Post Highlights:

Naturopaths (NDs) are not currently licensed in the state of North Carolina.

Until NDs gain licensure and can practice legally and fully in NC, a functional medicine provider can most likely offer you similar care.

Naturopathic medicine and functional medicine are generally very similar, but as with any profession, the way they are practiced can vary from office to office.


While I practiced in AZ I became very familiar with the naturopathic community… but the state of naturopathic medicine is quite different here in NC.

Naturopathic Medicine in North Carolina (2016)

You may have stumbled upon this problem here in North Carolina or in another state- sometimes finding a naturopath can be HARD. Why? Where could they all be hiding?

Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are currently only licensed in 17 states and the District of Columbia. So, the short answer to that rhetorical question is that they are concentrated in the states they are licensed in. That being said, some NDs still choose to practice here, but it appears that most do so by completing another degree that is licensed or certified here in NC and practicing under that. Complimentary professions I have seen NDs do this with include Colon Hydrotherapy, Herbalism, and Acupuncture. Without one of these additional certifications or licenses, a practicing ND in an unlicensed state like ours is taking a big risk.

Even among states that give NDs licensure, the differences in what that license allows them to do can vary. NDs have the broadest/biggest scope of practice (ex. they are able to prescribe prescription medications) in states like AZ and OR, while other states may not allow them to prescribe.

Similarities between Naturopathic Medicine and Functional Medicine

As with other professions, the “flavor” you get will depend on the functional medicine provider or ND you see. Generally, the two fields have the following in common:

  1. Trained to look at the body as a whole.

  2. Place a high propriety on getting to the “root cause” of illness.

  3. Tendency to do more natural stuff first (diet, lifestyle changes, herbs) and reserve drugs and surgery for last.

Differences between Naturopathic Medicine and Functional Medicine

One of the main differences I saw in naturopathic school (which I considered attending) and functional medicine was the amount of “tools” NDs are taught in school. An ND’s curriculum may include joint manipulation, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbalism, nutrition, functional medicine, prescription drug use, joint injections, and IV nutrients. Individual NDs almost never use all of these once they start practicing, and this has led to an incredibly diverse profession.

Because of this diverse training, there are some services that NDs often offer that not every functional medicine office or doctor can offer. For example, IV nutrient therapy (e.x. glutathione drips or myer’s cocktails) are commonly offered in ND offices in AZ, but few functional medicine providers offer them. Since they are also trained in acupuncture, many ND offices offer acupuncture sessions as part of treatment, but unless a functional medicine office happens to have an LaC on staff, they are less likely to do acupuncture in-house than a naturopathic clinic.

Last but not least, it is worth noting that…

ND is NOT always synonymous with holistic.

Just because someone is trained to do something doesn’t always mean they practice that way when they get out of school. I have met some NDs who only do joint injections- there is no effort to figure out why you’re hurting, just an injection. I have met some NDs who have a very “normal” (not holistic) primary care office and if you didn’t know ahead of time you’d have thought they were an MD or DO. Thankfully, these folk comprise the minority of practicing naturopaths.

Functional Medicine varies by doctor, too, but it is almost always holistic because it is the lens through which we see the patient rather than our degree.

I hope this article helped you learn more about how to find a naturopathic doctor* in North Carolina!

* Or something similar

If you or someone you know is interested in addressing their health concerns holistically and naturally, please call my office in Chapel Hill at 919-238-4094 to learn more about what we have to offer.

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