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A naturopath is a primary care physician who practices naturopathy, a system of medicine which builds on the body's natural healing properties. Naturopaths treat holistically, taking account of physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of the body. The only substances they prescribe are naturally derived and easily assimilable.

In spite of their reputation among skeptics as quacks, people generally undergo rather extensive training before they can legally use the title Naturopathic Doctor. In North America, for example, those who wish to become naturopaths must first obtain a Bachelor degree from an accredited university, fulfilling premed prerequisities which includes biology, biochemistry, general and organic chemistry, physics, and psychology. Then they must be accepted to one of four diploma-granting institutions where they will take a four-year full-time program. They study traditional medical sciences such as anatomy, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology, as well as natural healing methodologies such as pharmacognosy (botanical medicine), clinical nutrition, counselling, and homeopathy. The program includes a one-year clinical internship which allows the student to practice their skills in real-life settings. Students are required to pass two sets of standardized board exams, the first after two years on basic medical sciences such as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology; the second a gruelling series of 15 exams written over four days on applied clinical studies and jurisprudence. After all these hurdles have been crossed, the proud graduate can be called Naturopathic Doctor, and can use the initials ND after their name.

The U.S. Department of Labor, which regulates what those who study naturopathy are allowed to do, defines the role of a naturopath rather well. According to them, a naturopath is one who

diagnoses, treats, and cares for patients, using a system of practice that bases its treatment of all physiological functions and abnormal conditions on natural laws governing the body, utilizes physiological, psychological and mechanical methods, such as air, water, heat, earth, phytotherapy (treatment by use of plants), electrotherapy, physiotherapy, minor or orificial surgery, mechanotherapy, naturopathic corrections and manipulation, and all natural methods or modalities, together with natural medicines, natural processed foods, herbs, and natural remedies. Excludes major surgery, therapeutic use of x-ray and radium, and use of drugs, except those assimilable substances containing elements or compounds which are compounds of body tissues and are physiologically compatible to body processes for maintenance of life.

All of which sounds okay to me.


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