Visit any pro-natural internet forum and just see how long it takes you to find messages claiming that doctors are greedy, corrupt and fiercely opposed to anything “natural”. As they put it, doctors are greedy, selfish and ignorant. Or are they? Is there really a schism between mainstream and alternative medicine? Or does the real schism lie only in the minds of conspiracy theorists? Cast my vote for the conspiracy theorists.
Are Doctors Really Ignorant When It Comes To Herbs?
“The reason many doctors aren’t more herb-savvy or don’t recommend many alternative treatments may be because they simply don’t know enough to do so,” writes a blogger whose name I won’t publish here. But how accurate is that statement? As it turns out, it’s not accurate at all.
You can demonstrate this for yourself by going to the National Library of Medicine’s directory of mainstream medical journals, PubMed, and search the term “herbs”. You’ll get over 3500 results–and those are only the research papers published in major journals like JAMA.
But to really drive home the point, let’s search for a more specific term. I chose tea tree, mainly because tea tree is touted as a cure-all for everything from colds to nail fungus. I got 267 results. Clearly, the information is out there and it’s being published in the mainstream journals your doctor reads every day.
Are Doctors Really Slaves To Drug Companies?
One of the most serious charges leveled at today’s doctors is that they are little more than prostitutes for pharmaceutical companies. But are they really any different from the thousands of natural “wellness consultants” hawking vitamins, exotic fruit juices and herbal supplements? I say, “No.” It’s not fair to criticize doctors when herbalists and naturopaths are doing exactly the same thing.
The Real Reason Doctors Don’t Like Alternative Medicine
The real reason doctors don’t like to embrace natural and alternative medicine is that many of the herbs, techniques and ideas are unproven. Some, like the “excess fecal matter stuck to your colon” myth are patently false and a few, like injecting 35% hydrogen peroxide into your veins, are potentially dangerous.
Another reason that doctors don’t always run toward natural medicine with open arms is that so many of the practitioners working in the field are inadequately trained. Lack of credible training brings 2 problems to the table. First, your doctor has a legal obligation to protect you from harm. How can he trust your health to someone whose entire education consisted of a 2-hour training seminar? Or someone who doesn’t know that St. John’s wort can interact with the medication you’re taking? Second, many natural practitioners aren’t covered by malpractice insurance. If your “natural” practitioner makes a mistake, or an accident happens, who are you going to turn to for compensation? You can’t turn to the naturopath because he’s uninsured. As a patient, you have only 1 choice if you want compensation–sue the doctor. If you were a doctor, would you take that risk?
Is There Any Legitimate Research On Alternative Medicine?
There most certainly is legitimate, scientifically-sound research being done on alternative therapies. The problem arises when a high-profile naturopath, herbalist or researcher comes out against a particular “natural” practice. He’s immediately labeled a fraud, his credentials are questioned and he’s accused of being a traitor to his own profession–and not by those working mainstream medicine. The worst accusations come from I-read-one-book-experts who can’t bring themselves to hear anything negative about any herb, supplement or practice, regardless of how bizarre or counterintuitive it may seem to others.
So There You Have It
So there it is. A naturopath’s perspective on why mainstream and alternative medicine can’t play nicely together. Look, I’ve worked with natural products throughout my career and I am 100% committed to natural health. But I’m also a scientist. And I believe that the only way mainstream medicine will ever accept alternative therapies is through scientific proof. Natural medicine has to hold itself to a higher standard.