Naturopathic physicians (N.D.s or N.M.D.s) are general practitioners trained as specialists in natural medicine. They are educated in conventional medical sciences as well as complementary modalities. Naturopathic physicians treat disease and restore health using therapies from the sciences of clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, physical medicine, exercise therapy, counseling, Oriental medicine and acupuncture, natural childbirth, and hydrotherapy. They tailor these approaches to the needs of the individual patient. Naturopathic medicine is effective in treating most health problems, weather acute or chronic. Naturopathic physicians cooperate with all other branches of medical science, referring patients to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate.

In practice, naturopathic physicians perform physical exams, laboratory testing, gynecological exams, nutritional and dietary assessments, metabolic analysis, allergy testing, and other diagnostic tests. They are the only primary-care physicians clinically trained in the use of a wide variety of natural therapeutics. They combine and tailor these treatments to the needs of the individual based on cogent philosophy that acknowledges the patient as a participant.

The naturopathic physician has a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (N.D or N.M.D.) degree from a four-year, graduate-level, naturopathic medical college. In states where they are regulated, naturopathic physicians must pass a national and state-level board examination, and their actions are subject to review by a state Board of Examiners.

Naturopathic medical colleges are four-year, post-graduate schools with admission requirements comparable to those of conventional medical schools. The degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine requires four years of graduate-level study in medical sciences including:

clinical &
physical diagnosis


minor surgery

lab diagnosis
& other clinical sciences

Throughout the four years of both classroom and clinical training, there is training in naturopathic therapeutics, including therapeutic nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, natural childbirth, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, naturopathic manipulative therapy, and other therapies. Because the course work in natural therapeutics is added to a standard medical curriculum, naturopathic doctors receive significantly more hours of classroom education than graduates of many leading medical schools. In addition to classroom hours, naturopathic medical students do their clinical training in student clinics, various medical clinics and hospitals.

There are presently four accredited colleges of naturopathic medicine in the United States and Canada:
Bastyr University in Bothell, WA
Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, Ontario
National College in Portland, OR
Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences in Tempe, AZ

In addition, the naturopathic medical program at the University of Bridgeport in Bridgeport, CT, has candidate status for accreditation. The accrediting agency for naturopathic medical programs is the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME).The CNME is the only naturopathic accrediting body in the U.S. that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Kargman received her naturopathic and acupuncture degrees from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences in 1996 and 1997, respectively.

Naturopathic physicians are the only primary-care physicians clinically trained in the use of a wide variety of natural therapeutics. Some of the therapies practiced by naturopathic physicians are:

Clinical Nutrition. Nutrition and the therapeutic use of food have always been a cornerstone of naturopathic medicine. It refers to both the practice of using food to maintain health and the therapeutic use of food to treat illness. A growing body of scientific knowledge in this area is reflected by the numerous professional journals of nutrition and dietary sciences, validating the naturopathic approach to diet and nutrition. Many medical conditions can be treated effectively with foods and nutritional supplements as they can by any other means, but with fewer complications and side effects. Naturopathic physicians receive more than 140 classroom hours in clinical nutrition while most medical doctors receive fewer than 20.

Homeopathic Medicine. This powerful system of medicine is more than 200 years old, and is widely accepted in many other countries. This medical system uses highly diluted substances to cure illness. Homeopathic medicines act to strengthen the body’s innate immune response and they rarely produce side effects. Some conditions which do not respond well to conventional medicine will respond to homeopathic therapies. Homeopathics are very safe for children, who respond particularly well to them.

Botanical Medicine. Many plant substances are powerful medicines, having advantages over pharmaceutical drugs. They are effective and safe when used properly, in the right dose and in the proper combinations with other herbs and treatments. There is much research being done demonstrating the efficacy of using botanicals in treating a variety of conditions. Naturopathic doctors are trained in both the art and science of botanical medicine.

Physical Medicine. In the last 100 years, various methods of applying treatments through the manipulation of muscles, bones and spine have been developed in the US. Naturopathic medicine has its own techniques, collectively known as Naturopathic Manipulative Therapy. Physical Medicine also includes but is not limited to physiotherapy using heat and cold, gentle electrical pulses, ultrasound, hydrotherapy, craniosacral therapy, and exercise therapy.

Natural Childbirth. Some naturopathic physicians who have completed additional specialty training provide natural childbirth care in an out-of-hospital setting. These physicians offer prenatal and postnatal care using the most modern diagnostic techniques. When natural childbirth is not medically indicated because of high risk, patients are referred for appropriate care. A naturopath’s ability to practice natural childbirth varies legally from state to state.

Oriental Medicine. Naturopathic physicians are trained in the fundamentals of Oriental Medicine and diagnosis, and many use acupuncture, acupressure and oriental botanical medicine in their practices (see Acupuncture for more details).

Counseling and Stress Management. Mental attitudes and emotional states can be important elements in healing illness. Naturopathic physicians are trained in various psychological techniques, including counseling, nutritional balancing, stress management, hypnotherapy, biofeedback and other methods.

Minor Surgery. This includes repair of superficial wounds and removal of foreign bodies, cysts and other superficial masses with local anesthesia as needed.

The existence or absence (such as in Maryland) of naturopathic licencing laws may affect your doctor’s scope of practice.

The principles of naturopathic medicine unite the profession. The following principles are the foundation that naturopathic medical practice is built upon:

The Healing Power of Nature. Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing process in the person which is ordered and intelligent. Naturopathic physicians act to identify and remove obstacles to healing and recovery, and to facilitate and augment this inherent self-healing process.

First Do No Harm. Naturopathic physicians prefer non-invasive treatments which minimize the risks of harmful side effects. They are trained to know which patients they can treat safely, and which ones need to be referred to other healthcare professionals.

Find The Cause. Every illness has an underlying cause, often related to a variety of issues including aspects of lifestyle, diet, environment, or hereditary factors of the individual. A naturopathic physician seeks to remove the underlying cause of the disease, rather than merely eliminating or suppressing symptoms.

Treat The Whole Person. Health and disease come from a complex interaction of physical, emotional, spiritual, dietary, genetic, environmental, lifestyle and other factors. Naturopathic physicians treat the whole person, taking these factors into account.

Doctor As Teacher. Naturopathic physicians educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship.

Prevention. Naturopathic physicians emphasize the prevention of disease through assessing risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease and making appropriate interventions in partnership with their patients to prevent illness. Naturopathic medicine is committed to the creation of a healthy world in which humanity can thrive.

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) is the unifying professional association for naturopathic medicine. They support legislation to license and regulate naturopathic physicians in all states, in order to distinguish properly-trained physicians from lesser-trained individuals who may present a danger to public health. Dr. Kargman has been a member of the AANP since 1994.

Each state and territory determines whether or not naturopaths are state-licensed physicians. It is important, especially in states such as Maryland where there is no naturopathic licensing and regulation, to find out if your naturopath is a graduate of one of the 4 accredited schools, has passed the National Board Exam for naturopathic physicians (the NPLEX), and holds a license to practice naturopathic medicine in a state that does license naturopathic physicians. After graduating from Southwest College, Dr. Kargman completed and passed her NPLEX exams and was granted a license to practice medicine in the state of Arizona in 1997. She still maintains a current license from Arizona to practice medicine.

Currently 11 states and the US territories of Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands have licensing laws for naturopathic physicians. These states are: Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. In these states naturopaths are licensed primary-care physicians.

For more information about naturopathic medicine and physicians, or to find a naturopathic physician in your area, check out the AANP (American Association of Naturopathic Physicians) website at www.naturopathic.org.