163, 2015 July)
therapies comprise a wide range of different and often
separate types of alternative treatments. The principal criteria for a
process to be classified as a Naturopathic therapy are essentially that
it should be, "… derived from a
phenomenon of nature and is used to
stimulate the body to heal itself." (Bradley, 1999, p. 48)
Naturopathic therapies include herbal medicines, the use of
either the actual plant or extracts derived from it, various
dietary and nutrition programmes, Homeopathy, Hydrotherapy, various
manipulative techniques such as Osteopathy and Chiropractic, as well as
Acupuncture, and various other traditional forms of oriental
medicine such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, (TCM).
Naturopathic therapies are based upon quite ancient concepts,
which were often devised in desperation in the absence of a proper
understanding of the actual causes of sickness and disease. The
earliest were probably herbal remedies which were used according to
homogeneous principles; that is, plants that had "similarities" to the
disorder being treated. On the basis of these principles plants with
red flowers or stems were considered the most efficacious for treating
open wounds, or for the prevention of hemorrhaging after child-birth;
the logic for this was that, because they were of similar colour they
must contain a common spiritual energy.
was generally the domain of the older women of the
clan, and later of the "wise women" but in time they were supplanted by
a "professional" class of medicine men, then priest-physicians who in
addition to an extensive understanding of herbal medicine also
developed other forms of treatment, so that by the time of the
Egyptians diets, fasting, exercise, massage, air or sunlight baths,
hydrotherapy (water cures), clysters (enemas), and sleep therapy,
(hypnosis) were already being used.
treatments, now generally referred to as "traditional
therapies" were to remain the principal means of treatment until the
advent of scientific medicine in the latter part of the 19th century.
Yet even after the emergence of scientific medicine many of these
traditional treatments remained popular with many either because modern
Western medicine was unavailable or too expensive.
Yet even in the
West, despite the availability of scientific medicine,
the traditional therapies never completely disappeared and they survive
today in the form of alternative or complementary forms of therapy.
Because they are claimed to be based upon "natural" processes, they are
still generally referred to as, "nature’s cures", "natural medicine",
"natural therapy", "the nature cure", and in 1895, practitioner
John Scheel combined the terms "nature" and "homeopathy" to create the
neologism "Naturopathy", (literally "a natural disease").
term caused some disquiet amongst other natural
therapists, however, after Benjamin Lust, (the founder of the American
School of Naturopathy) bought the rights to the name in 1901, and began
actively promoting the new term, it soon became widely accepted by both
practitioners and the public.
therapies are generally endorsed as "non invasive" forms
of health assessment and treatment; on this basis they are widely
promoted as "safe-alternatives to orthodox medicine", a claim that is
somewhat misleading. It is certainly true that many of their products,
especially Homeopathic remedies, are safe, but only because they do not
actually contain any active ingredients. On the other hand some of
their products are quite unsafe, and in the hands of untrained
therapists they can be lethal! Because Naturopathy lacks any coherent
operating standards, the various therapies and products used are
largely dependant upon the subjective beliefs of individual
practitioners, a fact that has led to a number of rather bizarre forms
of treatment, some quite dangerous!.
identifies Naturopathy with the earliest medical
tradition, a time when practitioners relied upon observation rather
than scientific experimentation, (p. 7). Seely (2006) and also Murray
and Pizzorno (1990) infer that its "philosophical roots" can be found
in the work of Hippocrates (p. 3), however its origins appear to be
even more ancient than this. Naturopathy appears to have evolved from
those ancient women who, tens of thousands of years ago, began to
acquire knowledge of the medicinal properties of local plants.
Since it seems
likely that men would have been reluctant to allow women
to treat them, in the earliest times, these women would probably have
mainly treated other women and children. They appear to have become
particularly proficient as midwives and in the treatment of female
disorders, especially those related to pregnancy and delivery. It
appears women continued to provide these services until quite recent
historical times when there emerged a class of "professionally trained"
physicians who generally looked after the wealthy urbanites. Elsewhere,
especially in the rural villages, the wise-women and their counterpart
the cunning-men cared for the poor, and, despite a lack of formal
education, they were generally familiar with a range of traditional
folk-remedies. They also provided "magical" services, fertility spells,
protective amulets, and even pronounced curses; much later, when the
church gained political power, these were the people, especially the
women, who were falsely accused by the church of witchcraft.
Yet despite the
disparity between the amateurs and the "professionals"
there was probably very little difference in the quality of the
treatments they provided, for, at that time, medicine, as the term is
now understood, did not exist. What passed for "medicine" consisted of
a mixture of superstition, astrology and homogeneous herbal treatments.
Most of the
ancient therapies were based upon the concept of Vitalism,
the belief that there existed an invisible life-force that was
responsible for the life and health of the individual. Lacking any
understanding of physiology, the natural ability of the body to heal
itself must have appeared quite wondrous. The ancients attributed it to
some mysterious vitalistic healing power, and, throughout the ages it
was known by many names. To the Egyptians it was Ba, the Greeks
referred to it as vis medicatrix
naturae, (the healing power of
Nature); later it was to be called animal magnetism, Odyle, and the
Whatever its name, it referred to the concept of a
natural inherent healing power, the body’s natural, "… desire and
ability to heal itself." (Bradley, p. 47), We now understand
natural healing to be part of the process of homeostasis, the
ability of the body to, "… maintain
health and reestablish a
healthy state after disease by virtue of its inherent vitality,"
(Bennett, 1999, p. 56).
(1999) observed, "… naturopathy is a
vitalistic system of
medicine." (p. 47) and the vis medicatrix naturae is its, "...philosophical linchpin." (p.
medicatrix naturae was generally perceived as being derived
from the original generative power that had first created humans as
immortal beings. Yet, despite the fact that they had lost their
original semi-divine status and were now subject to physical illness
and mortality, they still retained the remnants of this creative
life-force which constantly sought to restore the sick back to their
natural state of good health.
was generally perceived as being caused by either
divine punishment, or by the malicious influence of evil spirits.
Consequently, the earliest forms of ancient therapies, involved
religious rituals to placate offended deities, or magical spells,
physical punishment, fumigants, the ingestion of bitter herbal
remedies, the worse the taste, the more efficacious it was considered
to be to drive the evil spirits from the sick body. In time these
religiously based concepts were gradually replaced by secular beliefs
that taught that health was a natural process that was largely
dependent upon the individual and their life-style. While herbal
medicines remained part of this new approach, there was also an
emphasis on other natural treatments such as bathing, massage, healthy
diets, fasting, meditation, relaxation, and drug induced sleep.
with many of these secular therapies there was a
vitalistic undertone. Because water was one of the primal elements, it
was thought to contain a special form of energy and bathing enabled the
patient to gain access to this vital energy. Diets generally restricted
the patient to foods thought to contain energies that were
astrologically appropriate, while meditation centred on prayers to
particular deities. As a result vitalistic concepts continued to be the
basis for most therapies until the late 19th century.
In the absence
of "legitimate" medicine the 19th century was an
opportunistic period for "alternative" therapies. In the now widely
available cheap newspapers quack medical entrepreneurs offered the
eager public a variety of dubious "natural" therapies and nostrums
including products such as Stanley’s
Snake Oil Liniment, Dr. Miles
Restorative Nervine; Caroui, (a stomachic antispasmodic elixir);
Kickapoo Worm Killer, Kickapoo Cough Cure, and Kickapoo Indian
Sagwa, for treating disorders of the kidneys, liver
entrepreneurial environment health resorts proliferated in
Britain, Europe and especially in America where the traditional healing
practices, brought by the immigrants from Europe, became the basis for
the many "natural" therapies that proliferated in that country.
These included Homeopathy, herbal "medicine", hydrotherapy, and a
variety of alternative dietary regimes, many with their own specially
developed nutritional foods.
Kellogg, Superintendent of the Seventh-day Adventist
Western Health Reform Institute, and his brother, William Keith
Kellogg, devised new nut and cereal products, and in 1894 introduced
the now well-known Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Another health reformer, the
Rev. Sylvester Graham, (1794-1851), developed Graham’s crackers and
advocated a strict diet that essentially comprised only water and
vegetables. Unfortunately, his health advice was somewhat ill-timed
for, at that time, a Cholera epidemic, (caused by contaminated water),
was sweeping America. As one observer commented, "Cheap germicidal
bourbon would have been a far safer drink."
been a popular treatment for thousands of years in
Europe and the East. The ancients believed that water contained a
magical healing power, (2 Kings 5:10 and John 5:2-4). Natural springs
had previously been hallowed places, sacred to specific deities who
imbued the water with their healing powers. The springs at Bath, which
had been sacred to the Celtic goddess Sulis, then, after 43 AD, to the
Roman goddess Minerva, are still popular health sites. There was some
factual basis for hydrotherapy, bathing in hot water can often ease
tired muscles and produce feelings of relaxation, while Lithium, found
in many natural springs, can, when ingested, produce feelings of
heightened well-being. It is likely that, to the primitive mind, such
effects would have seemed "magical", and so, hydrotherapy remained a
popular "natural" treatment in Europe and America; from the 17th
century onwards, such springs were increasingly popular with the
wealthy who sought the water-cure for their gout, venereal disease and
scrofula, which, at that time, were incurable diseases.
One advocate of
the water cure was Vincent Priessnitz (1799-1852) who
combined bathing in cold water with a diet of simple food, physical
activity and, "… water enemata for
the treatment of bowel conditions".
(Lieberman, 1946, pp. 227-228). Others like Theodor Hahn (1824-1883)
and Arnold Rikli (1823-1906) adopted similar treatment regimes, while
Rikli also advocated regular exposure to sunlight and air-baths,
(exposing the naked body to the air).
person most responsible for popularizing natural cures was
the Catholic priest, Father Sebastian Kneipp (1824-1897). Rejected for
the priesthood in 1842 because he had tuberculosis, he searched widely
for a cure, eventually finding information concerning hydrotherapy in
the Vatican archives. Using bathing techniques he had recovered from
the TB by 1849. He then began to vigorously promote a natural approach
to health, recommending frequent cold baths, drinking large amounts or
water, and a basic diet of unlimited amounts of cereals with small
amounts of meat. His ideas received wide publicity in his booklet, My
Water Cure which ran to several editions and was translated into
several European languages.
many followers, including Benedict Lust (1872-1945), a
gifted promoter who was later to give Naturopathy its name. Lust took
Kneipp’s ideas to America in 1896, where he combined them with a number
of other natural therapies, and, by 1902 he had opened the first
Naturopathic sanatorium, and went on to establish a college to teach
vitalistic therapies all claimed to have their own unique
perspective on maintaining good health. Homeopathy claimed that disease
was, "… a derangement of the vital
force;" (Grossman, 1986, p. 99);
Osteopathy claimed displaced bones interfered with the flow of the
life-force, while Chiropractic claimed it was displaced vertebrae that
restricted the flow of the vital energy, ("innate intelligence").
During the 20th
century a host of other alternative therapies such as
Bioelectics, Reflexology, Reflex Zone Therapy, Macrobiotics, Vitamin
and Mineral supplements were added to the Naturopathic pantheon, and in
more recent times a range of Oriental therapies such as Ayurveda,
Acupuncture, TCM and various Qi Gong therapies, are some of the
vitalistic therapies that have been added.
Naturopaths subscribe to the theory,
"… that a "life-force"
flows through the body in various channels and that blockages cause
"imbalances" leading to disease." (Raso, 1993, p. 48) These
in the life-force are said to be due to a variety of factors, including
poor diet, drugs, or a lack of exercise.
claim they can remove these blockages and activate the
natural healing process, (the vis
medicatrix naturae), by a variety of
natural means. While Naturopathy does allow for the use of minimal
amounts of other forms of medication, generally they prefer a drug-free
approach, limiting treatment to "natural" herbal substances that are
claimed to be "harmonious" to the body’s natural energy. While such
objectives are commendable, in reality, much of Naturopathy is based
upon baseless assumptions.
There are a
number of basic problems with Naturopathy, these include: -
problem one encounters when examining Naturopathy is in
attempting to locate and identify the vitalistic force, the vis
medicatrix naturae! While Naturopaths often claim it is similar
to the auto-immune-system, there is actually no basis to such a claim!
The immune-system is an actual physiological defensive process
involving the lymphatic organs, vessels, and a variety of blood cells
working together to attack invading organisms, so as to restore a state
of homeostasis. It is a visible system that can be seen and studied.
In contrast, the
vis medicatrix naturae is an
mystical force that is claimed to restore the body’s "pure" life-force
that has, in some inexplicable manner, been "corrupted"!
reasons for rejecting this metaphysical energy, is that not
only can science not detect it, but it also transcends all known laws
of physics. In addition, Naturopaths themselves are either unwilling,
or unable, to show evidence of its existence.
or Misleading Claims:
frequently make false or misleading claims to promote their
products. Recently shark cartilage products were widely promoted with
the claim that, since sharks cannot contract cancer, these products
were beneficial as a form of anti-Cancer treatment. However, since
sharks do actually experience cancerous growths, this claim was clearly
claim by some Naturopaths is that certain foods form
carcinogenic substances when cooked in microwave ovens, Lee, (2001).
She also makes the quite absurd claim that, "Microwave ovens were
originally developed by the Nazis…" However, as Kruszelnicki
points out, these claims are absurd, and that while these critics
attack the use of microwave ovens, they tend to overlook the fact that
the sun is a natural source of microwave radiation, yet humans need
sunlight to survive.
(1981) claimed that when one consults a Naturopath,
"Considerable care is taken in compiling a personal medical history,
details of lifestyle, diet, exercise and so on." (p. 118), a
Chryssides (2000) revealed that most Naturopaths simply asked the
patient their name, address and what was wrong with them, before making
a diagnosis and commencing treatment.
Theories and Treatments:
commented that, "Common to all
is an inadequate theoretical basis, a lack of standardized techniques,
and a failure to demonstrate a therapeutic outcome superior to placebo
in the majority of trials." (p. 548).
does this result in the fact that, "…
practitioners will treat any individual patient exactly alike."
(Bradley, 1999, p. 42), but, in addition there can be considerable,
even extreme differences in theoretical opinions between Naturopaths.
For instance, some claim that such disorders as syphilis, rabies,
influenza, appendicitis, and the effectiveness of immunization are
simply myths promoted by orthodox medical practitioners, while Michio
Kushi an advocate of Macrobiotic diets claims that AIDS is caused by
the excessive consumption of sugar and fatty foods. (Raso , 1993, p.
of Specific Illnesses:
(allopathic) medical practitioners Naturopaths do not
accept the existence of specific diseases or illnesses. Rather, as
Drury, (1981) indicated, they believe that blockages in the flow of the
life force, "… produce imbalances
which manifest as disease through
specific organs." (p. 118) For then, Cancer, an ulcer, a heart
cirrhosis or an infected toenail, are all nothing more than
manifestations of disturbances in the life-force. On this basis they
consider their principal objectives are to discover what is causing the
"blockage" to the life-flow,
"...whether it be chemical (from faulty
eating, drinking, breathing or elimination), mechanical (spinal
malalignment, muscular tension, stiff joints or bad posture), or
psychological." (Stanway, 1979. p. 105)
determined the "cause" Naturopathy concentrates on, "…
building up a patient’s resistance and not on destroying the pathogen."
(Seely, 2006, p. 263), using a "holistic" approach, in which
areas as diverse as examining and perhaps changing the patient's normal
diet, introducing regular exercise, the use of massage or spinal
alignment as well as looking for possible psychological problems, are
widely 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, an extra
half-an-hour’s rest can achieve results similar to that of Echinacea,
without the expense, (p. 35).
medicines are ever analyzed or tested before being
sold; the requirements of the Therapeutic Goods Administration Act
enable them to be listed without actually having to be examined. As a
result there is a degree of uncertainty as to, "… whether they are
effective or even safe." (Smith, 2007, p. 4) Much of their
is the result of unsubstantiated reports in the media; as Gold, Cahill
and Wenk (2003) noted, much of this information, "... is based more on
folklore than on experimental findings." (p. 71) No doubt
reason for their popularity is that they are readily available without
the need of a prescription.
Naturopaths are not qualified as chemists nevertheless many
make and promote their own home made herbal concoctions, and these are
often a major source of income for many of them. Not only are most of
these products completely useless, but some are even hazardous,
As Jones (1987) observed, many alternative medicines can
often interfere with any legitimate prescribed medicine, and some are
potentially harmful, noting that, in Britain, Naturopathic "…herbal
medicines contaminated with belladonna have caused atropine poisoning."
Paul Perrett, advised his patients, including those with
terminal Cancer, to ignore orthodox forms of medical treatment and to
rely entirely upon his products that comprised special powders and
tablets from China. When interviewed on television his clients
displayed some of these "special" products. The capsules that Perrett
had sold for hundreds of dollars a bottle were recognizable as a common
brand of fish-oil capsules available from supermarkets at around $10 a
bottle. According to the NSW Legislative Assembly Hansard, "Mr. Perrett's medications have been shown
through analysis to contain
no active ingredients; rather, they are mute substances that offer
nothing to treat forms of cancer." (p. 20388)
There are also
dangers in certain traditional medicines, especially
those brought into Australia, or purchased by email from overseas.
ADRAC reported one incident of an Indian married couple who were found
to have elevated levels of lead in their blood; it was discovered the
lead came from Ayurvedic herbal medicines that had been dispensed by an
Indian hospital. The husband who had been taking the unidentified
medicine for five months was hospitalized with abdominal pain, nausea
and vomiting secondary to lead poisoning. He had a lead level of 120
µg/dL and also high levels of arsenic and mercury. Although his
wife displayed no actual symptoms, on investigation, she was found to
have a lead level of 40 µg/dL; the acceptable blood concentration
for lead is < 10 µg/dL. (TGA, 2007, Adverse Drug Reaction
Tait et al.
(2002) reported that herbal remedies from India, Middle
East, Mexico and Asia are especially dangerous. They cited the example
of a pregnant Indian woman who was admitted to hospital after
experiencing seizures and was found to be suffering from severe lead
poisoning. Having recently emigrated from India, she had brought with
her various herbal tablets; when these were analyzed they were found to
contain abnormally high levels of lead and mercury. The unfortunate
side-effects of this poisoning were that her baby was born deaf in one
ear and displayed delayed neurological development that required seven
months treatment in hospital.
extreme examples of the harmful effects of Naturopathic
medicines are rare, there are other potential problems associated with
such remedies. Since, as previously mentioned, Naturopathic remedies
are not required to undergo testing it is only in recent years, with
better facilities for reporting adverse effects of such nostrums, that
evidence is emerging that there are a number of deleterious
side-effects associated with natural medicines. It is now known that: -
Echinacea can cause severe reactions in individuals
allergic to pollen;
Evening Primrose Oil can produce seizures in
Ginko biloba can cause bleeding, blood shot eyes
and migraine headaches;
Colloidal Silver can cause Argyria, (turn the skin
blue), and disturbances to vision;
Black cohosh and Reichi Mushroom can cause liver
failure, (TGA, 2006, Adverse Drug Reaction Bulletin, 25:2);
Glucosamine 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 itching;
St John’s Wort has 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
Garlic, Celery seed, 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 treat hypothyroidism.
"Chemical Free" Products:
claim that since their herbal products are natural,
unlike orthodox medicines, they do not contain chemicals. Such
statements reveal either deliberate misinformation or else a profound
level of ignorance. The fact is that all "natural" products, even the
simplest herbal products, contain numerous chemical compounds; honey
for instance, considered to be one of the most natural types of food,
contains some 26 different chemicals. Oranges contain some 140
different chemical compounds while potatoes contain 150, including
arsenic, and several other lethal substances. One substance found in
potatoes, solanine, as Mann (2004) noted, "… has the same effect on our
bodies as nerve gases." (p. 20)
the public at large tend to be generally ignorant of
basic concepts of science and tend to accept the absurd claims of
Naturopaths without question. At a public seminar promoting
"chemical-free" cleaning products when challenged as to how their
products could be chemical-free, the speaker conceded that what they
actually meant was that "they did not contain chemicals derived from
Quality of Training and Dubious Qualifications:
A major problem
with Naturopathy is that although various training
courses are available at private and public colleges, there is no
requirement that a person undergo any training whatsoever. At the
present time (2008), there are no minimal training requirements to
becoming a Naturopath; neither are there any legal restrictions in
describing oneself as a Naturopath.
As a result,
many Naturopaths are completely untrained, and many
possess Naturopathic "qualifications" that are completely bogus. In one
example known to the author, a Doctor of Naturopathy gained his
"doctorate" by writing a 5,000 word essay over a weekend, and sending
it, along with $500, to a "hole in wall university" in the United
Kingdom for "assessment".
Anyone can set
up their own Naturopathic College and commence training
students; as a consequence of this lax system the quality of the
training and the final qualifications of many students does not
necessarily conform to a set standard or criteria. In fact the type of
training and the specific subjects covered, tend to be influenced by
the particular beliefs and notion of college management.
The problem is
further exacerbated by the fact that Naturopathic theory
tends to be primarily subjective, in that it not only allows the
therapist a choice in the type or therapy or treatment they can use,
but also in the actual form of that treatment. Essentially this means
that whatever treatment the therapist considers is most appropriate,
however bizarre it might be, is the treatment that is used.
Therein lies a
major problem for anyone submitting to treatment by a
Naturopath is subject to whatever regime the therapist considers most
appropriate, even though their treatment theories may be bizarre,
extreme and even dangerous.
most lethal example of such treatment was that of the
notorious Linda Burfield Hazzard, (1867-1938) the proponent of the
fasting diet, (Iserson, 2002 and Olsen 2005). Hazzard who had received
minimal training as an Osteopathic Nurse established herself as an
Osteopath and Dietician, and through a legal loophole was able to gain
a licence to practice as a doctor.
In her books,
(Hazzard, 1927), she promoted the bizarre idea that
disease could not exist in a hungry body, and, on this basis, promoted
the idea that fasting, for months at a time, was the only treatment
necessary to treat every known disease, including cancer. The cause of
all disease she claimed was impurities in the blood due to "impaired
digestion" and fasting allowed the digestive system the opportunity to
"rest" and, to cleanse the body, by removing the impurities that had
been absorbed from food. Her treatment regimen consisted of a single
plate of a thin tomato soup each day along with daily enemas lasting
hours and using more than 12 litres of water; she considered the enemas
an essential daily adjunct of the fasting regime.
So effective was
her treatment that many of her patients starved to
death, and locals spoke of gaunt, desperate victims who had fled her
sanatorium, (referred to as "Starvation Heights" by locals), appearing
at their doors desperate for food. Despite the many fatalities, which
appear to have been motivated in part by her greed to take control of
her wealthy patient’s estates, she apparently believed in her own
fasting treatment to the extent that when, in 1938, she herself fell
ill, she used her own fasting cure, and died soon thereafter.
dangers of her fasting treatments many Naturopaths still
promote her homicidal methods, Day (2008) describes her book,
Scientific Fasting, as a "classic fasting book" and he describes
Hazzard in glowing terms as a practitioner who, "… was quietly healing
people that allopathic physicians had given up on." He fails to
the fact that some forty of her patients were callously starved to
notorious Naturopath Jeffrey Dummett appears to be another
advocate of the Hazzard type of therapy. He was the subject of an
enquiry by the Glebe Coroner’s Court investigating the death of Vecko
Krsteski, a security guard from Rockdale in Sydney's south. Krsteski
suffered a massive heart attack and renal failure on February 26, 2002
at a Naturopathy clinic operated by Dummett and his wife. Krsteski, who
had been on special medicine and dialysis for some time sought their
help for an "alternative" treatment for his renal problems. He was
placed on a severe fasting diet and was virtually allowed to waste
away. In the absence of proper medical treatment he began to experience
severe headaches, kidney pain, chronic aches and pains, and numbness to
three fingers. Despite these threatening signs his fasting regime was
maintained and kept from professional medical care he eventually died.
on television Dummett justified his alternative
treatment by claiming that professional medical training was not
necessary since, "… a great healer
like Jesus never received any
dangerous Naturopath was Paul Perrett; mentioned previously,
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 set himself up as a
Naturopath, and, as such, has gained a rather dubious reputation with
at least seventeen of his patients dying. Mentioned in the NSW
Legislative Assembly on several occasions, it was revealed that,
despite claiming to have qualifications that include a Bachelor of
Surgery, Bachelor of Science, Master of Music, Doctorate of Philosophy
and that he is a biochemist and forensic pathologist, all of these
qualifications are understood to be false.
The fact that a
Naturopath may be a member of what appears to be a "legitimate"
association is no protection to the public. Perrett is a
member of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS) and yet,
despite his unsavoury practices, including breaching more than 12
sections of the ATMS code of practice, and every part of their code of
ethics, they refuse to deregister him for fear he might sue them. As a
result he continues to treat patients via mail order, and by
One of the problems with modern Naturopathy is that there is often a
reliance upon the use of dubious machines such as the Vega Mora, Chiva
and Rife machines which they claim are able to treat a wide range of
diseases, even cancer and AIDS.
these machines look quite impressive, they are totally
useless for treating health problems; in fact most of them are
glorified home-made devices assembled from components available from
electronic stores at low cost 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 tests". One machine is claimed
to be able to analyze blood samples and provide extensive details about
the health of the individual, actually does nothing at all!
1999 Naturopath, Reginald Harold Fenn treated an 18
day old baby suffering from aortic stenosis, (a heart defect which can
be treated only by surgery), with herbal medicines and by placing two
metal cylinders on the baby's legs; attached to a special machine which
Fenn claimed would supply energy to the body and cure the heart
parents that he had cured the child he convinced them
there was no need to proceed with orthodox medical treatment; on that
basis they cancelled an appointment to assess the child for an
operation. Tragically the baby died soon afterwards. Fenn was convicted
of 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 machine, and his claimed abilities, he was
unable to cure.
It is often
claimed that Naturopathy must be a legitimate form of
therapy since so many people report that it "works for them". While
this may be true, what is conveniently overlooked is the common process
known as the "placebo effect" where even those who are genuinely sick
can be given "medicine" that consists of nothing more than water and
flavouring, and, if they believe the mixture will heal them, they will
often recover. The placebo effect works on a well understood principle
of auto suggestion, a cognitive process that operates on two levels,
where people who are completely fit, can convince themselves that they
are sick, and sick people can believe they can be healed by a fake
alternative form of treatment Naturopathy relies on ancient
concepts and treatments, and in an age of scientific medicine it seems
strange that Naturopathy not only still exists, but that it is so
popular, with some 15.7 percent of families using it, (Donnelly et al
1985, pp. 539-540). There appear to be a number of factors responsible
for this popularity: -
The elitist and impersonal perception of modern
A general rejection of technology orientated
scientific medicine and a return to what are perceived as simpler and
The general gullibility of the public and "… a
general fascination with the occult and paranormal" (Donnelly et
"natural" approach to health is an admirable objective, what is
generally overlooked is that the "natural" techniques are neither
original nor unique to Naturopathy; many are also part of orthodox
importantly, the natural techniques evolved at a time when there
was no understanding of the real causes of sickness and disease, and
there were no other options available for treatments. Later, in a world
dominated by religion, it was believed that since natural products were
"god given" they were sufficient to overcome any health disorder. On
this basis the very idea of looking for other remedies was considered
both redundant and irreligious. Since that time however, there has been
enormous advances in the understanding of the causes of sickness and
disease, and, in addition a vast array of modern medicines are now
available to fight sickness. In an era where we constantly seek the
newest and best, it makes no sense to rely on outmoded techniques and
treatments when there are so many other options available to alleviate
the pain and suffering and reduce the duration of the illness.
Naturopathy is a form of religious belief, and, as
such its treatments are based upon pseudo-religious faith;
Naturopathy cannot show that the vis medicatrix
naturae, and vital energies exist, let alone find them in the body;
Naturopathic medicines and treatments are based
upon the objective faith and belief of individuals, and so, cannot be
Naturopathy comprises a myriad of concepts and
hundreds of often conflicting theories and treatments.
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Skeptical Look At Alternative Therapies and Beliefs, Digital