Sep 18 2015

Lobbying for Quackery

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians is lobbying Congress to pay naturopaths to treat vetarans, specifically for chronic pain. This, of course, goes beyond “health care freedom” (which itself is dubious) and is asking for taxpayer dollars to be spent on unproven and pseudoscientific treatments.

The open letter does not mention specific treatments that naturopaths would offer.  Instead it fearmongers about pharmacological treatments for pain. It is certainly true that opiates are a double-edged sword. They are powerful pain killers, but long term use causes dependence, tolerance, and may complicate pain management. Science-based physicians are well aware of this, and use a variety of approaches to minimize opiate use for chronic pain.

The letter claims that naturopaths have unique “natural” therapies that can effectively treat pain. This is one of the core myths of “alternative” medicine – if there were a treatment that objectively worked, it would be incorporated into mainstream medicine.

Why didn’t the letter give a couple examples of treatments that naturopaths are uniquely qualified to give? Perhaps because there aren’t any that are not obvious quackery. David Gorski summarized naturopathic practice this way:

Unfortunately, naturopathy is a hodge-podge of mostly unscientific treatment modalities based on vitalism and other prescientific notions of disease. As a result, typical naturopaths are more than happy in essence to “pick one from column A and one from column B” when it comes to pseudoscience, mixing and matching treatments including traditional Chinese medicine, homeopathy, herbalism, Ayurvedic medicine, applied kinesiology, anthroposophical medicine, reflexology, craniosacral therapy, Bowen Technique, and pretty much any other form of unscientific or prescientific medicine that you can imagine.

Naturopaths themselves define their profession as being philosophy-based rather than science-based:

Naturopathic medicine is defined by principles rather than by methods or modalities. Above all, it honors the body’s innate wisdom to heal.

If you’re still not convinced, listen to a former naturopath who gives an insider look at naturopathic education.  She concludes:

Realistically, if I were to practice naturopathic medicine according to my training at Bastyr University, I honestly do not even know what I would be qualified to do.

One of the main treatments provided by naturopaths is homeopathy. Homeopathy is just about as close to pure magical pseudoscience as you can get. Its basic principles violate well-established knowledge in physics, chemistry, and biology. Extensive clinical studies show that homeopathy, unsurprisingly, does not work for anything.

I cannot overstate this – if you practice homeopathy, you are a pseudoscientific practitioner.


Naturopathy is not, in my opinion, a legitimate medical profession, despite the fact that they are in the process of successfully lobbying, state-by-state, for licensure and privileges. It is an unfortunate byproduct of our democratic system that dedicated groups can relentlessly lobby for their own interests, against the interests of the general public.

The current effort is just one more way in which naturopaths are lobbying to extend their own footprint in the medical system. They need to be vigorously opposed.

Write your congress person and ask them to oppose this lobbying effort to foist quackery on our veterans.

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