Time for Naturopathic Medicine Week 2014, a.k.a. Quackery Week


In my eagerness to note that Brian Hooker’s “reanalysis” of a ten year old study that failed to find a correlation between vaccines and autism had been retracted, I forgot to write about what I was originally planning on writing about yesterday. It actually would have been more appropriate a topic for yesterday, because it was the beginning of a week. In fact, it was the beginning of a very special week for a certain class of quacks. No, it’s not homeopathy week. Here’s a hint: Do any of you remember this time last year? Sure, I knew you did.

We’re talking Quackery Week 2014! I mean Naturopathic Medicine Week 2014. No, actually, I do mean quackery week, because naturopathy is quackery.

Once again, this year it’s Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chair of the Appropriations Committe and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, who are responsible for S. Res. 420, which passed the Senate without amendment on September 18 and reads:


Ms. MIKULSKI (for herself and Mr. HARKIN) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


Designating the week of October 6 through October 12, 2014, as ‘‘Naturopathic Medicine Week’’ to recognize the value of naturopathic medicine in providing safe, effective, and affordable health care.

Whereas, in the United States, more than 75 percent of health care costs are due to preventable chronic illnesses, including high blood pressure, which affects 88,000,000 people in the United States, and diabetes, which affects 26,000,000 people in the United States;

Whereas nearly 2⁄3 of adults in the United States are overweight or obese and, consequently, at risk for serious health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and depression;

Whereas 70 percent of people in the United States experience physical or nonphysical symptoms of stress, and stress can contribute to the development of major illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, depression, and diabetes;

Whereas the aforementioned chronic health conditions are among the most common, costly, and preventable health conditions;

Whereas naturopathic medicine provides noninvasive, holistic treatments that support the inherent self-healing capacity of the human body and encourage self-responsibility in health care;

Whereas naturopathic medicine focuses on patient-centered care, the prevention of chronic illnesses, and early intervention in the treatment of chronic illnesses;

Whereas naturopathic physicians attend 4-year, graduate level programs that are accredited by agencies approved by the Department of Education;

Whereas aspects of naturopathic medicine have been shown to lower the risk of major illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes;

Whereas naturopathic physicians can help address the shortage of primary care providers in the United States;

Whereas naturopathic physicians are licensed in 20 States and territories;

Whereas naturopathic physicians are trained to refer patients to conventional physicians and specialists when necessary;

Whereas the profession of naturopathic medicine is dedicated to providing health care to underserved populations; and

Whereas naturopathic medicine provides consumers in the United States with more choice in health care, in line with the increased use of a variety of integrative medical treatments: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) designates the week of October 6 through October 12, 2014, as ‘‘Naturopathic Medicine Week’’;

(2) recognizes the value of naturopathic medi6 cine in providing safe, effective, and affordable health care; and

(3) encourages the people of the United States to learn about naturopathic medicine and the role that naturopathic physicians play in preventing chronic and debilitating illnesses and conditions.

I’ve written about Sen. Mikulski’s penchant for alternative medicine woo before; indeed, she’s known for being a patron of the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine and for having appeared on Dr. Mehmet Oz’s radio show to promote “integrative medicine.” This time around, Sen. Mikulski was joined by Sen. Harkin as a co-sponsor, which is not surprising. (I’m only surprised he didn’t co-sponsor last year’s resolution.) Remember that Tom Harkin, more than anyone else, was responsible for creating the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and defending it from all science-based attacks, even as he’s expressed frustration that NCCAM hasn’t validated enough of his favored woo. Joining Harkin and Mikulski are two other Senators, one of whom we’ve heard of before, namely Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who came to our attention when she appealed to the FDA to allow McKenzie Lowe, a girl with inoperable brain cancer, to receive Stanislaw Burzynski’s antineoplastons. Then there’s Senator Angus S. King, Jr. (I-ME), of whom I’ve never heard before. At least, I didn’t know he was a woo-friendly legislator, but apparently he is. Meanwhile, in the House, there’s H. Res. 508, sponsored by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-At Large) and cosponsored by Reps. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Sam Farr (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Frank LaBiondo (R-NJ). It’s identical to the Senate version, and it passed, too. Oh, and Arizona made a similar declaration for this week.

Naturally (of course), the naturopaths are celebrating. Big time. Just take a look at the American Association of Natural Physicians (AANP) website. Naturopaths have even come up with an acronym for the theme of this year’s quackfest:

The 2014 theme is: EUREKA! The word means “I have found it” and is, according to legend, whatArchimedes exclaimed when, after long study, he made a significant discovery. Naturopathic medicine is our significant discovery – and what we want the whole world to know about! EUREKA! reflects your education and training, your patients’ realization of health, even AANP’s tagline: “Natural medicine. Real Solutions.” EUREKA! also stands for the following:

  • Empowered patients
  • Underlying cause
  • Restoring health
  • Energy
  • Knowledge
  • Active lifestyle
  • ! (so much more to learn about naturopathic medicine)

We recommend that you make EUREKA! the guiding light of your event promotion for Naturopathic Medicine Week.

I had a vision of time travel to thirty years ago, where, upon reading this, I would say, “Gag me with a spoon.” “EUREKA”? Seriously? You know what I noticed about the theme of Naturopathic Medicine Week 2014? It’s missing something. Can you guess what? It should be pretty obvious. That’s right, there’s no mention of science or evidence in the EUREKA acronym. There is, however, a mention of a lot of quackery “integrated” with seemingly reasonable dietary and lifestyle interventions, in its educational one-pager, in other words, par for the course. For example, here’s a blurb about homeopathy:

Homeopathy is a powerful system of medicine that is more than 200 years old. This medical system uses highly diluted natural sub-stances to treat illness. Some conditions that do not respond well to conventional medicine will respond to homeopathy.

Need I repeat again how homeopathy is The One Quackery To Rule Them All? If you don’t believe me, just enter the term into the search box of this blog, Science-Based Medicine, or NeuroLogica Blog. and you will find copious evidence to demonstrate just that. Or, if you don’t like bloggy sources (even though, if I do say so myself, medical and skeptic blogs tend to do a far better job of explaining why homeopathy is quackery than most of the medical literature. However, I also have two papers recently published that also explain why homeopathy is quackery, particularly this one. Come to think of it, there’s lots of evidence on the same blogs that naturopathy is quackery, but the magnum opus of explaining naturopathic quackery has to be the article by Kimball Atwood published in Medscape 11 years ago.

In any case, it’s not surprising that naturopaths would tout homeopathy because, as I explained before, you can’t have naturopathy without homeopathy. Homeopathy is considered an integral part of naturopathy, with the curricula of naturopathy schools containing lots of required homeopathy courses and the NPLEX (the naturopathic licensing examination) including a section testing candidates’ knowledge of homeopathy.

There’s lots of quackery in naturopathy, too:

Clinical Nutrition is a cornerstone of naturopathic medicine. It refers to the practice of using food to maintain health, the therapeu-tic use of food to treat illness, and the utilization of targeted vitamin and nutrient therapy, given orally and by IV, as part of their treatment plans.

And, of course, vitalism:

NDs recognize a person’s innate ability to heal and remove obstacles to healing and recovery to facilitate this inherent self-healing process.

This is, as Naturocrit notes, a thinly veiled statement of vitalism, where in the job of the naturopath is to use the “vital force” to help patients heal themselves. Of course, we science-based physicians are more than aware that the body has remarkable self-healing properties, but, unlike many naturopaths, we know that these abilities are due to biology, not to any magical life force.

So here we go again. After last year’s quackfest that was Naturopathic Medicine Week, we have Naturopathic Medicine Week 2014, made official by the U.S. Congress. No wonder naturopaths have so many plans. In particular, they see to be taking a page from antivaccinationists and arranging to hit Twitter using the AANP’s Naturopathic Medicine hashtag, which they don’t actually define, although I did find it elsewhere. It’s #NMW2014. Perhaps I’ll keep an eye out for particularly egregious examples of naturopathic quackery, you know, just for this week. On the other hand, that wouldn’t be any different from a normal blogging week. After all, I often blog about egregious examples of naturopathic quackery when I encounter them.

Be that as it may, for their next trick, maybe these same Senators and Representatives will be approving a “vaccine skepticism” week, complete with an endorsement by Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker. It wouldn’t surprise me if they chose the first week of April, in order to coincide with Autism Awareness Month. They’re just that clueless.