Tom Chivers

How does naturopathy work? A bit like a flying vacuum-cleaner to Mars

Every so often you read a piece about alternative medicine that asks: how does it work? How does homeopathy work, how does acupuncture work, etc. There was a piece in the Telegraph recently that asked: how does naturopathy work?

There was a complicated answer about ‘healthy electromagnetic frequencies’ and so on; ‘bioresonance’, ‘modalities’, and a marvellous quote about how

‘Every cell in the body puts out a certain electromagnetic frequency, that can be measured – a healthy stomach cell sounds different to a healthy brain cell…’

Presumably those words have some sort of meaning to someone.

But the problem with this piece – and with an awful lot of other pieces on similar topics – is that there’s no point answering the question ‘how does X work?’ until you have first answered the underlying question: ‘does X work?’ I mean, I could spend several hours explaining to you precisely how I managed to fly to Mars on a vacuum cleaner, but if I hadn’t actually done it, you might feel it was something of a waste of your time.

As it happens, the London Natural Therapies group, which the piece cites as a source of all this healing, has been censured before by the Advertising Standards Authority for making unsupported claims about their ‘live blood analysis’, which is supposed to tell whether your liver cells are singing in the right key or whatever. But still, the question is wider than just that group: does naturopathy work?

Short answer: of course not, don’t be ridiculous. The long answer is a bit more involved: naturopathy isn’t something nice and straightforward like homeopathy, which you can simply point at and say ‘obviously diluting something until there is literally none of it left doesn’t make it work better as a medicine, and even if you think it does, we’ve got all these studies to show that it doesn’t’.

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