What is naturopathic medicine and what do naturopathic doctors treat?

What is a naturopathic doctor (ND)?

Medically Trained, Naturally Focused.

Naturopathic doctors are provincially-regulated primary care providers. With extensive education, including a pre-med degree and four years of training at an accredited naturopathic college, NDs integrate standard medical diagnostics with a broad range of natural therapies. NDs are eclectic, each with a slightly different approach, but they all believe that balancing the mind, body and environment is the path to optimal health because it supports the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Naturopathic doctors are also experts at early detection, prevention and treatment of chronic disease, and their personalized treatment plans work with each individual patient’s lifestyle and body chemistry.

Is naturopathic medicine the same as homeopathy?

No. Naturopathic doctors are general practitioners of natural medicine. Depending on a patient’s health needs, a naturopathic doctor may include homeopathy in an individualized treatment plan, but it is only one of many treatment methods that NDs are trained to use. Homeopaths are trained solely in homeopathy and do not use other treatment methods.

What can I expect from my first visit to a naturopathic doctor?

During the first visit, your ND wants to get to know you as a person, what your health goals are and how you have managed your health in the past. Expect to be there for an hour or more to give your ND adequate time to complete the picture. As well as performing a physical exam based on your health complaints, your ND will also ask you about your mental, emotional and spiritual health, your diet and lifestyle, and treatments you may be receiving from other health care providers. By the end of the visit, your ND will present an individualized treatment plan and may suggest further testing.

How do I pay for a visit to a naturopathic doctor?

Currently, AHCIP does not cover visits to a naturopathic doctor. However, most extended healthcare plans include naturopathic medicine, so check with your provider to see the amount of your coverage.

Do naturopathic doctors have specialties?

Not usually, although some NDs do take a special interest in particular health conditions or treatment modalities. Currently, there are no specialist-level educational programs offered by naturopathic colleges. However, in addition to maintaining their continuing education requirements, many NDs pursue extended training in a particular area, such as environmental medicine, infusion therapy, or cancer care. This is not considered specialization, however, because naturopathic medicine is always holistic and patient-centred.

Are there naturopathic doctors who are also Physicians?

Not usually.  The term "physician" is restricted to the use of registrants of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA). Only if a naturopathic doctor held dual-registration in both the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta and the CPSA would they be considered a physician. There are some conventional physicians who have an interest in natural therapies, functional medicine and integrative health care, but they have not completed equivalent training in all of the disciplines covered by naturopathic medicine and are not registered naturopathic doctors.

Are naturopathic doctors regulated in ALBERTA?

Yes. Naturopathic doctors have been regulated in Alberta under the Health Professions Act since August 1st 2012.   This means that naturopathic doctors in Alberta are held to the same standards as other regulated health professionals such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, etc.  Alberta NDs are governed by the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta which serves to:

  • define the entry level and continued competence qualifications for Naturopathic Doctors in Alberta,
  • administers standards of practice and professional conduct, and
  • investigates ND related complaints on behalf of the public.

Canadian naturopathic doctors are also regulated in Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.

How do I confirm a naturopathic doctor’s qualifications?

Naturopathic doctors must be registered to practice in Alberta by the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta (CNDA).  This means they have completed formal training at a CNME-accredited naturopathic institution and successfully completed all written and practical examinations including North American board exams (NPLEX II & II) as well as CNDA mandated examinations (Emergency procedures, Pharmacy Examinations and Jurisprudence) . To check to see if your ND is registered, simply conduct a ND search  or contact the CNDA directly:

Suite 200, 3116 – 4th Street NW Calgary, AB T2M 3A4

Phone: (403) 266-2446

Email: secretary@cnda.net

Do I need a referral to see a naturopathic doctor?

Absolutely not.  To book an appointment, simply call, book online or email the clinic directly.

What is the difference between a Naturopathic Doctor and a Naturopath?

In Alberta, the term “naturopathic doctor” and “naturopath” are both title-protected to define a practitioner licensed with the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta.  This means they have graduated from a four-year graduate level accredited naturopathic college, successfully completed all North American standardized testing as well as provincial examinations and completed at least 3 years of pre-medical studies. A licensed ND belongs to a regulatory body that oversees standards of practice, complaints and discipline. Naturopathic doctors must have malpractice insurance and practice ethically and professionally.

In un-regulated provinces and territories like Quebec or North West Territories, the term ‘naturopath’ can refer to a non-medically trained natural health provider from correspondence/long distance programs or short-term naturopathy schools and may not be equivalent to naturopathic doctors in regulated provinces like Alberta.