‘Truth Passes Through Three Stages: First, It Is Ridiculed. Second, It Is Violently Opposed. Third, It Is Accepted As Self-Evident’
Attributed to Arthur Schopenhauer
Naturopaths were prescribing probiotics 30 years ago, well before mainstream acceptance of the importance of the gut’s microbiome. Fish oil, St. John’s wort, zinc, vitamin D, and turmeric – all prescribed decades before the studies now proving their efficacy.
It is reassuring to witness naturopathy catching up with science. Or is science catching up with natural therapies? We were once mocked for suggesting that people cut back on sugar—the same reaction for recommending whole grains over refined products.
Medicine and Naturopathy Snake Oil in the 21st Century
Oftentimes in my professional life, I have been vilified by orthodox medical practitioners. I remember being humiliated on ABC radio as a regular guest on the popular National Nightlife program with Tony Delroy in the late 1990s.
Tony had invited a doctor along to the studio one evening. This doctor proclaimed that all naturopaths were snake oil salesmen and that naturopathic medicine had no scientific basis. I asked, if that was the case, why did my patients’ health improve when prescribed naturopathic remedies? He responded that my ‘charming smile’ must be medicinal.
This vignette is, I suspect, typical of what many people still perceive of my profession. Fortunately, I live in a bubble. I teach students who want to become naturopaths, I treat patients who wish to be treated by a naturopath, and local health professionals who enjoy working collaboratively, refer their patients to me.
I am under no illusion that not all is peachy in the world of natural health. There are indeed snake oil salesmen and women. Weight loss tea anyone? Cure cancer with vegetable juice! Scary indeed. However, sniffing out scams and marketing schemes is not too difficult.
Onwards and Upwards
Nowadays, the minimum requirement for Naturopaths, herbalists and nutritionists is a Bachelor’s degree in their discipline. This qualification is required to be accepted by major associations such as the NHAA, ATMS and ANTA.
Alongside the qualifications of natural therapists there is an avalanche of peer reviewed journal articles and studies affirming the efficacy of herbal remedies, vitamins, minerals and other therapies that used to be the domain of ‘quacks’ and ‘charletans’.
My fervent hope is that, in the not too distant future, natural therapists will be a valued part of a therapeutic team of health professionals all with one goal in mind, the wellbeing of their patients.