NATUROPATHY:

(Investigator 163, 2015 July)








Naturopathic 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)

As such 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).

Many 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.

Herbal medicines 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.

These ancient 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").

Initially this 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.

Naturopathic 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!.


ORIGINS OF NATUROPATHY

Mitchell (1998) 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 elixir vitae.

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 this 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).


As Bradley, (1999) observed, "… naturopathy is a vitalistic system of medicine." (p. 47) and the vis medicatrix naturae is its, "...philosophical linchpin." (p. 41)

The vis 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.

Negative 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.

However, even 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 and stomach.

In this 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.

John Harvey 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."

Hydrotherapy had 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).

Perhaps the 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.

He attracted 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 Naturopathic principles.

The various 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.

In general, 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 "imbalances" in the life-force are said to be due to a variety of factors, including poor diet, drugs, or a lack of exercise.

Naturopaths 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.


PROBLEMS WITH NATUROPATHY

There are a number of basic problems with Naturopathy, these include: -

Vis Medicatrix Naturae:

The first 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 unseen, undetectable, mystical force that is claimed to restore the body’s "pure" life-force that has, in some inexplicable manner, been "corrupted"!

The primary 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.

False or Misleading Claims:

Naturopaths 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 false. 

Another common 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 (2006) 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. 

Poor Diagnostic Skills:

While Drury (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 survey by 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.

Inconsistent Theories and Treatments:

Maddocks, (1985) commented that, "Common to all alternative therapies 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). 

 Not only does this result in the fact that, "… no two 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. 40)

Non-Existence of Specific Illnesses:

Unlike orthodox (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 attack, 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)

Then, having 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 all considered.

Naturopathic Herbal Products:

Many products 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).

Few naturopathic 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 popularity 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 another reason for their popularity is that they are readily available without the need of a prescription.

Although 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." (p. 67)

One Naturopath 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 Bulletin, 26:1)

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.

While such 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 certain individuals;
•    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 24:1);
•    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.

Natural "Chemical Free" Products:

Many Naturopaths 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)

Unfortunately 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 petro-chemicals"!

Poor 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.

Possibly the 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.

Despite the 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 mention the fact that some forty of her patients were callously starved to death.

Another 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.

When interviewed 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 medical training."

Another 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 over-the-phone consultations.

Dubious Machines:

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.


However, while 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!

In September 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 disorder.

Assuring the 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.

Placebo Effect:

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 medicine.


RELEVANCE OF NATUROPATHY:

As an 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 medicine;
•    A general rejection of technology orientated scientific medicine and a return to what are perceived as simpler and safer alternatives;
•    The general gullibility of the public and "… a general fascination with the occult and paranormal" (Donnelly et al, p. 540).

While a "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 medical practices.

More 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.

Essentially: -


•    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 verified;
•    Naturopathy comprises a myriad of concepts and hundreds of often conflicting theories and treatments.


REFERENCES:

Bennett, P. (1999). Placebo and Healing. In, Textbook of Natural Medicine, eds. J.E. Pizzorno and M.T. Murray, Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2nd edition, 51-71.
Bradley, R.S. (1999). Philosophy of naturopathic medicine. In, Textbook of Natural Medicine, eds. J.E. Pizzorno and M.T. Murray, Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2nd edition, 41-49.
Chryssides, H. (2000). The Truth About Natural Therapies. In, Reader's Digest, 157 (939), 34 42.

Day, C. (2008). Two Classic Fasting Books Reveal How Turn-of-the-Century Men and Women Stopped Eating to Heal what Ailed Them. August 3, 2008  http://chetday.com/fasting.htm
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From: Eddie, L. 2008 A Skeptical Look At Alternative Therapies and Beliefs, Digital Reproductions


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