MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Naturopathy can be defined as ‘an eclectic system of health care that uses elements of complementary and conventional medicine to support and enhance self-healing processes’. This basically means that naturopaths employ treatments based on those therapeutic options that are seen as natural, e. g. herbs, water, exercise, diet, fresh air, heat and cold – but occasionally also acupuncture, homeopathy and manual therapies. If you are tempted to see a naturopath, you might want to consider the following 7 points:

  1. In many countries, naturopathy is not a protected title; this means your naturopaths may have some training but this is not obligatory. Some medical doctors also practice naturopathy, and in some countries there are ‘doctors of naturopathy’ (these practitioners tend to see themselves as primary care physicians but they have not been to medical school).
  2. Naturopathy is steeped in the obsolete concept of vitalism which has been described as the belief that “living organisms are fundamentally different from non-living entities because they contain some non-physical element or are governed by different principles than are inanimate things.”
  3. While there is some evidence to suggest that some of the treatments used by naturopaths are effective for treating some conditions, this is by no means the case for all of the treatments in question.
  4. Naturopathy is implicitly based on the assumption that natural means safe. This notion is clearly wrong and misleading: not all the treatments used by naturopaths are strictly speaking natural, and very few are totally free of risks.
  5. Many naturopaths advise their patients against conventional treatments such as vaccines or antibiotics.
  6. Naturopaths tend to believe they can cure all or most diseases. Consequently many of the therapeutic claims for naturopathy found on the Internet and elsewhere are dangerously over-stated.
  7. The direct risks of naturopathy depend, of course, on the modality used; some of them can be considerable. The indirect risks of naturopathy can be even more serious and are mostly due to naturopathic treatments replacing more effective conventional therapies in cases of severe illness.

13 Responses to Seven things to remember before you consult a naturopath

  • Very good article.
    The question is: How many people will believe it?
    Because this the question: Naturopathy is an issue of believing, of faith. Not an issue of knowledge.
    Regards,
    Mauro.

  • “Naturopathy is implicitly based on the assumption that natural means safe.”
    Do you have any references for that? You’ve said that before, so I’ve started asking Naturopaths that I run into about it. So far, all of them have laughed and wondered who in the world would be making such a claim.

  • JM
    Thumb suck dude?
    You went to see several naturopaths to ask them at $250 a visit to see if this is true? Or you went to their websites and posed the question? So now after having interviewed a decent sample you have the facts?They told you how dangerous their treatments are to be in the same league as allopathic medicine?
    Pinnochio syndrome?

    • Soothsayer –
      “You went to see several naturopaths to ask them at $250 a visit to see if this is true?”

      Wow, I missed that part. Where did you get that from? That’s quite a leap. Nope, just asked whenever the opportunity arose. I’ve been hoping to talk to someone who actually believes that. So far, no luck.

      Another wow is the $250. For another $50, I could have my blood pressure, height, weight and heart rate measured.

      As far as websites go, a really quick search for the claim only brings up sites like this one. So I’m curious as to where the “Naturopathy is implicitly based on the assumption that natural means safe.” comes from. Couldn’t even find a reference on the illustrious Wikipedia. There must be a school, or organization, or something out there making that claim – I’d love a link.

      • I think more incredible is this claim, “so I’ve started asking Naturopaths that I run into about it.”.
        `
        Where does someone “run into” naturopaths in the ordinary course of being out, such as, shopping, walking the dog, taking the rubbish out, going to the bottle shop or post office, wandering up to the milkbar (I’m from Victoria, Oz, where they use that quaint name), going to the tip (refuse site for the septics), going to the tram or train, or about anywhere?
        Where does someone just “run into a naturopath”?
        `
        jm, you have a substantial stake in these discussions but won’t say what it is. Every time you make a statement, you disclose a little more. Why not come out and say what that involvement is? Unless there is a very good reason to not disclose, of course.
        `
        My bet is that you are very much involved in alt-med. This deception will be torn apart in due course, so why not just say it?

        • Frank-

          “jm, you have a substantial stake in these discussions but won’t say what it is.”

          I have, actually. Most recently in a conversation with Pete on one of the acupuncture threads. And on other threads with you.

          “My bet is that you are very much involved in alt-med.”

          You’d loose that bet. I have no interest in alt-med.

          “Where does someone “run into” naturopaths in the ordinary course of being out”

          Grocery store, local breweries, post office. Things like that. Or you could just call them and ask if they think natural means safe. When they stop laughing, they will say ‘no’. Did you find a link where a naturopath claims that natural means safe? Please post it. I’ll share it with the next naturopath I run into.

          • @jm
            I’d never previously taken much interest in naturopathy. I had assumed it was based on the ‘natural means good’ or ‘natural means safe’ fallacy. I was wrong, and greatly appreciate the correction.
             
            I now realize that naturopathy has to be one of the very worst components of the Big Witchcraft industry. The opening paragraph from the webpage of the UK College of Naturopathic Medicine…

            A Naturopath is a health practitioner who applies natural therapies. Her/his spectrum comprises far more than fasting, nutrition, water, and exercise; it includes approved natural healing practices such as Homeopathy, Acupuncture, and Herbal Medicine, as well as the use of modern methods like Bio-Resonance, Ozone-Therapy, and Colon Hydrotherapy. At a time when modern technology, environmental pollution, poor diet, and stress play a significant role in the degradation of health, a Naturopath’s ability to apply natural methods of healing is of considerable importance. Frequently, a Naturopath is the last resort in a patient’s long search for health. Providing personalised care to each patient, the naturopath sees humankind as a holistic unity of body, mind, and spirit.

             
            As you read on you learn that

            “Most of us now live in a sea of electromagnetic pollution, coupled with a plethora of chemical pollutants which were completely alien to man 40 years ago. Add to this a dose of denatured food fast-tracked by technology and we have a heady mix of health problems waiting to happen. In short most people have too much of what they shouldn’t have in their bodies and not enough of what they should have. “

            Ah! That would explain why the average lifespan of a (UK) male has risen from 47 in 1900 to 77 today (females several years more).

            “…the modern-day Naturopath might employ a raft of skills such as herbs, homoeopathy, manipulation, flower essences, acupuncture or biochemical supplementation to augment their work. These may be necessary to offset many of the suppressions brought about through living in our modern times with all its concomitant stresses that seek to strangle the life force in our bodies.”

            Wow! You just can’t wait to visit a naturopath to lose those extra 30 years from your strangled life force.
             
            Thanks again for the tip-off, jm. Naturopathy has now risen in my estimation from a mildly cranky life-view to the peak of the pile of bovine excrement that constitutes so-called ‘complementary and alternative medicine’. It takes on board the full intellectually infuriating sludgepit that is Big Snakeoil.

          • PS Apologies to Edzard, whose OP tried to say much the same thing, but he was so polite the full bloody-hell-help-us-ness of naturopathy just didn’t sink in.

          • Really, jm?
            You run into naturopaths in “grocery store, local breweries, post office” and you just happen to, either, know they are a naturopath or that subject crops up in the course of a conversation in a place like that where “hello” is about the length of any discourse.
            `
            Pardon my cynicism but that strikes me as absolute bullshit. It would help if your posts weren’t so blindingly disingenuous. I may be wrong and you may live near or in a hippy commune but, please, you run into naturopaths in the normal course of going about your normal activities? Nah, something isn’t right.

          • “Really, jm?”

            Yes, Frank, really. There’s an organization here that holds monthly talks on various ways to treat chronic pain. These lectures are presented mostly by MDs, and attended by GPs, surgeons, acupuncturists, chiros, naturopaths, bodyworkers, etc.

            We also have a pretty decent referral list – and we don’t refer to practioners we don’t know, or know their work. So yeah, I know who they are.

            So it’s pretty easy to recognized them at the grocery store. But I’ll pardon your cynicism – you pretty regularly jump to conclusions with little to no information.

            Still waiting on a link for the source of “Naturopathy is implicitly based on the assumption that natural means safe.” Pardon MY cynicism…but that seems to be totally fabricated. The web’s a big place, there has to be at least ONE reference by a naturopath, somewhere, making that claim.

      • Wikipedia;
        “Safety of natural treatments
        Naturopaths often recommend exposure to naturally occurring substances, such as sunshine, herbs and certain foods, as well as activities they describe as natural, such as exercise, meditation and relaxation. Naturopaths claim that these natural treatments help restore the body’s innate ability to heal itself without the adverse effects of conventional medicine. However, “natural” methods and chemicals are not necessarily safer or more effective than “artificial” or “synthetic” ones, and any treatment capable of eliciting an effect may also have deleterious side effects.[3][12][60][61]”

        Very selective mindset, jm.

        • So even Wikipedia doesn’t make the claim that “Naturopathy is implicitly based on the assumption that natural means safe.”

          hmmm….wonder where Edzard got that from?

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