What is Naturopathy?
Naturopathy is based on “vitalism,” an ancient belief that some sort of unidentified and unexplained “energy” animates all living things and is responsible for health and disease. Before modern science figured out the basic biology of human life, vitalism was used to explain aspects of human functioning that were not understood at the time. As new discoveries in science and medicine eliminated the need for dependence on vitalism as an explanation, it disappeared from scientific thinking. There is no evidence that this “vital force” exists but naturopaths regard this shortcoming as irrelevant.
Naturopaths are generally divided into two groups, traditional naturopaths and so-called “naturopathic doctors” or “naturopathic physicians.” While traditional naturopaths use such disproven nostrums as homeopathy and recommend dietary supplements of dubious effectiveness, they make no pretentions to the practice of medicine and do not claim that they can diagnose and treat disease. They also give some sensible advice about diet and exercise. As long as they refrain from practicing medicine many, but not all, states allow them to engage in the practice of traditional naturopathy without regulation. Traditional naturopaths oppose licensing of naturopaths because it would make their practice illegal.
“Doctors of naturopathic medicine” also practice in accordance with the discredited notion of vitalism and use nonsensical treatments such as homeopathy. Their education consists mainly in the use of unproven, and often disproven, treatments such as herbs, and diagnoses of diseases that are soundly rejected by modern medicine, like “chronic yeast overgrowth.” These diagnoses rely on silly tests like “hair mineral analysis.” Despite the educational focus on these subjects, so-called naturopathic doctors or naturopathic physicians make the absurd claim that have the equivalent education and training as medical doctors and the ability to practice as primary care physicians with the same competency. They claim they can diagnose diseases and treat them with the same proficiency as primary care physicians, including the use of drugs. This is belied by their education and actual practice.
"Naturopathic medicine, despite its claims to the contrary, is not evidence-based. . . If you don’t believe me, I invite you to Google “detoxification and naturopath.” You will get a list of clinics offering things like colon cleanses (useless, potentially harmful, and a bit disgusting), ionic foot baths that create an “energy field similar to that found in the human body” (so scientifically ridiculous that it borders on parody), and infrared sauna therapy (ditto). Timothy Caulfield, PhD, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta, "Naturopathy and the creep of pseudo-science," Toronto Star, Dec. 15, 2013.
. . . the proposed licensure of naturopathic physicians would
“ . . . little scientific evidence is currently available on overall
"The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) opposes licensure of naturopaths.
"Excessive fasting, dietary restrictions, or use of enemas, which are sometimes
". . . many naturopathic practices are based on a semi-spiritual theory (the healing power of nature), and have no foundation in science. The reside largely in the realm of pseudoscience." Timothy Caulfield, Professor, Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health, University of Alberta; Comment: "Don't legitimize the witch doctors," National Post (Canada)
"There is no compelling, credible scientific evidence to suggest that any CAM [complementary and alternative medicine] therapy benefits any medical condition or reduces any medical symptom (pain or otherwise) better than a placebo." R. Barker Bausell, Ph.D, "Snake Oil Science" (Oxford Univ. Press, 2007) (Dr. Bausell is a biostatistician who recently retired from his position as a University of Maryland professor.)
"Naturopathy, sometimes referred to as 'natural medicine,' is a largely pseudoscientific approach . . . "
"If Michigan allows naturopaths to be licensed to practice and to regulate themselves, insurance companies will pay for useless therapies, patients will suffer, and the state will give it's imprimatur to ancient, pre-scientific medical practices."