Regularly the question comes up as to whether a naturopath is a “real” doctor. The answer, in short, is "yes", but they are naturopathic doctors (NDs), which is different than a medical doctor (MD). A naturopathic doctor is a physician who is trained to do primary care with a focus on natural and preventative medicine. They complete four years of pre-med studies and four years of medical school at one of 7 schools in the US and Canada that specialize in naturopathic medicine. Some states use the initials N.D. (naturopathic doctor) and some states use N.M.D. (naturopathic medical doctor). These are interchangeable, as is the term “naturopathic physician”. Some people without formal training (or who have taken online courses) call themselves “naturopaths” or “naturopathic doctors”. However, in the state of Hawaii this is illegal if you did not attend an accredited school. It is important to note that NDs are not MDs or vice-versa but there is some overlap in training. The first 2 years of medical school are virtually identical in the two professions but in naturopathic schools the second two years involve numerous courses in nutrition, herbalism, nutrient therapies, physical medicine, and other natural treatments. While they do receive extensive training in pharmaceuticals they are rarely the first choice of treatment.
Naturopathic doctors are different from allopathic (western medicine) doctors in their basic beliefs. They follow a set of 6 principles of naturopathic medicine and generally take a lot more time listening to the patient and working together as a team with their clients.