Naturopathy industry is being exposed by whistleblower.

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Naturopathy industry  is being exposed by whistleblower.

Having received her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University, among the most influential schools of naturopathy in North America, Britt Marie Hermes practiced as a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) for three years. Her world came crashing down when she realized she’d been duped, having spent thousands of hours “speaking, learning, and practicing fake medicine.”

“I went into naturopathy thinking it was the medicine of the future,” she says. She soon learned she was wrong.

Hermes, who is now pursuing a master’s degree in biomedicine, is devoted to exposing and fighting against pseudoscience masquerading as real medicine. She documents truths about naturopathy via her Naturopathic Diaries blog, speaks out to media, contributes to the highly respected Science Based Medicine blog and on May 21st started a petition calling on U.S. policy makers and states to block naturopathic licensure, scope of practice expansion and inclusion in federal and state healthcare programs.

The leading ND organization in the U.S., the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) has recently pushed for licensing in all 50 states by 2025 (they are currently licensed in 17 states), and to receive Medicare reimbursements and perform more hands-on patient care. Hermes’ hackles are raised, as they should be.

“Naturopaths are not trained similar to physicians, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants,” reads the petition Hermes authored, which has garnered nearly 4,000 signatures and counting. “Naturopaths are trained in a hodgepodge of antiquated methods, mystical theories, and bare-bone fundamentals of medicine.”

“I was scared. I was very angry. And I was so sad,” Hermes tells me of quitting her naturopathic medicine practice after finding out that Ukrain, the imported medicine made from a flowering herb that her boss was administering to cancer patients, was not FDA-approved. “Patients trusted us. They were very sick, desperate for a cure, and paying thousands of dollars.”

Here’s one problem with naturopathic doctors. The words “doctor,” “physician” and “medicine” carry trust. They bring to mind someone highly-skilled, someone who will use the best, most-evidence based tools available to keep us healthy and to treat us when we’re sick. But naturopathy isn’t medicine and NDs are not nearly as qualified as medical doctors, or even physician assistants according to Hermes.

I won’t go into details on the myriad follies of naturopathy and naturopathic medicine as they have been thoroughly documented by highly-respected experts and critics of alternative medicine like Dr. David Gorski and Dr. Steven Novella. Among the most damning is the requirement that all NDs be trained in the use of homeopathy, a pseudoscience based in magical thinking and concoctions with infinitesimal amounts of so-called active ingredient.

On May 26th, five days after Hermes launched her petition, the AANP feebly retaliated. The subject line of an email sent to all AANP membership:  “AANP Needs Your Help – Stop Britt’s Petition.”

“We need your help to stop this petition,” reads the email. It continues:

This petition violates these [] policies:

  • Breaks the law – this is defamatory and libelous content
  • Impersonates others;  Britt Marie Hermes is not from the United States
  • Terms of service – does not abide by the law or respect the rights of others

AANP is grasping at straws here. Hermes, who is originally from California and was born and raised in the United States, lives in Germany with her husband but is still an American citizen. And Hermes isn’t backing down. “[AANP seems] threatened, and don’t have a grip on reality in their reasoning for reporting the petition,” she says. She stands by the citations in her petition. “It is definitely not defamatory or libelous.” Though the email voices AANP’s hope that will respond to the reports of policy violations “in a timely manner,” Hermes’ petition remains published and continues to gain signatures.

Presumably because AANP realized that its own reasoning to remove the petition wasn’t sound, the organization’s Executive Director Ryan Cliche moved on to the next tactic, starting a counter-petition a day after sending the email. “[W]e are confident that your due diligence will quickly uncover the truth behind the ‘Naturopaths are not doctors’ petition,” reads the retaliatory document.

“I take their interpretation as yet another example of them not understanding how the scientific process works,” says Hermes. “It is built on criticism, and given what they are asking in their political agenda, they deserve to be highly scrutinized.”

AANP’s counter-petition urges U.S. policy makers to “Recognize Licensed Naturopathic Physicians for the Safe and Effective Care They Provide.”

Safe and effective? Therein lies the fatal flaw in federal and state governments recognizing naturopathic doctors. The naturopathic medicine standard of care is woefully inadequate. The standard is not safe. It’s not effective. Yet Cliche’s petition cites the NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and its “recognition of naturopathy” as a legitimate discipline to support the effort to become licensed in all 50 states.

This exemplifies what is wrong with the NCCIH and any government recognition of the profession. It allows naturopathic doctors to prance around saying, “See? We’re credible. The NIH says so.” With all due respect to the NIH, there should be no NCCIH (formerly known as NCCAM). As Dr. Gorski writes, the fundamental problem with NCCIH is that “it is charged with studying treatment modalities that are inherently unscientific, being as they are based on prescientific or demonstrably incorrect understandings of human physiology and disease.”

Recognition by NCCIH lends no credence to AANP’s cause, though unsuspecting patients and even aspiring NDs may not realize it. The words “complementary” and “integrative” say it all. Legitimate medicine is based on evidence and science. There is no integration within a gold standard, no complementing it with anything more than wishful thinking.


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