Naturopathy in Minnesota: I blame Dave Matthews

I'm even later to the game on this story than my blogging colleague, Orac: ERV, Pharyngula, and denialism blog have each given their takes on the Minnesota's plan to authorize NDs, doctors of naturopathy, to use the title of "Doctor."

For two views on what naturopathy is, here is one from the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and another from Quackwatch. We link - you decide.

As I read the story, it sounds as though the new legislation allows naturopaths to practice without being prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license. No word yet on whether they can be sued for malpractice.

But why all this hub-bub about naturopathy all of a sudden? I blame Dave Matthews.

The South African-born singer and inventive guitarist relocated earlier this decade from Charlottesville, VA, to Seattle, WA. This was in large part due to the educational plans of his wife, Ashley Harper, who earned her ND from Bastyr University, regarded as North America's leading school of naturopathy and recipient of NIH grant funding from the National Center for Complmentary and Alternative Medicine. Interpret that as you wish.

Matthews recorded part of his album, Some Devil, in the chapel at Bastyr and fans ooh and ahh about both. Ms. Harper's education has also popularized naturopathy amongst the Dave Matthews faithful, an eclectic crowd that is, shall we say, open to natural medicines.

Okay, this was just my excuse to talk about Dave Matthews. Go ahead and read from my colleagues, Orac, ERV, Pharyngula, and denialism blog about this story.

Hat-tip: many thanks to my two buds who pointed me toward the 1983 song by The Toyes.


More like this includes the Quackwatch article you linked, and much more. The site is co-hosted by Kimball Atwood, MD, who did a thorough study of naturopathic materials as the Mass. Med. Soc. representative on a panel considering licensing them, here. He has a more recent article at Medscape (free registration required).

In an amusing twist, the Minnesota law allows mail-order NDs (or anyone with experience in healing and some kind of advanced degree) to practice as well as those who have gone to one of the naturopathic schools. This has the so-called "educated" NDs up in arms. There are (were?) two accredited schools of astrology in the US. Their graduates are no better than non-graduates; the same is true for naturopathy.

Fortunately, NDs were denied licensure here. There seem to be around 40 who have graduated from 4-year schools in Mass., and two live within walking distance of my apartment, in the most rural part of the state (I feel blessed). Somehow, they manage to practice "medicine" here, without a license.

I should clarify "There seem to be around 40 who have graduated from 4-year schools in Mass.," I mean they live in MA, there are no naturo schools im MA.

Your "two buds." Heh.

Funny how you all choose to present things. Just being objective , right? BTW, an ND degree is a four-year graduate degree. An ND has as much years in school as an MD - nice try making it sound like a bachelor's degree.

Erin, I have had colleagues at Bastyr so I am well aware that it is a four-year curriculum. I can't say much about the training as I have not gotten very involved in course content. However, as a natural products pharmacologist I find their medicinal plant garden to be outstanding.

Perhaps you could share with our readers the comparisons and contrasts between ND and MD training?

Erin wrote "An ND has as much years in school as an MD ..."

This illustrates the adage that "the best mis-information has a kernel of truth." The facts are: A- the time Npaths spend learning superstitious "health care" notions is wasted. It doesn't matter how assiduously one studies homeopathy, it is nonsense.

And 2- doctors spend (at least) another four years in a residency before they can get a license to practice independently. Npaths graduate and then hang out a shingle (two, in my neighborhood). Sure, they have to pass a licensing exam; but the exams are written by and for npaths. Thus, the lunatics are in charge of the asylum.

Make no mistake, I don't equate an N.D. with a B.S., the bachelors (properly accredited) is better.

Mr. cobbler,

Do you really think it is appropriate to insinuate that a respectable blogger such as Mr. Abel Pharmboy might be under the influence of the marihuana? Surely we can offer a smidgen of respect to the host.

School Marm

By School Marm (not verified) on 13 Jun 2008 #permalink

School Marm, hey, he's the one who proudly focuses on natural products.

There is a multi-part post at Science-Based-Medicine on this topic. I have linked to part two, which cites part one and notes that more is coming.

The author, Kimball Atwood, MD, researched naturopathy through their own publications and web-sites. He is largely responsible for the fact that the NDs in my neighborhood are not licensed to play doctor.