Who are naturopathic doctors?


This short article describes who Naturopathic doctors are using a Question and Answer format.

What is the difference between "naturopathic doctors" and "naturopaths" ?

Both those titles refer to the same profession. Some individuals refer to themselves as "naturopathic doctors" some use the title "naturopath"

What kind of education do naturopathic doctors have?

All licensed naturopathic doctors complete a minimum 3 years of university-level training including pre-medical courses and then go on to do 4 years of naturopathic medical training at an accredited naturopathic medicine college. For more information, refer to the "Become an ND" section of the College of Naturopaths of Ontario (CONO) website. 


What are the accredited naturopathic medical colleges in Canada?

There are 2 accredited naturopathic medical colleges in Canada:

1) Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). 
2) Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine. 

To learn more about CCNM, go here. For information on Boucher, click on this link


Do Naturopathic doctors have to write board examinations similar to that of medical doctors, nurses, dentists, etc?

After completing the second year of naturopathic medical college, students are eligible to challenge the Naturopathic Physicians' Licensing Examination step 1 (NPLEX 1) exam. This is similar to the USMLE step 1. After completing their full degree and graduating, students are eligible to write NPLEX 2. This is akin to the USMLE step 2. On top of NPLEX, the province of Ontario requires candidates to successfully pass practical exams and a jurisprudence examination. 

The North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE) is the body the administers the NPLEX examinations. CONO administers the jurisprudence and practical board exams. 

To learn more about NABNE and the NPLEX, go to there website here


Who regulates the profession?

In Ontario, the regulating body is the College of Naturopaths of Ontario (CONO). This body is akin to that of the: College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the College of Nurses of Ontario, the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario, etc. Regulating bodies exist to protect the public by recognizing individuals to join a profession who have achieved and who maintain a certain standard of education, practice and codes of conduct, etc. To learn more about CONO, please go to their website: www.collegeofnaturopaths.on.ca.


In the natural medicine world, there are many different titles used. How do I know who are licensed?

In Ontario, only members of the College of Naturopaths of Ontario are permitted to use the titles: "Naturopathic Doctor" "Naturopath" and the professional letter designation "ND." CONO gives licenses only to those who are members, and only such members are permitted to use those titles. Please go here to learn more about these protected titles. 


How can I know who are legitimately licensed? 

CONO keeps a public listing of its members. You can search individuals here. If an individual claiming to be a naturopathic doctor is not on this public registry, then please contact CONO.


How do Naturopathic doctors stay up to date on the latest research and advances in the field of naturopathic medicine?

Similar to the way most other health professions including medical doctors and dentists, do it.  ND's are required to complete "continuing education" credits regularly in order to maintain their license. They can attend conferences and workshops, do studies online or in-person etc. This is CONO's way of keeping the profession academically rigorous. This "continuing education credit" method is used in most other health professions. However, it is truly up to each individual doctor to dedicate themselves to be informed and educated. The best Naturopathic doctors will go far and beyond the requirements that CONO outlines. It is worthwhile to ask your ND about how they keep themselves up to date. To learn more, go here.


Do ND's have malpractice and liability insurance?

Yes, all ND's are required to have liability and malpractice insurance in order to have a license.  


Are Naturopathic doctors the same as Homeopaths?

No. They are two separate professions regulated by two separate regulating bodies: the College of Naturopaths of Ontario (CONO) and the College of Homeopaths of Ontario. Many Naturopathic doctors practice homeopathy and Homeopaths do adhere to many of the same principles of naturopathic medicine, however they are not the same. Not all Naturopathic doctors utilize homeopathy. For example Dr Cho does not practice homeopathy. It is erroneous to consider Naturopathic doctors to be the same as Homeopaths. To see a list of the regulated health professions in Ontario, go here


Do all Naturopathic doctors integrate mystical and spiritual practices and beliefs into their practice? 

No, each ND is different and unique. Even among those who do, a more thorough response really hinges on knowing two things: 1) what is meant by "mystical" and "spiritual" and 2) which Naturopathic doctor one encounters. "Mystical" and "Spiritual" are broad terms that may be understood differently. So it is difficult to give a specific generalized response. Most Naturopathic doctors believe in the spiritual dimension of the human organism and that this dimension is important for health. However, each Naturopathic doctor will apply this differently. Some are into eastern spirituality and practices such as yoga and will utilize it in their practice. Others have different understandings. Some emphasize the spiritual, others less so, and some may even ignore it altogether. Thus, it would be erroneous to generalize one way or the other. If this is of interest to you, it is best to have an open talk with your present or potential Naturopathic doctor.