THE TRUTH ABOUT NATUROPATHY
(Investigator 133, 2010
more popular forms of alternative therapy; the term being generally
applied to therapies, "...derived from a phenomenon of nature
and...used to stimulate the body to heal itself.” (Bradley, 1999, p.
48) These include herbal medicines, various dietary and nutrition
programmes, Homeopathy, Hydrotherapy, Osteopathy and Chiropractic, as
well as Acupuncture, and various other types of oriental medicine.
like many alternative therapies, Naturopathy is based on vitalistic
concepts, that is, the belief that all living creatures contain a form
of energy that not only gives life, but is also the basis of good or
concept of this
"healing” force is quite ancient, it has been known by many names over
the centuries. The ancient Egyptians called it the Ba while the
Greeks referred to it as vis medicatrix naturae; later it was
known as animal magnetism, Odyle, and the elixir vitae. Whatever its
name, it referred to the idea of a natural healing power of nature, an
attempt by the ancients to explain what we now understand to be the
process of homeostasis, the ability of the body to maintain health and
recover from illness. Naturopaths claim to work closely with this
natural healing process, the vis medicatrix naturae.
deny that diseases,
such, exist. Rather they believe that as long as the natural energy
flows properly within the body, the individual remains healthy,
however, should the flow be "blocked” the individual will become sick!
In their view, what orthodox medicine perceives as "sickness" are
simply facets of these blockages. On this basis they believe that to
restore good health it is necessary to restore the energy flow. To
re-establish the flow of energy they use various natural techniques.
pseudo-scientific basis of Naturopathy, there are a number of other
serious problems with Naturopathy.
Quality of Treatment:
to Drury (1981)
when one consults a Naturopath, Considerable care is taken in
compiling a personal medical history, details of lifestyle, diet,
exercise and so on. [Drury p. 118] Yet the fact is that generally
most Naturopaths make diagnoses after having obtained very limited
information. A survey by Chryssides (2000) revealed that most
Naturopaths only asked the patient their name and address and what was
wrong with them, before diagnosing their problem and making
recommendations as to treatment.
skills of Naturopaths can be directly attributed to their general lack
of training. Unlike other professionals there are no legal requirements
that Naturopaths must have studied or done any form of training in
Naturopathy or any other area of health treatment. This means that
anyone can claim to be a Naturopath and commence to treat patients.
Perrett, who has convictions for fraud and armed robbery, obtained a
Diploma of Natural Science from the School of Natural Science while
doing a second term of imprisonment. Released in 1991 he began working
as a Naturopath and soon gained a rather dubious reputation. Apart from
conning hundreds, at least seventeen of his patients have died.
Mentioned in the NSW Parliament on several occasions, it has been
revealed that, despite claiming to be a Bachelor of Surgery, Bachelor
of Science, Master of Music, Doctor of Philosophy as well as a
biochemist and forensic pathologist, all of these claims are false.
Naturopathy is in attempting to locate the vitalistic force, the vis medicatrix
While Naturopaths often claim it is similar to the auto-immune-system,
there is actually no similarity. The immune-system is a visible
physiological defensive process involving the lymphatic organs,
vessels, and a variety of blood cells working together to attack
invading organisms, and to restore a state of homeostasis. In contrast
the vis medicatrix naturae is an unseen, undetectable, mystical
force that is claimed to restore the body's "pure" life-force that
has, in some inexplicable manner, been "corrupted"! Not only can
science not detect it, but it also transcends all known laws of
physics. In addition, Naturopaths themselves are either unable, or
unwilling, to show evidence of its existence.
Theories and Treatments:
of standard treatments, so that, "…no two practitioners will treat any
individual patient exactly alike." (Bradley, 1999, p. 42) There are
also extreme differences in theoretical opinions; for instance, some
Naturopaths claim that such disorders as syphilis, rabies, influenza,
appendicitis and the effectiveness of immunization are simply myths
promoted by orthodox medical practitioners. Some Naturopaths tend to
make rather fantastic claims, thus Michio Kushi, an advocate of
Macrobiotic diets, claims that AIDS is caused by the excessive
consumption of sugar and fatty foods, (Raso, 1993, p. 40).
promoted by Naturopaths such as Echinacea for the prevention of colds,
and Ginkgo Biloba as a brain stimulant, have been proven to be
virtually useless. As Vernon (2007) noted, half-an-hour's extra rest
produces results similar to taking Echinacea and is much less
expensive, (p. 35).
are ever properly tested. The requirements of the Therapeutic Goods
Administration Act enables them to be listed without actually having to
be tested, as a result there is a degree of uncertainty as to,
"...whether they are effective or even safe." (Smith, 2007, p. 4)
not qualified as chemists many actively promote their own home-made
concoctions of herbal medicines, and, despite the fact that most are
either totally useless or dangerous, these have become a major source
of income for many Naturopaths. Jones (1987) observed, many alternative
medicines can often interfere with any legitimate prescribed medicine,
and some are potentially harmful and, in Britain, Naturopathic "...
herbal medicines contaminated with belladonna have caused atropine
poisoning. (p. 67).
that herbal remedies from India, Middle East, Mexico and Asia are
especially dangerous. A pregnant Indian woman, admitted to hospital
after experiencing seizures, was found to be suffering from severe lead
poisoning. Analysis of herbal tablets she had brought with her from
India revealed abnormally high levels of lead and mercury. When born,
her baby experienced deafness in one ear and delayed neurological
development and required seven months treatment in hospital, the
results of this lead poisoning.
of the harmful effects of Naturopathic medicines are unusual, there are
other more common dangers associated with Naturopathic remedies.
Because Naturopathic medicines are considered to be "traditional", that
is they have been used for centuries without apparent harm, they are
not required to undergo any testing.
in recent years,
with better patient reporting facilities, a great deal that evidence is
emerging to show that in fact some natural medicines do have harmful
side-effects; for instance, it is now known that: -
severe reactions in persons allergic to pollen;
can produce seizures;
can cause bleeding, blood shot eyes and migraine headaches;
cause Argyria (turning the skin blue), and can also interfere with
Reichi Mushroom can cause liver failure, (TGA, 2006, Adverse Drug
Reaction Bulletin, 25:2) and several individuals have needed liver
transplants due to the damage caused by this drug;
are two types, one made from marine products has been reported to cause
allergic skin reactions, such as reddening and inflammation of the
skin, a reaction similar to hives, often accompanied by a severe
- St John's
the potential to reduced the efficacy of drugs used to treat HIV,
(Grady 2000, p. 15), cyclosporin, a drug used with organ transplant
patients, and also to interfere with oral contraceptives, (TGA, 2005,
Adverse Drug Reactions Bulletin Volume 24:1);
and Ginko biloba can interact with warfarin an anti-coagulant
medicine. Celery can also have a diuretic effect and can interfere with
the heart medication digoxin; and with thyroxine, a medicine used to
machines and other devices such as the Vega Mora, Chiva and Rife
Machines which are claimed to be effective in treating a wide range of
diseases, even cancer and AIDS. While these machines look quite
impressive, they are actually useless for treating health problems.
home-made devices using cheap parts from electronic stores and resold
at a huge profit, (Rowe, 1998). Their main role is to impress gullible
clients into parting with greater amounts of money for "scientific
machine claimed to be
able to analyze blood samples and provide extensive details about the
health of the individual, actually does nothing at all.
tragic case in
September 1999 Naturopath Reginald Harold Fenn treated an 18 day old
baby suffering from aortic stenosis (a heart defect treatable only by
surgery) with herbal medicines and by placing two metal cylinders on
the baby's legs. Attached to a special machine Fenn claimed this would
supply energy to the child's body and cure the heart disorder. Assuring
the parents that he had cured the child he convinced them to cancel an
appointment for a medical examination and, tragically, the baby died
Manslaughter in 2004 and sentenced to 5 years gaol. However the
sentence was suspended due to his age and the fact that he had terminal
cancer (which, despite his wondrous machine and his claimed abilities,
he was unable to cure).
or Misleading Claims:
false or misleading claims. They widely promoted shark cartilage
products with the claim that, since sharks never get cancer these
products were beneficial to treat cancer. Since it is a fact that
sharks do experience cancerous growths, this claim was clearly false.
common claim by
some Naturopaths is that certain foods form carcinogenic substances
when cooked in microwave ovens, e.g. Lee (2001). She also claims that,
"Microwave ovens were originally developed by the Nazis…"
(2006) points out, these claims are absurd, and while these critics
attack the use of microwave ovens, they conveniently overlook the fact
that while the sun is a natural source of microwave radiation which we
are exposed to every day, it is only harmful to those who sun bake
antiquated concepts that have no place in modern medicine. Yet, despite
this fact, Naturopathy not only persists but remains popular with some
15.7% of the population (Donnelly et al 1985, pp. 539-540). There
appear to be a number of factors responsible for this popularity: -
- A general
disaffection with modern medicine, which is often seen as being elitist
- A general
of technology orientated scientific medicine, and a return to what are
perceived as simpler, safer, traditional alternatives;
- The general
gullibility of the public and "...a general fascination with the occult
and paranormal" (Donnelly et al, p. 540).
to health is commendable, what is often overlooked is that "natural"
approach to health is not unique to Naturopathy. Most modern doctors
also favour a balanced approach to health-care and emphasize the
importance of such things as exercise, and healthy diets; however,
unlike Naturopaths, whenever it is required they also prescribe proper
of religious belief, and, as such its treatments are based upon
to demonstrate the vis medicatrix naturae, or that any other
form of vital energies exist, let alone find them in the body;
medicines and treatments are based upon the faith and belief of
individuals, and so, cannot be verified;
a myriad of concepts and hundreds of often conflicting theories and
Philosophy of naturopathic medicine. In: Textbook of Natural
Medicine, eds. J.E. Pizzorno and M.T. Murray, Edinburgh: Churchill
Livingstone, 2nd edition, 41-49.
Truth About Natural Therapies. In: Reader's Digest, 157 (939),
J.E. and Thong T.H. (1985) Are patients who use alternative medicine
dissatisfied with orthodox medicine? Medical Journal of Australia,
142, May 13, 539-541.
N. (1981) The
Healing Power. Sydney: Australia & New Zealand Book Co.
Alternative therapies. Skeptical Inquirer, 12(1), 63-69.
K. (2006) It
Ain't Necessarily So...Bro. Pymble, NSW: Harper Collins,
and Microwave Ovens.
Diets: Paranormal, Spiritual and Occult Nutrition Practices.
Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.
Forum-Diseases like cancer can be cured with a 555 in a jiffy box — so
they claim! Electronics Australia, January, 24-27.
P.A., Amish, V.,
James, S., Fitzgerald, D.J. and Pester, B.A. (2002). Severe congenital
lead poisoning in a preterm infant due to a herbal remedy. Medical
Journal of Australia, 177 (4), 193-195.
Administration (2006). Hepatotoxicity with black cohosh, Australian
Adverse Drug Reactions Bulletin, Volume 25(2), April.
Administration (2005) Adverse reactions to complimentary medicines. Australian
Adverse Drug Reactions Bulletin, 24(1), February.
Echinacea: the Wonder Herb. The Skeptic, 27(2), 32-35.
claims are examined on this website: