by Kristen McElveen, ND
I am commonly asked if I am a "homeopath" as this word has often been used for various holistic health practitioners in the media. Let me assure you, a "homeopath" can be very different from a licensed naturopathic doctor (ND or NMD).
Many people also mistakenly refer to any natural product as "homeopathic" and this term is simply being used incorrectly.
A licensed, naturopathic physician has gone to a 4-year post-graduate naturopathic medical school, so receives a minimum of 8 years of college education, not including residencies or specialty training like midwifery, advanced homeopathy or oncology.
Homeopathy (the little white pills or clear liquid) is one of the various natural treatment methods that NDs are trained in, in addition to herbal medicine and supplements, clinical nutrition, spinal manipulation, pharmaceuticals, minor surgery and more.
Not every naturopathic physician practices homeopathy, but technically every naturopathic doctor could be considered a "homeopath" since it is part of our core curriculum.
Another issue in titling comes from the term "naturopath."
In states where naturopathic physicians (ND/NMD) are licensed, no one else can call themselves a "naturopath." But sadly, in the many states where we are still unlicensed, anyone can technically call themselves a "naturopath" since the term is not protected or regulated by a state licensing board.
This is why it is so incredibly important to have naturopathic licensure in each state as it makes a HUGE difference if you get medical advice from someone with a medical education versus someone who has taken a weekend online herb course.
A "homeopath" however, does not necessarily have any medical education or a medical degree, but they have studied homeopathy as a treatment modality, usually extensively. This means that they ONLY use the little white pills (or liquid) and usually no herbs or supplements or pharmaceuticals, unless they have other education.
I am not in any way saying that homeopaths are not an excellent choice for additional treatment - most homeopaths I've met have been studying it 10 times longer than what I learned in medical school, but I have sadly also met a few people who call themselves a homeopath who have no extensive homeopathic training or medical education and simply refer to a book to help people (or pets) with their maladies.
That is why I like to educate people on what the terms mean.
So to recap: not every "homeopath" is a "naturopath," but there are many NDs, MDs, DOs and NPs who use homeopathy as a treatment method.
I just wanted to clear up the terminology since it's really not clear our here on the interwebs sometimes!
I even recently met a "holistic health coach" who advertised that she used "homeopathics" and when I asked her more about her education, it turns out she took a 6-month nutrition course and knew nothing of homeopathy. She was told that "natural" and "homeopathic" meant the same thing and was told to market herself as such.
No wonder everyone's confused!