fair, though, as mentioned earlier, not all states recognize naturopathic doctors and give them licenses. So, not all naturopathic doctors are licensed doctors.

The bottom line

The difference between naturopaths and naturopathic doctors comes down to their education and licensing. To be sure that your new integrative doctor has received full medical training, you’re better off searching for a naturopathic doctor. However, if you’re only interested in natural treatment, it is imperative that you go for a top-rated naturopath.