Can Naturopathic
Doctors Prescribe Medication?

Understanding Naturopathic
Doctors’ Prescribing Abilities

Many people who are not familiar with the practice of naturopathic medicine are unsure whether naturopathic doctors (NDs) are able to prescribe medication. The answer is nuanced and dependent on multiple factors.

Naturopathic Doctors Can
Prescribe Some Medications

In numerous jurisdictions in the US and Canada, naturopathic doctors are authorized to prescribe certain medications, per their scope of practice and/or practice formulary. The types of medications NDs prescribe may be different as compared to conventional medical doctors, based on scope. NDs are primarily working in outpatient settings, so the prescriptive authority matches their medical practice. 

Are NDs Trained to Prescribe Medication?

Yes, NDs receive extensive training in this area. Naturopathic doctoral programs include dedicated pharmacology and pharmacognosy courses as well as drug-herb and drug-nutrient interactions. Prescriptive authority is also covered in all clinical therapeutic courses, and in the 1200 hours of supervised clinical education required to become an ND. The safe ability to utilize and interpret prescriptions is a component of the NPLEX and CONO licensing examinations.

What Medication Can NDs Prescribe?

Naturopathic doctors are qualified to prescribe a range of medications, including both natural and conventional options per their local jurisdiction. Their prescriptions often encompass pharmaceuticals, specialized supplements, and botanical medicines, some of which require prescription-level administration, such as intravenous (IV) or injection treatments. While the exact list of prescriptible medications varies by region, NDs commonly prescribe essential hormones (e.g., thyroid, contraceptives, insulin), antihypertensive drugs, antibiotics, and IV or injection-administered vitamins and supplements. See the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians’ Scope of Practice Map for jurisdictional information in the US.

Why Do NDs Prescribe Medication if They Practice Natural Medicine?

There are a number of reasons why it is beneficial for a practitioner of natural medicine to provide patients with prescriptions and to fully understand their mechanism of action. For example, some natural substances are only available via prescription. Not only that, NDs may be located in rural or urban settings where patients have limited access to multiple providers for care. NDs serve as primary care providers and may identify issues early on that need to be addressed via prescription. Since NDs are primary care providers, patients may come to them for the sole management of issues that may require prescription management.

Another reason why it is important for NDs to be able to provide prescriptions is because some patients come to NDs to wean off medications. An ND can not safely take someone off a medication they are not able to prescribe themselves. The ability to prescribe medication is essential to helping patients get off certain medications. An ND has to fully understand the prescription in order to know how and when decreasing or discontinuing the medication is safely an option. NDs also may prescribe the medication as it is being tapered down.

An ND’s decision to prescribe medication is driven by the individual patient’s condition and the Therapeutic Order of Naturopathic Medicine. The Therapeutic Order is founded on the concept that the human body has an innate inclination to self-heal. It prioritizes employing the minimal force necessary to foster a gentle, safe, and enduring state of health and well-being.

What are the Benefits of
Going to an ND for a

In addition to prescribing medication you may need, an ND will help you determine the root causes of your health issues by approaching them from a whole-person perspective. Many people prefer to get their prescriptions from an ND when possible because they also want to learn about natural healing practices that will support their health in conjunction with the medication. The benefits of getting a prescription from a naturopathic doctor include the following:

Whole-Person Approach:

 Naturopathic doctors typically take a holistic approach to health, considering the whole person and addressing the underlying causes of illness. This can complement the use of medications by also incorporating lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, and other natural therapies.

Personalized Care:

Naturopathic doctors emphasize personalized treatment plans tailored to each individual patient. They may consider factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and environmental influences when prescribing medications, aiming for a more individualized and patient-centered approach.

Focus on Prevention:

Naturopathic medicine often emphasizes preventive measures to maintain overall health and well-being. In addition to prescribing medications when necessary, naturopathic doctors are trained to provide guidance on lifestyle changes and nutritional strategies designed to help prevent future health issues.

Integration with Natural Therapies:

Naturopathic doctors may integrate prescription medications with natural therapies, such as herbal medicine and nutritional supplements, to enhance the overall effectiveness of the treatment plan as a whole. This integrated approach may help minimize side effects and promote overall health. NDs are uniquely positioned to understand the intersection between herbs and supplements and conventional pharmaceuticals.

Patient Education:

One of the Six Principles of Naturopathic Medicine is the concept of “doctor as teacher.” This means that naturopathic doctors always prioritize patient education, empowering individuals to take an active role in their health. They will educate patients about the benefits and potential risks of prescribed medications and work collaboratively with them to make informed decisions about their healthcare.

Naturopathic doctors are trained to do everything in their power to treat patients from a whole-person approach, including prescribing certain medications as appropriate or indicated. In some cases, naturopathic doctors may work in collaboration with medical doctors or other healthcare professionals when deemed necessary for a patient’s care.