• Naturopathic Physician- a person who obtained an undergraduate degree in premedical studies, a doctorate degree from an accredited medical school (there are only 7 accredited Naturopathic Medical schools!), and have passed 2 board licensure exams to gain their Naturopathic Doctorate license. Treatments are individualized and follow naturopathic principles and the therapeutic order (see here). Other analogous terms include Naturopath, Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND), Naturopathic Doctor, and Natural Doctor.

  • Doctor of Osteopathy- Also known as a DO, a doctor of osteopathy is similar to a naturopathic physician, as they focus on preventative care and treating the whole person. An MD, ND, and DO have all attended medical school and passed national board exams. A DO tends to focus more on the musculoskeletal system, which includes muscles, bones, and nerves, and uses this to understand how one region can affect another.

  • Integrative Medical Doctor- Integrative medicine (IM) is much like naturopathic medicine and osteopathic medicine, where the focus on the whole person. Integrative medicine centers around the mind-body connection and uses this to help treat illness. Integrative medical doctors attended a conventional medical school where they took extra classes focusing on nontraditional therapies including, but not limited to, massage, meditation, and traditional Chinese medicine.

  • Homeopathic Doctor- Homeopathy is one of the “tools” in the toolbox of naturopathic medicine, but a homeopath is not a naturopathic doctor (although an ND may be a homeopath). It was developed by Samuel Hahnemann who observed the idea “like cures like,” by proving different homeopathic remedies on himself. Hahnemann discovered that a substance that would cause symptoms of disease in healthy people could also be used to cure similar symptoms in sick people. Homeopathy is not tightly regulated and therefore the term homeopath may be used by anyone who uses homeopathy as a therapy. A board-certified homeopathic physician (D. Ht) is someone who has completed extensive prerequisites, including medical school and 3 years of experience with patients, and has passed a national board exam. 

  • Holistic Doctor- Holistic medicine is a general term used to describe healing that treats the whole person: mind, body, spirit, and emotions. Therefore, an MD, ND, DO, massage therapist, IM, homeopath, etc., are all considered holistic doctors as long as they practice with the philosophy of treating the whole person.

  • Medical Doctor- A medical doctor (MD) is someone who completed conventional medical school, a residency program for 3-8 years, and passed their national board exams. MDs either specialize in a specific field (i.e. ENT, podiatrist, surgery) or do general medicine. The majority of medical doctors tend to practice in a hospital or clinical setting.

  • Herbalist- Herbalism is the study of plants for medicinal purposes, which makes an herbalist a specialist in this. There are many different degrees of expertise in this field. For example, one could have attended a university and received a master's degree in herbal science, or one could have taken a few online or local courses on botanical medicine. Herbalists who are gone through proper training are usually educated on identification, mechanism of action, therapeutic use, and harvesting of medicinal plants. ND’s are also educated on these subjects, along with proper dosing, preparation, and safety information. Additionally, many herbalists have been taught from oral traditions and focus primarily on remedies that have been handed down over time, rather than researched. Often herbalists also work within energetic systems such as oriental medicine. 

  • Quacks- There is some dispute about naturopathic medicine and its place in the medical field. The majority of this stems from the lack of government regulation from state to state. As mentioned above, in the states where naturopathic doctors are not licensed, there may be people claiming to be “naturopathic doctors” who have not attended an accredited 4-year medical school. Because the naturopathic field is not as well known for its accreditation, these “doctors” tend to give a bad reputation to naturopathic medicine, as they are practicing without adequate training. It is important to make sure your naturopath has graduated from one of the 7 accredited naturopathic medical schools. 

  • CAM providers- CAM stands for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. This term is often considered equivalent to naturopathic medicine but also encompasses many of the other aforementioned practices. Webster’s Dictionary defines “complementary” as “to enhance or emphasize the qualities of each other.” Naturopathic medicine does, in fact, enhance conventional medicine, but it is by itself, its' own unique, and specialized form of medicine. As defined above, conventional medicine describes the diagnosing and treating of disease, and naturopathic medicine does this as well, just from a different approach. Therefore CAM providers can include all forms of medical professions- MDs, ND’s, DO’s, physical therapists, homeopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, etc. The term alternative provider is often used interchangeably with CAM provider. 

  • Conventional medicine- There is no solid definition for conventional medicine, but is generally recognized as evidence-based medicine used to treat disease. This term is used for doctors who attended a conventional medical school and use the abbreviation MD for a medical doctor. Hospitals and other fast-paced medical clinics are often (but not always) conventional care.  Other analogous terms include allopathic medicine, western medicine, regular medicine, and orthodox medicine. 

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