Legal Corner: Ayurveda

California issued its first Naturopathic Doctor (ND) licenses in January, 2005.

Naturopathic doctors are primary care providers. They are trained and licensed to diagnose and treat medical conditions and diseases independent of a medical doctor. They can provide adjunctive treatment for cancer in collaboration with a medical doctor.

The provider must be licensed by the Naturopathic Medicine Committee to use the titles ND or naturopathic doctor (Business and Professions Code section 3660).

Unlawful use of the titles may result in misdemeanor charges, a fine of up to $5,000, or a year in jail, or both (Business and Professions Code section 3664).

Approved naturopathic medical schools or programs:

  • Are accredited by a national postsecondary education accrediting body.
  • Have accreditation or pre-accreditation from the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME).
  • Offer a minimum four-academic-year, postgraduate, in-residence curriculum (Business and Professions Code section 3623), including basic science and clinical didactic studies, as well as clinical (experiential) training leading to a naturopathic doctor degree, or a diploma (from a Canadian program).

The CNME recognizes the following schools:

United States

  • Bastyr University, Kenmore, WA
  • National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Portland, OR
  • Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences, Tempe, AZ
  • College of Naturopathic Medicine, Bridgeport, CT


  • The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, North York, Ontario
  • Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, New Westminster, British Columbia

On September 29, 2010, the California Governor signed into law SB 1246- Naturopathic Medicine. This bill was sponsored by Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod and is a major step in integrating alternative modalities of healthcare delivery into our current system.

This law designates NDs as lab directors for Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) waived tests. Specifically, it adds NDs to the category of lab directors that currently includes MDs and DOs. This law permits NDs to perform certain lab tests in their offices and hire naturopathic assistants (NA) to assist in patient care, and authorizes the Naturopathic Medicine Committee to adopt regulations relating to NAs.

This law allows the Committee to receive recommendations regarding standards from appropriate public agencies.

Increasing number of insurance companies are covering naturopathic care. Check with your health insurance provider. In some cases, you may have to pay for naturopathic services and then submit a claim.

Somewhat confusingly, there are unlicensed practitioners in the state without approved naturopathic medical training but who may refer to themselves as a “naturopath” but not as a “Naturopathic Doctor” or “ND.”

Currently it is not required to have a license to practice as a traditional naturopath and/or to practice homeopathy in California. However, the practitioner must disclose in advertisements and on the client intake form in writing that they are providing unlicensed healing arts services (Business and Professions Code sections 2053.5 and 2053.6). All clients must confirm in writing that they were given information about license status (Business and Professions Code section 2053.6).

California Department of Consumer Affairs offers A Consumer’s Guide to Naturopathic Medicine: Find more information on the pertinent laws at:

Maria C. DeSousa is a California licensed attorney with Buynak Law Firm, with offices in Berkeley and Santa Barbara, California. Your concerns, suggestions and inquiries are most welcome as Ms De Sousa is interested in advancing the legal cause for Ayurveda with others in California and throughout the United States: [email protected];

By Maria C. DeSousa, Esq