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Curious About Naturopathic Doctors?

The world of naturopathic medicine has been around for many, many years but has not been at the forefront of healthcare until recently. With the surging costs of health insurance premiums happening recently and many people who are going without health insurance, there has been more focus on choosing alternative and natural ways to care for our families and their ailments. So what is naturopathic medicine? What is it about? What does a naturopathic doctor do? According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, there are multiple principles that are followed in a naturopathic medical practice. [1] These are:

  • The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)

  • Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle Causam)

  • First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere)

  • Doctor as Teacher (Docere)

  • Treat the Whole Person

  • Prevention

The focus of naturopathic doctors is to treat the client as a whole person. An individual. When you look at allopathic and western medicine, most of the time if you have a need to be seen you go in, fill out your paperwork, and spend maybe 15 minutes with your doctor. During this time, they might do a physical examination, order some lab work to be run for further diagnostics, and prescribe medications. When you make an appointment with a naturopathic doctor, they typically will book a time slot for a first time client that is around an hour long. During this time, they can perform a physical examination, they will speak with you and ask you questions about many aspects of your life, and get as much information as they can so they can start working towards finding a root cause of the ailments at hand. I remember the first time I saw an acupuncturist and she explained to me that health is like an onion. You are peeling back all these layers of symptoms and working towards the root cause (center of onion). When this root cause is addressed and corrected, the symptoms will go away. Naturopathic doctors utilize the most natural forms of medicine, aim for the least invasive and least toxic therapies, and they help their clients better understand the concepts of whole health and educate them on how they can achieve and maintain good health. [2]

So what qualifies one as a naturopathic doctor? How do you become a naturopathic doctor? This is a very common question that people ask. The educational journey behind becoming a naturopathic doctor is incredibly extensive. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians state that all of their approved schools (that are AANMC members) “require a base of undergraduate science courses that include biology as well as general and organic chemistry. Physics, biochemistry, math, and psychology courses may also be specified.”.[3]

Currently, there are only seven accredited naturopathic programs.

Within the first two years of a professional naturopathic program, students will focus on biomedical and clinical science which includes: biochemistry, human physiology, histology, anatomy, microbiology, immunology, human pathology, neuroscience, pharmacology, etc. During the last two years of their program, students will intern in a clinical setting being supervised by another licensed professional. During their educational journey, students will also be learning clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, lifestyle counseling, mind-body medicine, hydrotherapy, and homeopathy. Upon completion of their professional program and graduation, students will qualify to sit for an exam called the NPLEX. The passing of this exam qualifies the individual to be licensed as a primary care physician as long as they have met all their individual state and province requirements.[4]

Currently, there are only 16 states and 4 provinces that actually allow the practice of naturopathic medicine. These states are Alaska, Arizona, British Columbia, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Manitoba, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ontario, Oregon, Saskatchewan, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands do have licensing laws for naturopathic doctors though. [5] So if you live outside of any of these areas and are wanting to seek out a naturopathic doctor, please do thorough research on who you plan to see and ask upfront to see their credentials and education background proof so you know that they have met educational requirements to give you medical advice. Many people move to these states for the purpose to go to school and get licensed, but then move out of those states to ones that are considered a “grey area” because there are no laws regarding naturopathic medicine. The world of naturopathic medicine is always changing though so it is important to sign-up for newsletters with organizations and keep up with the latest information regarding this industry.

If you are considering an education to obtain a career as a naturopathic doctor, or are wanting to seek guidance from a naturopathic doctor, RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH. There are many details that go into this and many legal obstacles and red tape. It is advised to contact your state representatives and medical board and possibly seek out assistance with a lawyer.


[1] AANP - American Association of Naturopathic Physicians: Natural Medicine. Real Solutions.. (2011). Retrieved 17 May 2017, from

[2] The 6 Principles | AANMC. (2017). AANMC. Retrieved 17 May 2017, from

[3] Naturopathic Medical School Academic Prerequisites. AANMC. Retrieved 17 May 2017, from

[4]Understanding the naturopathic doctor curriculum. AANMC. Retrieved 17 May 2017, from

[5] Council on Naturopathic Medical Education. (2012). Retrieved 17 May 2017, from

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