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Naturopathy: Report of the
Australian Committee of Inquiry (1977)
Throughout the States the Committee of Inquiry was aware of
a considerable interest in naturopathy, both as an activity of
alternative health practitioners and as a part of the current
reaction against orthodox and conventional life-styles now exhibited
by many members of the general public. The term 'naturopathy'
in Australia is used to encompass a wide range of alternative
healing 'modalities', which vary a great deal from one practitioner
or clinic to another. There is not the homogeneity of theoretical
bases or techniques and methodology seen in the practice of spinal
manipulation, particularly as it is practised by members of the
Australian Chiropractors' Association.
'Naturopathy' in Australia has come to have two interpretations:
one as an umbrella term for the several treatment modalities
commonly used by 'natural' therapists; the other to describe
one modality in addition to those of chiropractic, osteopathy,
herbalism, homoeopathy and acupuncture which makes use of fasting,
dietary change and little-used and ill-defined techniques such
as hydrotherapy. In this section of the Report 'naturopathy'
or 'natural therapy' are used to describe therapeutic regimes
other than spinal manipulation. The justification for the expropriation
of the word 'natural' by these unorthodox therapists is, however,
Most naturopaths profess the use of spinal manipulation to
some degree, others make more extensive use of homoeopathic remedies,
dietary advice, herbs, mineral salts or vitamins.
Quite commonly, iridology is practised by this group, as also
is acupuncture. Spinal manipulation is, however, not the predominant
therapy. In addition, the Committee encountered a small number
of practitioners attempting more unusual therapeutic approaches,
such as zone therapy, colonic lavage and fasting, and some used,
or were interested in following the ideas of, radiesthesia and
In this report, the subject of naturopathy is first considered
as a whole, and then the major diagnostic techniques and therapeutic
approaches are discussed in detail. Homoeopathy forms the subject
of a separate chapter, since it often constitutes the principal
therapeutic system of many alternative practitioners and is one
of the subjects the Committee was specifically asked to investigate.
The Committee received a number of submissions from homoeopaths
and herbalists who claimed a much more specialized knowledge
of these fields than did naturopaths generally.
The Committee found 'naturopathy' very difficult to define,
and was unable to find any clear-cut statement capable of adequately
describing the activities of this group of practitioners in such
a way that any expectation of their behaviour as consultants
could be predicted by a patient. There is no generally adopted
system of diagnosis or treatment and the patients' only expectation
is that drugs and surgery would not be used.
The basic concept of naturopathy centres around the age-old
belief that the body can be maintained in a state of health by
wholesome 'natural' foods, the extensive use of water, fresh
air and sunlight, together with periods of fasting. This belief
is held throughout the world by naturopaths and is discussed
in most popular books on fringe medicine (Inglis, 1964). It is
believed that adherence to such a natural way of life will encourage
the body to resist disease without recourse to drugs or surgery.
It is recognised, however, that sickness and disease do exist,
and when they strike, remedies derived from herbs or minerals
already provided by nature will enable the body to become more
resistant and thus health will be restored. The object of the
practising naturopath is therefore as much to maintain good health
as to treat illness. The Committee heard a number of witnesses
who stated that-they followed the advice of naturopaths in maintaining
their health but resorted to orthodox medicine for conditions
which they recognised as clearly responsive to conventional therapy.
The value of medical treatment for infectious diseases and trauma
was accepted but not for less clearly defined disorders.
Naturopathy,was already well-established before the time of
Hippocrates when the priest-physicians of the Aesculapian order
established temples of health where patients were bathed, massaged
and fasted, and the sites of these temples were often adjacent
to mineral springs from which water could be used both externally
and internally. A secure basis for naturopathy lies in the recognition
of the inherent recuperative power of the body, or vis mediatrix
naturae of Hippocrates.
During the 19th century, the use of water as a specific form
of therapy came into vogue under the leadership of Vincent Preissnitz
(1800-1851) in Germany, and it rapidly became a popular medical
treatment in Europe and America. Hydrotherapy was more popularly
accepted in Europe and at the major spas there were clinics run
by medical practitioners whose patients enjoyed a period of abstinence
and relaxation, and also followed a natural diet comprising largely
fresh fruits and vegetables. Special treatments were often available
and frequently included massage and manipulation.
Among the naturopaths there were grades of acceptance of the
compromise between a severe regimen of 'hygienic living', in
which all forms of remedial treatment were deplored, and a more
practical viewpoint which used natural agents of all kinds in
a therapeutic regime. In modern naturopathy, controversy still
centres around the extent to which the naturopathic method should
be adopting the methods of other related systems, such as herbalism
and homoeopathy. In Germany and Switzerland in the 1960s, it
was estimated (Inglis, 1964) that of some 12,500 naturopaths.
probably 10,000 were doctors who were duly qualified and registered.
In Britain, on the other hand, relatively few doctors were interested
in naturopathy and the greater proportion of its proponents were
not medically qualified, so that a strong feeling was engendered
that all unorthodox practitioners were 'quacks' (Inglis, 1964).
Naturopathy in the U.S.A. took a somewhat different direction
with the establishment of luxury clinics where patients could
follow weight reduction regimes, obtain cosmetic surgery, gain
assistance in reduction in alcohol consumption, while enjoying
a luxurious and relaxing sojourn in pleasant surroundings. A
wide range of treatments is offered in these residential clinics
in the U.S.A., often under the guidance or proprietorship of
doctors. Essentially this development was to give the affluent
client moral support to assume a more heal thy way of life.
In Britain, a College of Naturopathy was established in 1948
to organise naturopathy as a profession, and examinations were
held with the aim of compiling a register of naturopaths. The
academic barriers could not be strict, since the beliefs and
practices of naturopaths were so wide and so variable; yet there
appears to have been some attempt to regulate against the inclusion
of clearly unethical and fraudulent practitioners.
Naturopathy has experienced historically two major stimuli
which have encouraged renewed interest in its philosophy and
caused a resurgence in the number of adherents to the system.
First, the violent nature of medicine in the 18th and the
early 19th centuries repelled many devoted healers and instead
of enemas, emetics, the use of purgatives and the application
of leeches, they sought gentler methods involving heat and herbal
medicines. The development of homoeopathy was a direct result
of such efforts. More recently, beginning in the 1950s, it became
apparent that many of the drugs developed by the pharmaceutical
industry had unwanted side-effects which sometimes appeared to
be as bad as the initial indication for the use of the drug,
and again naturopathy and homoeopathy came back into favour to
NATUROPATHY AS NOW PRACTISED IN AUSTRALIA
In Australia naturopathy appears to have been of little interest
and to have been pursued in a desultory manner until the Inquiries
of the New South Wales and Victorian State Governments and the
establishment of the present Committee of Inquiry brought home
to the practitioner the need for unification through State and
Federal Associations concerned with the standards of practice
As a result, the South Pacific Council for Natural Therapies
was formed in July, 1975, by amalgamation of the South Pacific
Federation of Natural Therapeutics and the Australian Council
for Natural Therapies (see Chapter 1 and Appendix 3). The South
Pacific Council is an umbrella organisation that includes member
groups having naturopathy as their main interest, but does not
include the major organisations of specialized practitioners
of manipulative therapy. Furthermore, there are several associations
and colleges not affiliated with any other organisation, and
without exception these include practitioners using a wide variety
of modalities. Reference to the organisational chart (Appendix
4) shows the complexity of the present situation.
The object of these associations appears to be primarily the
presentation of submissions to the Committee of Inquiry, together
with the limitation of the entry of new practitioners who do
not pass through the 'educational' programmes laid down by these
organisations. There appears to be an effort to upgrade the practice
of naturopathy as a result.
The Committee visited the colleges offering courses in various
aspects of naturopathy. In every case, it was considered that
the standards in the orthodox basic biomedical sciences were
disappointingly low. It is quite apparent that there is no cohesive
body of knowledge on any aspect of naturopathy, at least, as
expounded in these colleges, which constitute a 'clinical or
therapeutic component' to follow the basic science training.
Although the Committee found the syllabuses of many colleges
were reasonable in their coverage of basic biomedical sciences
on paper, the actual instruction bore little relationship to
the documented course. In no case was any practical work of any
consequence available. The lectures which were attended by the
Committee varied from the dictation of textbook material to a
slow, but reasonably methodical, exposition of the terminology
of medical sciences, at a level of dictionary definitions, without
the benefit of depth or the understanding of mechanisms or the
broader significance of the concepts. The Committee did not see
any significant teaching of the various therapeutic approaches
favoured by naturopaths. Persons reported to be particularly
interested in homoeopathy, Bach's floral remedies or mineral
salts were interviewed, but no systematic courses in the choice
and use of these therapies were seen in the various colleges.
The Committee was left with the impression that the choice of
therapeutic regime was based on the general whim of the naturopath
and since the suggested applications in the various textbooks
and dispensations overlap to an enormous extent no specific indications
are or can be taught.
Naturopathic practice, for the most part, is conducted privately
with the patient visiting the practitioner. There are, at the
present time, two residential naturopathic clinics which are
modelled on the lines of the spas in Europe, at which patients
may stay with a view to taking longer courses on therapy, of
which fasting is an important factor. The Committee confined
its attention, however, to the private office practitioners,
since they handle the vast majority of patients.
The diagnostic procedures vary considerably between practitioners,
and the history given by the patient plays a major part. Most
naturopaths use iridology as a diagnostic aid. A few measure
blood pressure, and a stethoscope is a common accoutrement of
the office. Urine analysis by simple tests (e.g. Clinistix)
is sometimes used.
The Committee was informed by many practitioners that they
were not allowed, by law, to use a number of simple, non-invasive,
standard diagnostic procedures. Yet in the hands of properly-trained
people, the proper use of such instruments as the ophthalmoscope,
stethoscope, and pneumograph should reveal indications of conditions
that would call for referral to specialists. With the exception
of Queensland (The Medical Acts, 1939-1966), there are, in fact,
no legal barriers to the use of such instruments. The naturopaths
claimed considerable success in cases of asthma and yet the simple
checking of respiratory parameters was never done.
It was claimed by many naturopaths that the patient usually
came with knowledge of the nature of the complaint from previous
medical consultations, so extensive diagnostic work-up was not
The therapy offered was one or more of the following:
- (i) dietary advice
- (ii) manipulation
- (iii) provision of homoeopathic remedies of a herbal, or
- (iv) acupuncture
- (v) zone therapy
- (vi) colonic lavage.
These are discussed individually below.
Patients visited the naturopath several times as all of the
treatments appeared to involve a correction of general life style
as well as a continued course of treatment. The establishment
of rapport, understanding and friendship between the " practitioner
and patient seemed in all cases to be a significant component
of naturopathic behaviour.
The Committee did not make a practice of interviewing patients
since such information would have been difficult to assess, but
as a result of the surveys made by Professor Western and his
colleagues, as well as from impressions gained throughout the
entire Inquiry, it is clear that a considerable degree of patient-satisfaction
is obtained from naturopathic practitioners. We are of the opinion
that the naturopath assists many patients who have been dissatisfied
with medical advice, who suffer from complaints with a strong
psychosomatic component, or who are chronically sick but have
not received sufficient support in the orthodox situation. It
must be concluded that no small responsibility for this situation
lies with the pressure upon the medical profession and in particular
its emphasis on a technological orientation rather than the more
leisurely approach of the naturopath to the patients' problems.
THE NATUROPATHIC THERAPIES AND DIAGNOSTIC TECHNIQUES
'Biochemic remedies' are preparations of minerals commonly
prescribed by naturopaths. In Australia the most commonly employed
preparations are those manufactured by Blackmore Laboratories
under the proprietary name of 'Celloids'.
This commercial enterprise was started by Mr M.C.H. Blackmore,
who was a self-trained naturopath. Generally, 'Celloids' follow
the principles of 'The Biochemic School of Medicine' of Schuessler
(Chapman, 1973). This use of biochemic remedies is based on the
concept that many disorders stem from mineral deficiencies in
the diet which may arise directly, or as a result of eating vegetables
and fruits from plants grown on soil deficient in essential minerals.
It is claimed of 'Celloids' and other biochemic remedies that
they are manufactured in such a way that the absorption of the
minerals into the body is facilitated, but there is no evidence
Schuessler's use of the term 'biochemic' is not to be confused
with the science of biochemistry; it simply means the 'chemicals
of life', and comprises the following twelve substances:
- calcium fluoride
- calcium phosphate
- calcium sulphate
- ferrous phosphate
- potassium chloride
- potassium monohydrogen phosphate
- potassium sulphate
- magnesium hydrogen phosphate
- sodium chloride
- sodium monohydrogen phosphate
- sodium sulphate
- silicon dioxide
Whereas Schuessler used a homoeopathic approach to mineral
therapy and believed that very prolonged grinding and mixing
of the chemicals were essential to make them accessible to the
body cells, Blackmore's manufacturing methods follow conventional
pharmaceutical procedures such as granulation and tabletting.
Mr Alfred Jacka, President of the National Association of
Naturopaths (Australia) in his report to the Victorian Committee
of Inquiry, made the following statement about the use of 'Celloids':
'The selection of the appropriate remedies are based on certain
symptoms which are the reflection of the underlying causes but,
with a number of practitioners further confirmed by iris diagnosis
(to be referred to later). The symptomatology which is the guide
to the use of these remedies has been found by long experience
to be similar to that of the Dr Schuessler tissue salts (pioneered
along homoeopathic lines in the last century) but these Celloid
remedies are not homoeopathic as they involve comparatively large
amounts of medicinal material prepared in a quite different way.
We regard the Celloids as detoxifying, energizing and able, in
the great majority of cases, to repair diseased internal organs
and parts. They work well in practically every internal medication
case we tackle.'
The Committee of Inquiry visited the Blackmore Laboratories
at Balgowlah, N.S.W. and found the premises to be generally similar
to those of many of the smaller pharmaceutical companies. The
Committee was informed that the distribution of the 'Celloid'
preparations was entirely through naturopaths (including naturopaths
who also regarded themselves as chiropractors), some of whom
were shareholders of the Company. The Committee was aware that
the premises had been inspected by officers of the Health Commission
of New South Wales and found to conform to the Code of Good Manufacturing
Practice. However, the Committee noted that analytical control
of the raw materials and finished products was rudimentary. The
identity of herbal materials appeared to rest with the supplier,
usually an overseas broker.
It is difficult to come to grips with the scientific basis
of 'biochemic' therapies. When Schuessler refers to 'cell-salt
deficiency', he means 'localized deficiency in certain cells
or groups of cells with molecular disturbance of the' salts there
present'; it does not imply a deficiency in the total amount
of any given salt in the body. None of the followers of this
technique who were interviewed by the Committee, nor any authors
whose works have been seen by the Committee, has or had the means
to determine an alleged localized deficiency of certain cells
in respect of any mineral.
Biochemic cannot be described as a scientific theory in the
sense that the term 'theory' is used by scientists. It is, in
fact, nothing more than pure imagination.
The associated therapeutic advice and patient management proposed
by Schuessler for various conditions is generally that which
would be appropriate for their treatment, without the addition
of a 'biochemic' remedy. To the extent that a biochemic prescription
may be helpful, it is in the nature of a placebo response, which
is accepted as a significant and often effective therapy. The
Committee cannot accept" that any processes of manufacture
such as grinding or comminution can affect the absorption or
utilization of mineral salts by the body other than in a manner
predicted by the laws of physical chemistry and related sciences.
The Committee gained the strong impression that the Blackmore
preparations were being manufactured simply because a demand
existed and Mr M. Blackmore was quite frank in agreeing that
the scientific basis for their use was unexplored. He was apparently
quite happy with the suggestion that clinical trials of his preparations
should be undertaken although it was recognised by all parties
that the task and the limited would preclude this unless efficacy
were to be the magnitude of distribution of these products legislation
requiring proof of introduced.
Herbalism dates back to antiquity and stems from the observation
that animals resort to eating particular plants when they are
sick. Most civilizations have a folk-lore of herbal medicine
and many of our most important drugs have been derived directly
from this source. The alkaloids of opium, ipecacuanha and cinchona
are outstanding examples. They were used in medicine in the crude
herbal form or as galenical preparations such as tinctures, extracts,
infusions, etc. for many centuries, although the pure
active principles of herbs are now preferred.
It is generally accepted that a great deal of herbal folk-lore
has little scientific foundation and that which has, has already
been very thoroughly explored by pharmaceutical manufacturers
in search of marketable preparations. It is unlikely that herbal
preparations will yield additional drugs of major importance.
The herbalist does not accept this view and claims that herbs
do not function in the accepted pharmacological manner. It is
claimed that although this may certainly sometimes be the case,
our present state of knowledge is inadequate to explain the action
of many herbs and it is postulated that sometimes they stimulate
the body to fight against disease in a manner which science is
as yet unable to explain.
In 1864 a National Institute of Medical Herbalists was founded
to prove that herbalism was a valid alternative system to orthodox
pharmacotherapeutics. This body, N.I.M.H., attempted to establish
standards of education for its members which resulted in disunity
among herbalists. Herbalism suffered a recession for many decades,
due very largely to the successful development of drugs by chemists
either by isolation from plant and animal sources or synthetically,
and the consequent
success of the pharmaceutical industry.
It is reported that in Britain there has been a revival of
interest in herbalism since the 1960s and the N.I.M.H. now runs
a school training qualified herbalists and enforces a code of
ethics among its members. The Medicines Act of 1968 in the U.K.
recognised the prescription of herbs by a medically qualified
The Committee has had the opportunity to study syllabuses
and examine the prospectuses of the N.I.M.H. courses as well
as one conducted by the National Herbalists Association of Australia.
The Committee does not believe that the courses offered in
Australia do more than provide a general outline of human anatomy
and physiology at an elementary level, with the section on the
'Therapeutic Properties of Herbs' following the general lines
of traditional materia medica. No intensive study of the
chemistry of plant constituents is required, nor is there any
section of the course dealing with pathology or disease states.
It would be expected that a herbalist would have an extensive
knowledge of the chemical constituents of plants, and yet this
field appears to be entirely neglected.
The Committee has studied many books on herbalism and examined
the 'British Herbal Pharmacopoeia' published by the British Herbal
Medicine Association. The latter resembles the British Pharmacopoeia,
or the British Pharmacopoeial Codex in format and comprises a
list of monographs arranged alphabetically and covering an apparently
wide range of herbs which are not referred to in either of these
official compendia. The monographs define the herb and describe
its identification in the terms of pharmacognosy. (Pharmacognosy
is the art and science of the recognition of the sources of drugs
of plant origin.) Each monograph contains therapeutic indications,
many of which must be regarded as dangerous and unacceptable.
The Committee finds no support for the therapeutic indications
of preparations listed in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia for
diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, heart failure, hernia, to name only
a few of the conditions enumerated which are responsive to orthodox
drug treatment or surgery.
Frequently the Committee's attention has been drawn to the
reputation and standing of a number of eminent persons whose
names are associated with herbal publications. It must be pointed
out that the inclusion of the name of an expert in pharmacognosy
only means that his expertise has been used by the compilers,
and does not necessarily extend to an endorsement or recognition
of statements outside the area of such professionalism.
It is, however, surprising to the Committee that in some cases
medical men who have had the benefit of some years of basic scientific
training can apparently accept some of the statements referred
Herbal lists nowadays appear only to include substances available
without restriction by any type of Poisons Act legislation, and
consequently do not contain potent. substances. It is the considered
opinion of the Committee that any properties which may be manifest
as a result of administration of herbs must be produced by one
or more substances capable of being isolated and chemically identified.
This has always proved to be the case in the past, and even in
cases where a herbal preparation has produced effects not fully
accountable by the already known active principles, it has been
shown that further study reveals additional active constituents.
In recent years, improved methods such as gas-liquid chromatography
and mass spectroscopy make the identification of minute amounts
of chemical components almost a matter of routine. The Committee
cannot agree with any hypothesis that herbal medicine can produce
effects unaccountable in pharmacological terms due to active
principles that are incapable of chemical extraction and concentration.
The Committee recognises that there may be substances as yet
unisolated that may have weak pharmacological effects, or may
be synergistic with substances already isolated, and these may
be isolated in the future. However, the thoroughness with which
the pharmaceutical industry has surveyed the global flora for
pharmacologically active substances renders the probability of
any significant range of effective herbal medicine remaining
It is recognised that herbal medicines may act as placebos
and produce effects beyond those expected in suitable cases,
particularly where the sickness or disability is not readily
related to a clearly defined pathological state. On balance,
though, the Committee finds little valid scientific basis for
the use of herbal remedies as modern therapeutic agents, other
than those having pharmacopoeial recognition.
Bach's floral remedies
A variant of herbalism, followed by only a few adherents,
is based on a different concept, first put forward by Edward
Bach. Bach was a medical graduate who practised as a consultant
in Harley Street for some 20 years, but in 1930 abandoned his
practice and turned to natural healing with herbs and flowers.
He believed that these remedies should not be sought for, but
come upon instinctively, and he tried to sense intuitively those
plants which had a more spiritual effect on man. He devised 38
A good deal of information about the preparation and use of
these remedies was obtained from Mrs M. Edwards, President of
The Dr Edward Bach Society of New South Wales. Floral remedies
are not produced by juicing or pounding like other herbal preparations,
but by preparing essences by the 'sun method' or the 'boiling
method'. For either method, the flowers have to be picked at
about 9 a.m. on a fine sunny morning. In the sun method, the
flowers are floated on a sterilized plain glass bowl (not cut-glass
or oven-glass) filled with clear stream water and left in the
sun for exactly three hours; it is then mixed with an equal volume
of brandy. This essence, which is said to keep indefinitely,
is used to make 'stock bottles' by diluting two drops in one
ounce of brandy; two: drops of the stock are diluted with one
teaspoon of brandy to give one ounce of the medicine actually
used by the patient, four drops at a time.
Mrs Edwards informed the Committee that the remedies were
effective with humans, animals or plants; she had successfully
treated a 'weak-willed' orange tree after she moved it.
Some of the remedies and the conditions for which they are used
||desperation, fear of
losing control of the mind
||doubt, depression, discouragement
||hatred, envy, jealousy,
||mental argument and
|Star of Bethlehem
||after effects of shock
A mixture of five remedies, called the 'rescue remedy' is
alleged to be beneficial in saving life in an emergency, pending
medical care (Chancellor, 1971).
Bach's work clearly took him much further beyond the realms
of scientific possibility than that of more conventional herbalists.
Dietary advice and nutritional therapy
The naturopath believes that the modern diet is not conducive
to health either because foods are impaired or degraded by processing,
or contain injurious additives, or are otherwise abnormal as
a result of the use of pesticides and weedicides, and the lack
of use of organic fertilizers.
In some States, the giving of dietary advice for payment is
restricted to registered dietitians. Naturopaths, therefore,
often distribute leaflets containing dietary advice free of charge
to their patients. The Committee considers that sound nutritional
advice is not nearly as readily available to the public as it
should be. This has been recognised by the National Health and
Medical Research Council. The recent establishment of Chairs
in Nutrition in two Australian Universities and the establishment
of the Division of Human Nutrition in C.S.I.R.O. is an encouraging
Medical students in Australia receive very little or no formal
teaching in nutrition and in a short consultation with a patient
are rarely in a position to give dietetic advice as part of their
therapeutic measures. Apart from dietitians, very few nutritionists
exist in Australia.
The naturopath has entered this area by default, and has acquired
an undue importance. The advice given by naturopaths is variable
in quality. Some of the literature submitted to the Committee
contained substantially sound, orthodox nutritional advice, whereas
the advice offered by a minority of naturopaths was potentially
hazardous (e.g., the avoidance of all sources of protein
by children under five years of age).
Dietary advice needs to be disseminated widely, yet we found
that naturopaths and their patients were largely unaware of government
publications such as 'Eat Better for Less', which are readily
available and free. Naturopaths could, with advantage, avail
themselves of much sound dietary advice which, although emanating
from orthodox sources, closely parallels their own views as often
expressed to the Committee. Their often expressed reaction against
highly processed convenience foods as a major source of calorie
intake is, in fact, also a serious cause of concern to health
Inappropriate nutrition is one of the causal factors in a
number of diseases common amongst the Australian population and
there is great concern among nutritionists in the States that
insufficient attention is being devoted to improving nutritional
We understand that the Standing Committee on Nutrition of
the National Health and Medical Research Council is drawing attention
to the present unsatisfactory state and has recommended an investigation
into the component of nutritional teaching in the medical schools
The only health worker with any depth of training in human
nutrition is the dietitian-nutritionist and the total number
employed full-time in Australia was only 255 in 1976. At the
end of 1976 there were only five full-time dietitians employed
in community health in New South Wales and a report on the Training
of Dietitian/Nutritionists in New South Wales, prepared in 1975
emphasizes the acute shortage of such professionals in the health
There is a great deal of interest in food and nutrition through
the media but sound nutrition information is not readily accessible
to the public.
The Committee recommends that nutrition education should become
a more significant part of medical education at all levels and
urges the need for a study of the eating habits of Australians
in relation to health.
The Committee is of the opinion that much of the nutritional
advice offered by naturopaths for the maintenance of. good health
is reasonable, although naturopaths are by no means the sole
source of such commonsense advice. However, the Committee does
not support the submission of the professional nutritionists/dietitians
that they should have an exclusive right to the purveying of
dietary advice generally. In the case of dietary advice offered
specifically as part of a definite therapeutic regime, the Committee
saw no evidence to indicate that naturopaths had any special
competence, and considered that they should not offer such advice
unless they were trained in nutrition and dietetics to the appropriate
level. In fact, in the case of patients with serious metabolic
illnesses their management by diet should be restricted to qualified
Many naturopaths and a few scientists and medical practitioners
claim that the 'natural' vitamin preparations, such as rose hip
vitamin C, are better than the synthetic pure chemical forms
of the vitamins. They claim that other agents in the 'natural'
preparations enhance the effect of the vitamins. Statements with
a pejorative connotation are sometimes made about synthetic vitamins,
such as: 'they are made from coal-tar'. It can be scientifically
established whether a synthetic product is identical with a 'natural'
product by modern analytical procedures. In the absence of any
discrepancy in such tests, the equivalence of the two forms must
be accepted. Modern chemical analytical methods enable the purity
of synthetic vitamins to be stated quite precisely; and if necessary
they can be prepared free of any substances used as intermediates
in the synthesis, although a detailed understanding of the safety
and freedom from toxicity of such intermediates may render such
high purification an expensive and unnecessary step. In marketed.
commodities for which claims are made about vitamin content,
the content is so established by tests which cannot discriminate
between added and 'natural' content, and nutritionally the only
point of significance is the content.
When it comes to some of the preparations that are prescribed
and dispensed by naturopaths, there is no such standardization
and control over the amounts of vitamins alleged to be in the
preparations, whereas similar preparations made by major pharmaceutical
companies will have been subjected to vigorous control for purity
and content and will be as efficacious and much cheaper. The
Committee recommends that all products distributed by natural
therapists or health food stores should be subjected to quality
control in the same manner as pharmaceutical products generally
distributed through the pharmacist.
This technique is not much used in Australia. The alleged
basis is that the body is divided into ten zones, each of which
is connected to an individual finger and toe and to a specific
region on the soles of the feet; gentle massage of the appropriate
point stimulates reflexes which restore normal blood flow in
the corresponding zone and rids the organs and glands therein
of accumulated waste. The theory was invented by an American
nose and throat surgeon, Dr William Fitzgerald, and taken up
by a number of others, and particularly by Benedict Lust (often
regarded as the father of American naturopathy) who wrote a book
on the subject. Lust described the treatment of many diseases
by pressure on appropriate fingers, either manually or with rubber
bands or clothes pegs. In Australia, the therapy is administered
by gently rubbing and pressing selected spots on the soles of
the feet and the big toes.
Mr G. Thompson, who occasionally uses zone therapy, told the
Committee that it was time-consuming, and sometimes he had to
work for an hour before it became effective. However, it had
a healing effect on the liver, gall bladder, heart, varicose
veins, haemorrhoids, stuffed sinuses, prostate and stomach. Conditions
such as pernicious anaemia, women's disorders, and hay fever
have allegedly been relieved.
Clearly the theory on which the treatment is based is contrary
to all scientific knowledge of the innervation of the foot, although
some overall sense of improvement resulting from the treatment
might be attributed to counter-irritation.
Iris diagnosis or Iridology
Iris diagnosis is a method which is claimed by many people
to be capable of revealing disease states in the body when used
alone or as an adjunct to other diagnostic procedures. It is
often referred to as 'iridology'.
Iridology is claimed to be a science based on an accidental
discovery by Ignatz von Peczely who, when a boy of ten years
in Hungary, was playing with an owl and happened to break one
of its legs. 'He also happened to notice the appearance of a
dark stripe in the lower region of the iris of the bird, and
later found that this darkened area corresponded to the location
of the broken leg' (Jensen, 1952). This incident made a lasting
impression in the mind of the future doctor and later in the
hospital wards he was able to observe the eyes of patients and
construct the first chart of the iris. This was about 1836,and
in 1866 von Peczely published his first book on the iris.
A Swedish homoeopath Nils Liljequist (1893) also wrote a similar
book on 'Diagnosis from the Eye' at about the same time. Since
then many books have been written on iris diagnosis or iridology
and it has a very extensive following throughout the world today,
especially among alternative health practitioners.
The philosophical concept
In order to make use of observations of the iris it is claimed
that a definite philosophy must be understood and applied. Basically
it is that 'the eyes are the windows of the soul' and bear witness
to the workings and conditions of every organ of the body. The
'perfect' eye is said to show no flaws so the striations of the
iris are free of holes, distortion of the fibres, and deposits,
and is of a perfect colour. 'The person who studies iridology
is able to find where the causes of disease originate and where
the "cure" comes from and what methods are necessary
for the removal of the condition revealed' (Jensen, 1952).
Iridology then is stated to be the science of symbology which
actually records itself in the iris fibres. The theory goes further
than this and it is suggested that eczema or a rash is similarly
only a symbol of the real cause from some internal part of the
body which is not ordinarily recognised but is revealed in the
The practice of iridology in Australia
The Committee found that putting a question such as 'Do you
make use of iris diagnosis?' to an alternate health practitioner
elicited one of three quite definite answers which correlated
quite remarkably with the area of interest, and even professional
affiliation of the respondent.
Chiropractors who are of the 'straight' school and usually
members of the Australian Chiropractors' Association invariably
eschew iris diagnosis as either irrelevant, of no value to them,
or nonsense. Their answer was quite predictable.
Chiropractors of the 'mixer' category (those the Committee
spoke to were often members of the United Chiropractors' Association)
usually were equivocal on iridology. It might be used by some
as a help to examinations of other kinds, others found no use
for it, few regarded it as a major diagnostic method.
The third group or practitioners, the naturopaths, are usually
keen on iridology. Some set great store upon it and one practitioner
claimed a collection of some 40,000 iris photographs and great
competence in using the method. Some believed implicitly in the
published works on iridology, others thought that as so much
had been published there must be 'something in it'. Yet other
naturopaths were somewhat sceptical because it was difficult
to see a basis for iridology and were genuinely anxious to get
the method evaluated.
Is there a scientific basis for iridology?
The published work on iridology is extensive, some in German,
much in English; some written for the modern cultists, much for
naturopaths. The method is simple. One observes the iris with
the naked eye or with the aid of a stamp collector's illuminated
magnifier and can fill in details on iris zone maps which are
printed in books or on separate sheets. Figure 1 shows a typical
iris diagnostic chart.
Figure 1: A diagnostic chart for iris diagnosis
Colour photographs can be taken without difficulty using a
35 mm camera with close-up attachments and flat illumination
from a ring-flash tube. The Committee encountered no claims that
the photography or colour rendering was critical except that
focusing should be sharp and the general technique good.
None of the practitioners with whom we discussed iris diagnosis
seemed to denigrate photographs on unreasonable grounds.
The difficulty to the scientific observer comes in accepting
the theory that the state of the body can be represented in the
iris. The iris anatomically has no structure which is suitable
for a visual display or indication. There is no known mechanism
by which any organ can transmit its normality or otherwise to
another point in the body and which would be expected to produce
changes in the appearance of the, iris except in the most general
way. The diameter of the pupil for example is a useful indicator
of a number of biochemical changes of a general nature but since
it can only dilate or constrict, the information conferred by
this alone is of limited value.
There is certainly no known way in which body organs could
be represented at specific locations in the iris.
The interpretation of iris appearance is not particularly
difficult once the assumption is made that iridology is valid.
One can therefore see the 'lesions' the iridology expert points
out without any particular training although one would clearly
require considerable experience to recognise them and name them.
Where there is particular disagreement is in the way iris
signs are related to the body and its organs. This may be due
to a different method of describing sickness between practitioners
of different kinds.
In Jensen's book, for example, a series of colour plates are
reproduced and interpretations are given but the terms do not
have a generally acceptable meaning. One iris, for example, shows
'inherently weak pelvis and groin', 'chronic toxic settlement
upper abdomen and diaphragm', 'lack of bowel tone from chronic
toxic settlement, preventing elimination of waste', 'inherently
weak gallbladder', etc.
The traditional iridologist does not state asthma, diabetes,
epilepsy as a diagnosis but regards these, we are led to understand,
as further symbols or collections of symbols from other organs.
In Australia, the Committee found a much more positive approach
and there are naturopaths who believe they are capable of naming
well-defined disorders. Furthermore, they are anxious and willing
to participate in an evaluation of this ability. The Committee
was impressed with this attitude and would have liked to have
been able to evaluate iris diagnosis. (This problem is discussed
in Chapter 7.)
According to its practitioners the iris is divided into about
forty zones which run clockwise in one eye and anticlockwise
in the other. Each zone represents a portion of the body and
reflects illness and specific pathology in the corresponding
organs and systems. This may be by colour variation and/or increase
in localised density. As the disease entity proceeds to cure
so do these localised changes diminish. Many of the changes are
described in broad and vague language such as catarrh or scurf
and other similar terms. A chart used by Australian naturopaths
is shown in Figure 2. Experienced iris diagnosticians in Australia
claim to be able to localise the organ or system involved as
well as the specific pathology such as angina pectoris, aneurism
of the aorta, kidney stones, diverticulitis or the various segments
of the colon, etc.. More recent texts which are considered
authoritative by iris diagnosticians are Deck (1965) and Jensen
Figure 2: An iris diagnosis report form used by Australian naturopaths
Steel blue around pupil
- Scurf Rim
- Lymph - Circulatory
- Small Intestine
- Large Intestine
- Probable diverticulitis (from bowel pockets
- Autonomic nerve wreath. a) Dilatations
- b) Contractions (spasms)
- c) Narrowed distance from pupil pointing to bowel prolapse
- d) White and prominent indicating over-activity
- Pupils: Left
- If elliptical major axis angle to vertical
- R. Lung
- L. Lung
- R. Bronchials
- L. Bronchials
- R. Kidney
- L. Kidney
- Gall Bladder
- Urine Bladder
For the present, iridology must be regarded as unacceptable
as a diagnostic method and its present use is unwarranted until
its possible worth can be assessed.
A number of naturopaths and homoeopaths put forward the view
that a supra-scientific explanation must be sought to explain
the alleged success of homoeopathic remedies and other modalities
used by naturopaths. It has been suggested that the explanation
may be due to radioactivity, or some as yet unexplored emanation
or force. A belief in radiesthesia was evinced by some practitioners,
and this is said to be an aura surrounding persons and living
things capable of detection by various simple devices such as
a ring suspended by a thread which oscillates in such circumstances.
Naturopaths in general appear to welcome and espouse any fringe
area of science that can be used to support their beliefs. The
Committee has been told many times of an 'aura of radiation'
around the body. This has been related to the phenomenon of Kirlian
photography. In fact some appear to regard Kirlian photography
as evidence that eventually mysteries will be revealed.
Since the time of Nikolai Tesla (1856-1943), it has been recognised
that a corona discharge can be produced around conducting and
semi-conducting objects. It is this phenomenon that has come
into prominence since the publication by Kirlian and Kirlian
(1961) of the spectacular form of the corona when recorded on
colour film. The form of the halo of colours around a conducting
object carrying a high-voltage high-frequency electric charge
may depend on small differences in conductivity and surface shape.
A fresh leaf gives a clear and brilliant corona, whereas after
some days the display is less impressive.. Scientifically, such
results might be explained by differences in the electrolyte
content and conductivity of the plant cells as the leaf dies.
The Committee sought the advice of Associate Professor R.B.
Makinson, Associate Professor of Physics at Macquarie University,
since he and his colleague, Mr G. Kennedy, have had some experience
with the technique of Kirlian photography. He states: 'The phenomena
involved are: corona discharge and the photographic process.
Both are rather complex things. It has been a happy hunting ground
for spiritualists and quacks. Serious uses, e.g., in showing
plant structure, might also emerge'.
The "terms of reference of the Committee of Inquiry did
not include acupuncture, and the Minister indicated to the Chairman
that this was a deliberate omission, since a separate committee
had been enquiring into this subject. However, the present Committee
found that many naturopaths were using this procedure, and that
its use seemed to be on the increase. In January, 1977, the Acupuncture
Specialists Practitioners Association had 98 members, mainly
in New South Wales, and the President of that association, Mr
R. Zindler, informed the Committee that it was his belief that
in a few years acupuncture would become the dominant modality
of the natural therapies. In view of this, acupuncture is dealt
with briefly in this Report.
The Committee had access to the National Health and Medical
Research Council Report on Acupuncture (1974), prepared by a
team of three senior medical men who visited China late in 1973.
It also had the benefit of a long discussion with one of the
members of that team, Dr M.J.S. Sainsbury, Director of the Institute
of Psychiatry in New South Wales. The Report gave qualified support
to the conduct of clinical trials of acupuncture in Australia,
not so much for anaesthesia (except in dentistry and obstetrics),
as for alleviation of pain in such conditions as headache, sciatica,
and joint pain, and the treatment of narcotic and alcohol withdrawal
states and deafness. It recommended that initially the practice
of acupuncture should be restricted to registered medical and
dental practitioners, although if the trials were successful,
acupuncture might be undertaken by nursing and other paramedical
personnel working under direct medical supervision.
It is clear that Chinese practitioners of acupuncture undergo
many years of rigorous training, perhaps of a rather empirical
character. The non-medical acupuncturists in Australia have usually
had a training of variable length and standard, but often very
short, either in Sydney or Hong Kong. In these courses they acquire
a facile knowledge of the theory and history of Chinese acupuncture,
but little real clinical training by exposure to good practitioners
of long experience. They are often extremely deficient in knowledge
of the potential hazards of the procedure, such as damage to
major nerves which are near some acupuncture points, or cross-infection
due to the use of unsterilized needles. At least one coroner
has drawn attention to the danger of contaminated acupuncture
needles, following a death from hepatitis ('The Age', Thursday,
August 24th, 1976).
The popularity of acupuncture among naturopaths and their
patients seems to indicate that it is tending to become a cult,
rather than a therapeutic procedure which may sometimes be useful
as an adjunct to orthodox medical treatment. This trend may discourage
the rational investigation of acupuncture which ought to be taking
place, as recommended by the National Health and Medical Research
Council investigating committee. The recommendations in the N.H.M.R.C.
Report cited above seem to the Committee of Inquiry to be reasonable
ones, which ought to be supported by the Australian Government.
At the same time, the use of acupuncture by poorly trained naturopaths
should be strongly discouraged.
RECOMMENDATIONS ON NATUROPATHY
- The Committee does not recommend licensing of naturopaths
as a vocational group as it considers that such licensing may
give a form of official imprimatur to practices which the Committee
considers to be unscientific and, at the best, of marginal efficacy.
It appreciates that some control is desirable over persons practising
naturopathy for fee or reward to protect the general public and
it considers that vigilance should be exercised over this group
by competent authorities to define the standards of premises
from which practice is carried out, to control advertising, to
police existing legislation prohibiting the treatment of certain
diseases by other than medical practitioners and to restrict
the prescribing of dietary advice.
- The Committee recommends that action should be taken to license.
acupuncturists, since this modality is reported to be on the
increase, is a clearly defined technique for which standards
of assessment can be laid down and presents a potential health
hazard to the patient.
British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (1972). (British Herbal Medical
Chancellor, P.M. (1971). Handbook of the Bach Flower Remedies
(The C.W. Daniel Co. Ltd: London).
Chapman, J.B. (1973). Dr Schuessler's Biochemistry: A Medical
Book for the Home (New Era Laboratories Ltd: London).
Deck, J. (1965). The Fundamental Principles of Iris Diagnosis
anstitut fur Grundlagenforschung der Irisdiagnostik: Ettlingen
Inglis, B. (1964). Fringe Medicine (Faber and Faber: London).
Jensen, B. (1952). The Science and Practice of Iridology (Bernard
Jensen: Escondido, California).
Kirlian and Kirlian (1961). 'Corona Discharge Photography'
J. Sci. Appl. Photog. 6, Issue 6.
Liljequist, N. (1893). Diagnosis from the Eye.
McLeod, J.G., Sainsbury, M.J.S. and Joseph, D. (1974). Acupuncture:
A Report to the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Queensland: The Medical Acts, 1939-1966.
United Kingdom: Medicines Act, 1968.
von Peczely, I. (1866). Discovery in the Realm of Nature and
Art of Healing (Druckerei der Kgl Ungarischen Staadtsdruckerei:
Source: Webb EC and others. Report of the Committee of Inquiry
into Chiropractic, Osteopathy, Homeopathy, and Naturopathy. Canberra:
Australian Government Publishing Service, April 1977.
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