What is a Naturopathic Doctor???

Naturopathic Doctors (ND’s) are licensed primary health care physicians, most of whom are in general, private practice.  Currently, ND’s are licensed to practice in 21 States and this comes with certain legal protections for consumer safety, efficacy, and standard of care. The State of Montana was early to recognized Naturopathic Doctors as primary care physicians and Montana mandates health insurance coverage for Naturopathic services.

In Montana, ND’s can perform physical exams like looking into an ear for an ear infection and listen to a heart with a stethoscope, do well checks, annuals exams, prostate exams, sports physicals and the like.  ND’s can further order and interpret a multitude of labs and order diagnostic imaging such as X-Ray, MRI’s, CT scans, ultrasounds, endoscopies, colonoscopies, DEXA bone scans, mammograms, etc. In Montana, ND’s can prescribe about 80% of prescription pharmaceuticals that are out there such as antibiotics, antifungals, hormones, pain relievers, and even give vaccinations.  ND’s can further perform minor surgery procedures such as removal of warts, moles, cysts, skin tags, and perform tissue biopsies. Major surgery is left to specialists for obvious reasons, and an ND has the medical training to know when pharmacotherapy and surgery is indicated and ND’s don’t shy away from prescription intervention or surgery when they are indeed indicated.


In terms of treatment modalities, ND’s have an arsenal of treatment modalities from which to choose.  In some states, this includes prescription medication and they use prescriptions when is it medically appropriate.  However, instead of drugs and surgery (which have their place and value), and ND usually resorts to other interventions when deemed relevant and beneficial, saving drugs and surgery for when those tools are necessary and prudent. This is what distinguishes an ND from an MD.


Naturopathic physicians are trained in the art and science of natural health care at accredited medical colleges. Integrative partnerships between conventional Medical Doctors and licensed Naturopathic Doctors are becoming more available.  Examples are ND’s performing residencies in hospitals over the U.S. like with Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and MD’s working alongside ND’s in many integrative clinics over the country. This cooperation makes more effective therapies which are available to consumers/patients. Collaboration between these 2 distinct medical fields increases patient satisfaction in their relationships with their health care providers. More people are recovering their health by adding naturopathic medicine to their health-care options.


Some ND’s in practice today choose to emphasize particular treatment modalities or combination such as:  herbs, homeopathy, clinical nutrition, physical medicine, IV therapy, homeopathy, etc., while others may concentrate on particular medical fields like: menopause, gynecology, obstetrics, oncology, family health, pediatrics, dermatology, ear nose and throat, or chronic disease, etc.


Like MD’s, ND’s have attended a 4-year doctoral degree program from an accredited medical institution.  ND’s are trained, licensed and skilled in the conventional tools of diagnosis: physical exam, laboratory testing, X-ray and other diagnostic imaging.  The basic sciences portion of medical education for an ND is equivalent to that of an MD. In other words: an ND knows what an MD knows, including the pharmacology of prescription medications. However, unlike conventional doctors, ND’s receive further training in the use of a wide variety of natural therapeutic tools.  Diagnostic and therapeutic methods are drivers, applied according to the unique demands of the situation, and they continue to evolve as knowledge of health and disease evolves.  So, the diagnosis one would receive from an ND may be the same diagnosis as one received by the MD, but the treatment received from an ND may be different from an MD. Instead of drugs ad surgery (tools which the ND incorporates into their practices) which have their place in medicine, the real difference between an MD and an ND is in philosophy and therapeutics.   The difference in therapeutics is part of the naturopathic style of practice found in the way the are applied, based of the 6 Naturopathic Principles of Healing. 


ND’s diagnose, prevent, and treat acute and chronic illness to restore and establish optimal health by supporting a person's inherent self-healing process. Rather than just suppressing symptoms, ND’s work to identify underlying causes of illness, and develop personalized treatment plans to address them. Their Therapeutic Order™, identifies the natural order in which all therapies should be applied to provide the greatest benefit with the least potential for damage.  ND’s have been termed “holistic” doctors because they look at the entire organism, not the pathology itself, plus ND's are the true founders of that which has been termed "Functional Medicine."  For purposes of clarification... ALL licensed ND's are functional medicine doctors.

When considering a primary care physician, consider a holistic doctor such as a Licensed Naturopathic Physician to address all health care needs.


The past 30 years has seen an extraordinary increase in consumer demand for safe, effective, and cost-effective natural health care. Naturopathic medicine has emerged as the health-care profession best suited to meet this demand. Although it almost disappeared in the mid-twentieth century because of the popularity of drugs and surgery, naturopathic medicine is on the rebound, and offers safe, effective natural therapies as a vital part of the health-care systems of North America in the twenty-first century.


CONSUMER BEWARE:  The LICENSED physician versus the NON-licensed?
There are others out there calling themselves “Naturopathic Doctors.”  The training of these individuals consists of spending a weekend or two in conference, or via a brief on-line program from some diploma mill style type of school… a school that has no roof, no walls, and no physical address and no accreditation.  These “schools” dole out diploma’s calling their attendees “Naturopathic Doctors” which is a mere certificate one can put on their wall for a cheap price. This type of ND receives no formal medical training, where the Licensed Naturopathic Physician has received significant formal medical training via a 4-year doctoral degree program equatable to that of an MD.  This is less an issue in States licensed for ND’s such as Montana (currently there are 21 licensed States in the U.S.), but in unlicensed States, the diploma-mill type of “ND” has a presence. One does not choose to berate these individuals for they seem to have their place, however this is clearly a public health and safety issue, as one HAS formal medical training and the other DOES NOT. To know if an ND in your State or area is a licensed Naturopathic Physician capable of diagnosing and treating illness, resource:  www.naturopathic.org and click on the “Find an ND button.”

How do I find a Naturopathic Doctor that fits my needs?

There is considerable variation in terms of treatment and manner amongst physicians in the field of Naturopathic Medicine.  MD's are a little more cookie-cutter:  'ya kind of know what your going to get, however ND's span a spectrum from the most scientific to the esoteric.  In shopping for an ND, it is important to find a ND whose treatment ethos is in line with your personal needs and health goals. The best way is to do research on different ND's and select one that specializes in your unique symptoms as well as has a practice manner whose treatment procedure is one that resonates most with you.  For more on Dr. Lemley, style of practice, Click here.

"Why should I choose naturopathic medicine as opposed to conventional medicine? "

Naturopathic medicine is centuries old.

Naturopathic Naturopathic medicine is a centuries-old ancient medical healing art which honors, recognizes, and supports the body’s own innate ability to mend. Conventional thinking is that the body is weak and needs external intervention to prop it up.  For more info, Click here

Conventional medicine
doesn't always work.

Many women and men who seek us out have tried conventional medicine and have seen less than optimal results. They are either still getting symptoms or experiencing side effects and/or discontent over their options to resolve their health issues.  For more info on Naturopathic Medicine, Click here 


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Bozeman, MT


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