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What is the difference between a Naturopathic Doctor and a naturopath?

These titles are not interchangeable: the Naturopathic Doctor is a regulated primary care practitioner.


When seeking naturopathic treatments, it is imperative to know the difference between a regulated ND (Naturopathic Doctor) and a naturopath. The education, training regimes and scopes of practice are vastly different.

A licensed ND is a primary care practitioner who is trained to diagnose, prevent and treat acute and chronic illness and in some provinces, prescribe medication. By law, a naturopath is unable to provide a diagnosis or prescribe medication.

Many years commitment are required to become a Naturopathic Doctor. In Canada, as well as the United States, a Bachelor’s degree is required before attending a four year professional, in-residence doctoral program accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). The CNME is the only accrediting body for naturopathic medical programs in the U.S. and Canada that qualify graduates for regulation/licensure. Therefore, naturopathic students complete more than 4,100 contact hours of instruction, including at least 1,200 hours of supervised, hands-on clinical training. Upon completion of the program naturopathic medical graduates must also pass the North American standardized board exams. Only then, are they a fully qualified Naturopathic Doctor or Doctor of Naturopathy with the ND designation after their name.


Naturopaths on the other hand have access to any number of programs. Many are delivered online or via correspondence. Program length can vary from a few months to a few years to complete. There is no standardized or accredited curriculum nor supervised clinical experience. Individuals taking any of these programs are not eligible to write the North American standardized board exams (NPLEX) and do not qualify for regulation/licensure.


Naturopathic Doctors have a wide spectrum of employment opportunities aside from private or group practice. They work in government, hospitals, medical schools and integrated health clinics alongside conventional medical doctors and an array of integrated health care professionals.

A regulated/licensed ND is a primary care practitioner who is trained to diagnose and treat all health care concerns. It can be confusing for patients as some naturopaths may refer to themselves as a “Naturopathic Doctor,” or use “nd”. Always check the practitioners credentials to ensure they are a regulated/licensed ND.

Patients are looking for new ways to maintain or improve their health. They are not merely patients, but savvy consumers; who are informed, educated and seek best practices in all aspects of life. A Naturopathic Doctor, who works in an inter-disciplinary health environment deliver these results – naturally.

Click here to find a naturopathic doctor.