Alternative Medicine – Do you understand the difference between a Doctor and Practitioner?

I will be the first to tell you that I love Alternative Medicine, at the end of the day we are talking “Prevention”. I firmly believe that we no longer live in a world where we can be holistic all the time; we need to integrate traditional medicine and a licensed MD and compliment with some alternative care.

There are many different “natural modalities” that can compliment your health but it is important to understand the “scope of practice” that goes with those modalities. I will use myself as an example.

Dr. Deb is mainly a nickname that comes from the early 1990’s when I began using herbs for animals it was Dr. Deb Doolittle. I do have a degree as “Doctor of Naturopathy” which means I have completed 4 years of natural medicine studies. At my office, I work as a “Naturopathic Practitioner”. A naturopath is an educator, one that can guide you to better health by suggesting diet and lifestyle changes, understand the physiology (the way the body works) to help you understand in simple terms. It is important to know that a practitioner does not diagnose, nor do they prescribe traditional medications, and they are not licensed by the State.

Additionally, I have completed a 2-year program for herbal medicine in addition to the 4 years for naturopathy, and have certification as a Master Herbologist. Many natural medicine people recommend herbs and supplements, so it is important to find out some background on the person recommending this type of treatment. “All natural does NOT mean safe” herbs are medicine as are over the counter supplements. Many may interact with the way your traditional medicines are working, as will many vitamins. So be sure that the person who is recommending natural supplements has sufficient training and experience to ‘educate’ you in the proper use. For myself I spend many hours every year studying possible interactions and learning how new medications work so that herbs can be used safely, over the years I have made many changes in my recommendations based on what works with my clients as well as the hours of studying. When in doubt, I will in fact suggest that you speak with a physician.

I have a lot of people call looking for a “natural doctor” and I explain the difference. The natural doctors that carry the initials, N.D. Are in fact Physicians (M.D.) that have achieved additional training in natural medicine and nutrition, they are licensed by the State, and can order lab testing, prescribe traditional medications as well as suggest supplements for you. This type of doctor can be located by going to the website: and click on find Physicians.

Other wonderful natural modalities include Chiropractors or Acupuncturists; these are licensed doctors that manipulate the body. They have specialized training to help with injury and good health.

Massage therapy and Bowen therapy are complimentary to chiropractics. These people should carry a license by the State to be sure that they have proper training to work with the body. Any time you manipulate the body it can improve your health. The alignment of the body can affect the organs and internal working you want to be sure that this type of practitioner is qualified and licensed.

The list of natural healers could go on for pages, one good resource to look at is: (Foothill Health and Wellness Network). This is a group of local healers that come together to learn and share information with each other the website not only lists a lot of wonderful, serious minded healers but is also a good resource to read and understand what each person does, look at their qualifications, etc.

Just remember good health starts at home, even better when you are taking some responsibility to address those health issues you empower yourself to be healthy. If you have questions about natural health or practitioners, I am happy to educate and answer those questions for you at or (530) 622-1124.

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians