Naturopaths are Homeopaths


“I am a naturopathic doctor.”

“Huh? A natur-o-what? Is that like a homeopathic doctor?”

“Oh, no. We are totally different than homeopaths. Naturopathic doctors are trained as primary care physicians in four-year post graduate naturopathic medical schools, just like medical doctors.”

When I was practicing as a licensed naturopath, I told lies about naturopathic education, clinical training, and professional affiliations that were just like the above exchange. I had such conversations frequently. I had it down packed. I knew the best answer to any question and how to explain who I was in the most flattering light.

“No, I am not a homeopath,” or

“Yes, I am a real doctor,” or

“No, not all naturopaths believe in homeopathy.”

In my former career as a naturopath, I hated when people equated homeopathy with naturopathy. Based on comments to posts in this blog, there is a good chance that many naturopaths, and naturopathic students, also feel that homeopathy is embarrassing.

It may be true that “not all naturopaths” incorporate homeopathy into their naturopathic practices, but, I strongly doubt this claim.

I have yet to meet a naturopath who has never dispensed a homeopathic remedy or allowed a remedy to be prescribed under his or her supervision. I have never seen a presentation or lecture by a naturopath discussing the scientific ridiculousness of homeopathy or debunking justifications for using homeopathic substances. I have never read an article, blog, or even a NatChat comment by a naturopath stating that homeopathy is nonsense and should be jettisoned from naturopathic education. I have never seen a naturopath reprimand another practitioner for his or her use of homeopathy, even when these remedies are used to treat serious illnesses like pyelonephritis or cancer.

I doubt that I ever will witness naturopaths ban together and attack homeopathy.

Naturopathy = homeopathy + TCM + chiropractic + x + y + z

Naturopathic has absorbed homeopathy, much like it has with any flavor of alternative medicine, such as chiropractic, Ayurvedic or traditional Chinese medicine. Whether younger generations of naturopaths like it or not, homeopathy is embedded within naturopathic, and it is there to stay.

In my “accredited” naturopathic education at Bastyr University, I was required to take three quarters of homeopathy. This equates to 88 lecture hours in homeopathic training.

I chose to attend Bastyr University, over the other accredited naturopathic colleges, due to its reputation for being more scientifically rigorous than the other naturopathic schools. I suppose that if Bastyr’s scientific rigor is measured by how many hours of homeopathy is taught then it’s more scientific than the other naturopathic schools. National College of Natural Medicine and University of Bridgeport both require 144 lecture hours in homeopathy. But this is not a good measure. Any homeopathy is anti-science and contaminates the whole system.

My three homeopathy courses at Bastyr were Homeopathy I, II and III. I pulled some text of course descriptions, objectives, competencies, and instructional philosophy from my homeopathy syllabi that are worth sharing:

HO 6300 Homeopathy I

Course Description

Homeopathy I begins with a short history of Samuel Hahnemann and the evolution of this revolutionary healing art. Next, we will learn the principles and philosophy of classical homeopathy, and introduce the tools and techniques we use in practice (homeopathic materia medica, the repertory, case taking, and an introduction to case analysis.)

Course objectives and competencies

Students will gain an understanding of homeopathic philosophy, a definition of health and disease, and the traditional role of homeopathy in naturopathic education and practice.

HO 6301 Homeopathy II

Course description

This is the second course in the homeopathic curriculum that consists of 3 required courses, 3 elective courses, 5 [elective] clinical shifts, and Mary’s Place a homeopathic outreach clinic dedicated to the treatment of homeless women. This course will cover homeopathic materia medica, as well as homeopathic case studies and other topics including case management. Teaching will be through case presentation and discussion of materia medica.

Instructional philosophy

As well as a therapeutic modality, homeopathy is a system of healing that comprised a philosophy of health and disease, a unique methodology for determining the healing properties, and a coherent set of principles and practices.

HO 6303 Homeopathy III

Course Description

Homeopathy III focuses on increasing our familiarity with the most widely indicated polycrest remedies, with emphasis on understanding remedies by families. For example, having studied remedies such as Calcarea carbonica, Natrum muriaticum and Sulphur, we can readily identify and understand remedies that combine qualities of the Natrums and Sulphurs, such as Natrum sulphuricum, Natrum carbonicum, etc.  We will continue to increase our knowledge of case analysis and materia medica through weekly case assignments, case and remedy discussions. Discussions of remedy potency, repetition of the dose, the follow-up interview, homeopathic aggravations, and case management and the second prescription are also an integral part of Homeopathy III

Major Course Competencies

Students will understand the parameters used in assessing the effect of the homeopathic prescription, the possible positive and negative outcomes, and strategies to consider in patient management using homeopathy.

Re-reading these syllabi with a skeptical eye, I am fascinated by the use of buzzwords and phrases, which in my opinion, can be persuasive, are deceptive, and embody naturopathic medicine.

For example, the explanation of homeopathy as a “revolutionary healing art” in medicine implies homeopathy is novel, modern, and innovative. In fact, it is archaic and scientifically invalid.

I am also troubled about the following course objective in Homeopathy I: “Students will gain an understanding of homeopathic philosophy, a definition of health and disease, and the traditional role of homeopathy in naturopathic education and practice.”

Homeopathy is clearly deeply rooted in naturopathic. I fail to understand how naturopaths can dispute this fact in the face of Bastyr’s teaching documents or more simply from a bit of surfing on Google.

Given that all of the accredited naturopathic schools continue to spend far more time teaching homeopathy than pharmacology, (88 hours in homeopathy versus 55 hours in pharmacology for me) it is not surprising that homeopathy sidles into the minds of all naturopaths.

Faith-based Medicine

My first experience with homeopathy was as a student at Bastyr. I was lying in the grass one day, and a spider bit me! I watched with amazement over the next 24 hours how the bite became red, inflamed, itchy, and hot and tender.

When in class the next day, I asked my teacher how to naturopathically treat the bite.

She said, “Do you know what homeopathic remedy you need?

“No,” I said with curiosity, “what?”

“Apis!” she said. “It is for puncture wounds, like spider or ant bites or even bee stings, and it is good to use when the wound is hot, red, and tender.”

I had no idea what Apis was or how to take it, so I asked specific questions.

She explained, “Take Apis 30C, about 5 pellets at a time. Let them dissolve under your tongue. You will know when it is working because the itching will subside. You will know when you need to re-dose because the itching will start again. Do not eat or drink anything except water for 30 minutes after taking the remedy.”

I went straight to the Bastyr bookstore, where many homeopathic remedies were sold, and bought my first remedy, Apis 30C.

I loved this remedy. It worked! Just as my teacher predicted, the itching would subside for about 4 hours, and then I would need to re-dose. Over the next 24 hours, the redness, swelling, heat, and itching all faded away.

I excitedly reported the good news to my teacher days later, and she confirmed that this was the result of homeopathy. I was becoming a believer.

Over the next years in school and then in practice, I resorted to homeopathy every once in awhile when I did not know what else to do. This behavior is not unusual in naturopathic practice. When naturopaths are discussing difficult cases with each other, inevitably one will ask, “Have you tried homeopathy yet?” It’s as if naturopaths understand that we don’t all have the same degree of faith regarding homeopathy, but we also realize that it has remained in our curriculum for a reason, so we might as well use it.

A little homeopathy here, a little there. What’s the harm?

And as long as homeopathy is not being used independently, without the use of other naturopathic therapies or even prescription medication, what is the harm? It is just candy. (I once convinced a patient in the Bastyr teaching clinic to take a homeopathic remedy using this same line of reasoning.)

Yet, homeopathy is harmful. It is a fictitious medical ideology that, at its worst, prevents patients from seeking medical care in critical or urgent situations, and at its best, swindles patients out of time and money.

Sugarpills Forever

Naturopaths still defend homeopathy because they believe the practice of naturopathic medicine would suffer enormously without it.

The defense of homeopathy within the naturopathic profession is so robust, that Bastyr’s teaching clinic has a patient handout on homeopathy titled “What is Homeopathy?

This is the first sentence of Bastyr’s homeopathy patient handout: “Homeopathy is a scientific method of cure, which follows laws based on far reaching holistic philosophy.”

The patient is deceived with the first seven words alone of the “What is Homeopathy?” handout. Homeopathy is not a scientific method of cure. The mere suggestion that homeopathy can cure anything is ludicrous and misleading, which is a failure to provide adequate informed consent.

Just as it begins, the handout also ends with a whopper: “Either way, homeopathy is one of the most cost effective and potent medicines available today.”

The argument that homeopathy is cost effective is laughable. While the cost of an actual remedy is typically less than $10, the cost of an appointment for a homeopathic intake with a naturopath can cost up to several hundred dollars per hour. I have seen naturopaths charge up to $500 per homeopathic intake for a new patient. And, of course, thinking homeopathy is cost effective fails to factor in the health costs of missed diagnoses, resulting in emergency or complex medical interventions.

Cost-effectiveness is determined mathematically with the simple equation of the cost of the medication divided by its effectiveness. Since the scientific community agrees that homeopathy is not effective, its effectiveness equals zero. You cannot divide by zero. The cost-effectiveness of homeopathy is an oxymoron.

The naturopathic community came out in full force to defend homeopathy during the recent FDA hearing regarding the regulation of homeopathic products. I was not surprised by the prominent naturopathic turnout in favor of the FDA not regulating homeopathic remedies. This large degree of support is further evidence of the profession’s desire to keep homeopathy in naturopathic practice and protected from regulatory oversight.

Sadly, and possibly to the dismay of the younger generation of naturopaths, not all naturopaths understand that science disproves homeopathy, and the use of this fake medicine is wasting money and risking patient lives.

Homeopathy is the biggest thorn in naturopaths’ sides. If the field wants to move forward as a medical profession, it must denounce homeopathy. But I don’t think this is ever going to happen.

Photo credit: Canton Becker under a CC license (changes were made)