Your Biggest Naturopathy Questions, Answered

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As one of the naturopathic doctors (ND) at One Medical Group, I field all sorts of questions about my practice—but some pop up more frequently than others. Here are the top five questions patients have about naturopathy.

1. Do naturopaths write prescriptions?

Yes. NDs are trained and licensed to write prescriptions for pharmaceuticals. However, the emphasis of naturopathic medicine is the use of non-pharmacological healing agents, so prescription medications are simply one tool amongst an arsenal of alternatives.

2. Is naturopathy a form of Eastern medicine/homeopathy?

Naturopathy is neither Eastern medicine nor homeopathy. It’s a distinct form of primary health care emphasizing prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of various non-invasive or holistic therapies. Naturopathic doctors approach diagnosis in the same as Western, allopathic (conventional) doctors, though treatment plans tend to favor non-pharmacologic or non-surgical therapies. Naturopathic providers commonly use nutrition, lifestyle changes, nutrient supplementation, counseling, herbal medicine, and homeopathy, as well as pharmaceuticals.

3. Does insurance cover naturopath visits?

Insurance coverage for naturopathic care varies by state, insurance carrier, and plan. According to the Affordable Care Act, primary care services by naturopathic doctors should be covered by PPO insurance plans. However, many insurance companies do not yet reimburse patients for services provided by a naturopathic doctor.

4. What kind of training does a naturopath have?

A licensed 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 holistic and non-invasive therapies.

The program requires completion of conventional medical coursework (basic sciences, physical clinical diagnosis, clinical laboratory, medical procedures, radiology, and pharmacology) as well as clinical nutrition, homeopathy, botanical medicine, psychology, physical medicine, and counseling.

The training also includes clinical rotations at both naturopathic and conventional medical facilities. A naturopathic doctor takes rigorous professional board exams so that they can be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care doctor. Once licensed, NDs have the option to complete a naturopathic primary care residency.

5. What conditions do naturopaths treat?

NDs treat all medical conditions within the scope of primary care medicine. They commonly work with conditions that respond well to non-pharmacologic therapies, including digestive complaints, allergies, hormonal imbalances, obesity, menopause, stress management or adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and skin conditions. In certain states, NDs are licensed to perform minor surgeries, such as removing cysts or stitching up superficial wounds.

Curious to learn more about naturopathy? Be sure to check out Is Naturopathy Right for You? for everything you wanted to know and more!

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The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.