Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND)

Program Overview

The Options You Need For Success

The College of Naturopathic Medicine’s accredited naturopathic medicine program starts with the first two years focused on early clinical experiences and basic sciences taught in a body-systems format, similar to a conventional MD program. The final two years are clinically focused, giving you the opportunity to work with various patient populations at the Sonoran University Medical Center and community clinics.

You can choose to earn your accredited ND degree in four or five years. Our five-year option allows you to distribute the basic sciences and pre-clinical medical across two years instead of one, with the final three years remaining unchanged. Tuition and fees are comparable for either option.


Total patient care contact hours in years 3 and 4


Physicians who participate in field observations and clerkships


Average number of patients seen by each Sonoran University student

Therapeutics You Will Learn

With Arizona’s broad scope of practice[1], you’ll become an expert at using all naturopathic therapies to treat, heal and inspire your patients. This includes both established treatments such as acupuncture and botanical medicine, as well as pharmacology and advanced modern techniques using physical medicine and minor surgery.

The practice of acupuncture dates back to the 2nd century BC. It is a system of healing that reflects the ancient Chinese understanding of the duality of nature represented by two opposing, yet complementary forces, Yin and Yang.

In humans, the Yin and Yang are represented by blood (yin) and Chi (yang), with Chi (sometimes spelled Qi) flowing along energetic pathways called meridians. These meridians can be accessed at specific anatomical locations, referred to as acupuncture points. During a treatment, the practitioner inserts ultra-fine, sterile needles into acupuncture points to modulate Chi according to specific diagnostic and therapeutic patterns. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbal teas and other formulas complement acupuncture treatments.

Though widely practiced in Asia for centuries, mainstream media introduced acupuncture to the West thanks to James Reston. Mr. Reston, then a reporter for the New York Times, fell ill with appendicitis while covering President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China. The world took note when physicians treated his post-operative pain with three acupuncture needles. It is no surprise then, that acupuncture has become widely associated with the treatment of pain.

Over the past four decades, researchers have conducted studies, including randomized clinical trials (RCTs), and investigations into the acupuncture’s mechanism of action. The largest study, a meta-analysis of high-quality RCTs of acupuncture in the treatment of pain (from arthritis, chronic headache and back, neck and shoulder pain), analyzed more than 17,900 patients. The study concluded that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain.

Naturopathic medicine in Arizona includes acupuncture within its scope of practice. Consequently, our curriculum includes 220 hours of acupuncture classroom education and many opportunities for clinical training at the Sonoran University Medical Center and affiliated clinical sites. Naturopathic medicine integrates acupuncture into the Naturopathic Therapeutic Order as an energetic therapy, one that stimulates and supports the patient’s Vis Medicatrix Naturae, the healing power of nature.

The medicinal contributions of plants far exceed popular herbs like echinacea, goldenseal and ginseng. Today, 40% of prescription drugs come from, or are synthesized from, plants. In recent years, some of the most important new medicines, such as the cancer drug Taxol (derived from yew trees) originate in nature. Aspirin, an over-the-counter staple for more than 100 years, and derived from white willow trees, is now taken by millions to prevent heart attacks, and can potentially reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Unlike drugs, botanical medicines include the active constituent and a host of other molecules. Some of these are synergistic and can augment the medicinal effect, while others counteract or mitigate side effects. Botanical medicines are the very embodiment of the Vis Medicatrix Naturae, the healing power of nature. Their energetic qualities are particularly well defined in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda.

In the College of Naturopathic Medicine at Sonoran University, you will study botanical medicine in a variety of settings, learn from the field’s leading experts in the classroom and help grow herbs in our medicinal and culinary gardens. One- to two-week herbal immersive classes are available in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains. Also, you can choose clinical clerkships that focus on botanical medicine.

Our exposure to potentially harmful substances grows each year. Heavy metals like mercury in fish, hormones added to beef, pork and poultry, endocrine disruptors found in plastics and cosmetics, comprise only a small percentage of the tens of thousands of chemicals Americans encounter on a regular basis. Unfortunately, most of these have never been tested on human beings.

More than a decade ago, we created the Sonoran University of Health Sciences, Department of Environmental Medicine to educate students, treat patients and help create and share information with the public. With some of the leading experts in the field as full-time and visiting professors, Sonoran medical students have the opportunity to study the environment’s role in human health. Our Department of Environmental Medicine combines current research with basic naturopathic principles to provide students and patients a modern yet grounded approach to patient care.

We designed our academic medical center with the most comprehensive and safest facilities to assist patients in the detoxification process. A spacious suite for intravenous therapy (including chelation) complements the wing that houses saunas, a steam room and specially-created constitutional and colon hydrotherapy rooms. As a student, you’ll work closely with supervising licensed physicians to assist patients compromised by environmental agents regain their health.

The naturopathic approach to patients with environmentally-mediated illnesses comprises more than detoxification. Removing environmental toxins plus powerful naturopathic treatments like clinical nutrition, acupuncture, hydrotherapy and homeopathy, can promote self-healing through the healing power of nature, the Vis Medicatrix Naturae. As a student at Sonoran, you will learn to apply naturopathic principles to create comprehensive, holistic and individualized patient treatment plans.

Practiced worldwide, homeopathy was developed in Germany over 200 years ago. According to the U.S. 2007 National Health Interview Survey, nearly five million Americans used homeopathy in the previous year. As popular as homeopathy is in the U.S., its use in Great Britain, India, Brazil and other countries is far greater.

Homeopathy is based on three principles: 1) The law of similars, a phenomenon first observed by Hippocrates; 2) The minimum dose, that sometimes includes ultra-dilute preparations; and 3) Individualized treatment, in which one patient’s experience of a condition takes precedence over the name of the disease.

Though homeopathy has been evaluated in numerous clinical trials, and has millions of proponents, it remains controversial. The principle of individualized treatment creates methodological challenges when conducting double-blind, placebo-controlled research on homeopathy for a specific condition. Whereas a conventional pharmaceutical trial studies one drug for a specific condition, a homeopathic trial could require 10 (or more) medicines for a specific condition. Consequently, the research literature is inconclusive on the effectiveness of homeopathy.

While in the College of Naturopathic Medicine at Sonoran University, you will learn the principles of homeopathy, the fundamentals of case-taking, materia medica and critically evaluating homeopathy’s historic and emerging body of research. Gain clinical experience treating patients with homeopathy at the Sonoran University Medical Center and our community health clinics. Sonoran University and its students have conducted research in the field of homeopathy, including clinical trials for allergies, altitude sickness (on Mount Everest), as well as homeopathic provings.

Injection therapies are a growing treatment choice for patients suffering from pain, illness and for nutritional support. Injecting health-promoting substances into the body bypasses the gastrointestinal tract, which provides a direct route to the bloodstream and damaged or inflamed tissues. There are many different types and uses for injection therapies and they are generally administered either intravenously or by targeting the musculoskeletal system.

Injections can be used to treat a specific area of the body or provide a non-oral route to administer medicine. Prolotherapy is often used instead of cortisone shots to treat painful joints, ligaments and tendons. Instead of suppressing pain and inflammation, prolotherapy regenerates the tissues. This leads to increased function and decreased pain. Trigger point injections are used for tight muscles to help them release and receive adequate blood flow. Intramuscular injections are also used to administer vitamins or medicines, bypassing the digestive tract and delivering it straight into the body. These treatments can be used for:

  • Arthritis
  • Tendonitis
  • Chronic joint pain
  • Old injuries
  • Sciatica
  • Low back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Knee, shoulder, hip, wrist or ankle pain
  • Acute sprains or strains
  • Ligament laxity or partial tears
  • Connective tissue repair
  • Joint instability or hypermobility
  • Restriction or pain with motion

Intravenous (IV) injections administer nutrients and medicine directly into the bloodstream to be used by your body’s cells. This allows therapeutic doses to be delivered without requiring your digestive tract to break down and assimilate it all. This is especially useful for patients who need high-dose nutritional support or who suffer from poor digestion. Treatments can take from twenty minutes to over an hour and this time is spent comfortably reclining in the IV room. IV treatments are being used for:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Acute infections
  • Heavy metal chelation
  • Exercise recovery
  • Hydration and electrolyte replenishing
  • Migraines
  • Detoxification
  • Substance abuse care
  • Cancer treatment support
  • Vitamin and mineral supplementation

At Sonoran University, you will work under naturopathic doctors who specialize in injection therapy to learn this cutting-edge technique and provide patients with immediate pain relief. Many students also have the opportunity to train under physicians in our one-of-a-kind Neil Riordan Center for Regenerative Medicine while learning the skills necessary for success in pain management.

Patient education leads to patient empowerment and the ability to regain control of one’s health. Mind-body practices exemplify the power to self-heal and the healing power of nature. Mind-body health care, or mind-body medicine, describes the holistic reunion of the mind and the physical being after centuries of separation.

The thousands of studies conducted over the past four decades attest to the power of the mind to regulate physiological functions, prevent disease, improve sleep, reduce pain, lower stress, reduce inflammation, enhance concentration and enhance immune function. According to a 2007 National Health Interview Survey, over 60 million Americans had used a form of mind-body in the previous year.

Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback that maps brain activity via a Quantitative Electroencephalogram (QEEG). Research demonstrates positive effects of neurofeedback for patients with ADHD, anxiety disorders, insomnia and other mental, emotional and physical complaints. Neurofeedback therapists have been working with patients and teaching students at the Sonoran University Medical Center for nearly a decade.

The terms and expressions “mind-body medicine,” “mind over matter,” “mindfulness” and “power of positive thinking” imply that the mind can influence physical health. However, new research revealing specialized neural circuitry in the heart, neurotransmitters produced in the gut and hormones secreted from fat, is evidence that “body-mind medicine” is equally accurate.

As a student at Sonoran, you’ll begin the study of mind-body medicine in your first year in a survey course in naturopathic principles, philosophy and therapies. Personal exploration via self-reflection assignments and journaling set the stage for deeper studies in psychology, counseling, biofeedback and guided imagery. You’ll incorporate mind-body approaches into patient care during clinical clerkships in your final two years.

Minor surgery includes procedures that don’t invade a body cavity including the abdomen, thorax or cranium. These in-office procedures include wound care, abscess incision and drainage, suturing and other forms of wound closure, punch and elliptical biopsies, tissue removal such as warts, moles, benign and premalignant lesions, and removal of foreign objects (e.g., fish hook). Most require sterile or aseptic technique and injection of local anesthesia.

At Sonoran University, you will acquire minor surgery competencies during your clinical education. In addition to minor surgery, you’ll study, practice and become competent in a range of clinical competencies, beginning in your first year. This is particularly important since research on medical education shows a strong correlation between clinical competencies and future satisfaction in practice.

As your skill set grows, so will your confidence. For example, to competently perform a physical examination, one must first master dozens of site-specific exams. The head and neck alone, comprises examination of the ear, the external and internal eye (including the retina), mouth and throat, nose, skin and scalp, lymph nodes, nervous system, thyroid and cervical spine. Venipuncture (drawing blood) or giving an immunization are fairly simple procedures; followed by the more complex administration of IV fluids and medications. Looking in an adult’s ear is easy compared to examining a febrile child screaming from a suspected middle ear infection. Spinal manipulation requires a sequence of courses beginning with anatomy and neuroanatomy, followed by courses in palpation, physical examination of the spine and finally soft-tissue then osseous manipulation. Minor surgery, first learned in class, then simulated in labs, then practiced in the clinical setting, challenges students’ knowledge, dexterity and composure.

Whereas didactic learning is linear, each acquisition of skills reflects a quantum jump in ability and confidence. At Sonoran, both types of learning complement each other.

Clinical nutrition is the foundation of naturopathic practice. In past centuries, acute infectious diseases like pneumonia, cholera, smallpox, measles and diphtheria were the leading causes of death globally. Public health efforts in sanitation and immunizations, even more than the discovery of antibiotics, profoundly changed Americans’ health and increased life expectancy.

Today, nearly 80% of healthcare costs, morbidity and mortality result from chronic degenerative diseases that can be prevented, and in many cases, treated with Therapeutic Life Changes (TLC). TLC, the core of empowered patient care, focuses on clinical nutrition, exercise and stress management. Naturopathic physicians engage patients to improve health and reduce risk of disease through individualized diet and, when appropriate, nutritional supplementation. Naturopathic principles, particularly Tolle Causum (Identify the Cause), Tolle Totem (Treat the Whole Patient), Docere (Doctor as Teacher) and Prevenire (Practice Prevention) guide the instruction of and practice in clinical nutrition.

You’ll study pathology and clinical diagnosis, then dive deeper to understand the underlying causes of disease. You’ll be trained to understand each patient as an individual and employ individualized dietary approaches to fit your patients’ needs.

There was a time when naturopathic physicians were considered drugless practitioners. For the past 25 years, nearly all jurisdictions regulating the practice of naturopathic medicine included prescribing privileges in their statutes. Why should a naturopathic medical student study pharmacology? Here are three reasons:

  1. Naturopathic medicine is based on patient-centered care, the imperative to understand and address the patient’s needs; a set of six guiding principles; and The Therapeutic Order. This structured approach to diagnosing and treating each patient’s individual experience of disease distinguishes naturopathic physicians from other practitioners, not the particular therapies prescribed or shunned. Pharmaceutical drugs can play an important role in patient care, particularly when employed within the naturopathic, patient-centered model.
  2. The Therapeutic Order, also called the hierarchy of healing, generally guides the least invasive (therapeutic life changes) to the most invasive treatment (drugs and surgery). Most chronic diseases, and many acute illnesses can be treated wholly or in part at the lower end of this scale. However, many conditions need drugs or surgery upon diagnosis. Naturopathic physicians must be able to distinguish these conditions and appropriately treat (with drugs if necessary), co-manage with or refer to other physicians.
  3. The practice of patient-centered care requires understanding each patient’s clinical condition as well as the extent and rate at which he or she is willing to participate in re-establishing health. Some patients are ready to make major health-promoting changes, while others are not. The former group can often forego or reduce their prescriptions (with the help of the prescribing physician), the latter cannot. You’ll learn how to work with both types of patients.

You’ll receive 100 hours of classroom pharmacology education, which is reinforced during clinical training at the Sonoran Medical Center and community health sites.

Physical medicine grows in its therapeutic relevance each year, paralleling the growing prevalence of pain. Pain accounts for nearly 80% of patients’ presenting complaints. This phenomenon will most certainly continue, as the senior citizen demographic comprises an increasing percentage of the U.S. population. Physical medicine can also play an important role in reducing the dependence on opioid pain medications, and the unfortunate epidemic of prescription drug addiction.

The naturopathic, osteopathic and chiropractic professions emerged within years of each other near the end of the 19th century. Each of the three disciplines features their own version of spinal (osseous) and muscular (soft tissue) manipulation. Developed in the therapeutic healing spas of Europe and the U.S., it was a natural process for naturopathic medicine to blend hydrotherapy (the systematic application of hot and cold water) and physiotherapy (electrical stimulation, and later ultrasound) in conjunction with the core practices of nutrition, botanical medicine and homeopathy.

At Sonoran University, the study of physical medicine encompasses osseous manipulation, orthopedics, hydrotherapy, sports medicine, soft tissue manipulation, injection therapy and physiotherapy. The classroom and lab experiences provide the basis for clinical hands-on learning at the Sonoran University Medical Center, in elective sites and at our community health clinics. However, naturopathic medicine doesn’t rely solely on physical medicine modalities in the treatment of pain. In keeping with the principle, treat the whole person, the naturopathic approach to treating pain includes clinical nutrition, mind-body therapies, acupuncture, botanical medicine and homeopathy.

True to our historical origins, you’ll work with a diverse didactic and clinical faculty that includes naturopathic physicians, chiropractors, orthopedists, anesthesiologists and massage therapists. This Sonoran University campus expansion features a regenerative healing center, the first among naturopathic medical schools to bring together an interdisciplinary team in a clinical setting dedicated to the integrative treatment of neuromuscular pain conditions. It also provides you an opportunity to develop your clinical practice skills in a unique and beautiful clinical setting.

Men’s health is the branch of medicine concerned with diseases exclusive to the male gender and psychosocial issues. It is also important to understand that as men develop and age, their health needs will shift.

Men differ from women in their anatomy, physiology, lifestyle habits, societal norms, disease propensity and much more. Naturopathic physicians consider these gender factors while still acknowledging the uniqueness of each male patient in order to deliver the highest quality of care. Care concerns range from heart disease, male sexual health, prostate health, andropause and hormone imbalance, puberty and growth, athletic injuries, mental health, and more.

Women are dynamic and their treatment options are too. The classical definition of women’s health focused on issues specific to the female anatomy; however, more recently, women’s medicine is expanding to include social, sexual and gender aspects of women and their health.

There are two primary branches of medical science when discussing women’s health; gynecology and obstetrics. Gynecology is a primary branch of women’s health and focuses on the reproductive system of women which includes all aspects of female anatomy and physiology. Obstetrics focuses on pregnancy, childbirth and the time immediately following childbirth.

Endocrinology, the study of hormones and their physiological and biochemical processes, is another important component of women’s health. Hormones play a major role in female physiology, particularly with the reproductive system. The hormones can also signal an underlying imbalance, as they function to connect and coordinate all the organs of the body. Taking all of these areas of medicine into account when working in women’s health is essential to creating effective treatment plans.

Additional Curriculum Benefits

  • Clinical experiences beginning on your first day and continuing throughout the curriculum
  • Integration of content by body systems
  • Case-based instruction and testing – in preparation for the board examinations
  • Team-based learning
  • Field observation program to shadow community physicians in your first and second years of study
  • Elective off-site program to shadow physicians in your third year of study
  • Standardized patient program
  • Clinical milestone exams

Expand Your Knowledge

Other Degrees Offered by Sonoran