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A good friend of mine has been in medical school for the past three or four years and is training to become a surgeon. We often discuss our differences in opinion when we get together and I've learned to embrace the contradictions in our perspectives - I consider them balancing. It used to be that I couldn't hold up my perspective, mostly on an emotional level, under his rigorous scrutiny. He's a very intense character with a genuinely staggering mental powerhouse at his disposal (or vice versa). He's also emotionally numb to the degree that I don't think he has access to certain vital emotional and spiritual resources/experiences that have shaped my own mind and thinking. He's had very aggressive psychological behavior in the distant past that bordered on sadism, and I think he still has that proclivity, but abstains from indulging in it. Now I've come to a solid appreciation for his craft and for the work of scientists and medical practitioners everywhere. If you've read my posts, you know that I'm extremely interested and supportive of science, particularly study of the nervous system and of organic chemistry, although I don't fully appreciate or approve of their clinical applications. He knows this and is in agreement to some degree. This evening's topic of discussion was naturopathy, as I'm considering a dual-major in Chinese medicine and naturopathy this upcoming year. My argument, more or less, was that a naturopath is well-educated in western anatomical, biochemical and allopathic perspectives, but chooses to utilize "natural" medicine to promote health and healing. I openly embraced the limitations of this medicine, agreed that some naturopaths try to overstep their boundaries and training, and that it was important for there to be open communication between NDs and MDs, so that each professional could manage health and disease within the scope of their practice. I expressed my own goals clearly: to educate people and get them interested in their own health, and to treat what I am trained to treat using the same principles conventional medicine uses: give the patient what is proven to work and cross my fingers. But his skepticism and intense criticism of naturopathic medicine astounded me, as I thought this was an increasingly outdated perspective - in fact, I thought that just about any divisive or insular attitude was becoming unpopular among educated medical professionals. After all, it seems political to me. Why create division where there could be partnership? But to him it's a cold, harsh reality, that Western medical research has more or less obliterated any credibility naturopathy or other alternative medicine has to offer. Alternative medicine, he says, is really no more effective than placebo, and that practitioners are more or less menaces to public health, since they practice inferior medicine. Now, I share his skepticism toward things like homeopathy and some of the claims of hydrotherapy, but using herbs to treat illness seems extremely scientific to me, given that medicinal plants are highly bioactive and have been used successfully (meaning it has helped people, not that it has necessarily been clinically approved) for thousands of years. I'll add that I've given up entirely on trying to explain acupuncture to an MD like him, as I increasingly think they don't even deal with the same system... at all. But naturopathy... I figured we could come to some basis for agreement there. I offered him the fact that naturopaths have more time to spend with patients, and hence a better opportunity to educate. I talked about blood and urine tests to determine nutrient and mineral deficiencies. I talked about the importance of diet and lifestyle. And I talked about the common interest of all medical professionals: to be very very well-educated and to help patients. He talked repeatedly about cardiovascular health, heart problems, cancer, and diabetes, all of which he claims are the "real" problems (is this true? beats me... he's seen more than I have), and that naturopathy fails in dealing with any of these. He says most of the patients he's seen either need surgery (which of course naturopathy and acupuncture don't really do), have cancer, diabetes, or serious heart health issues. He also doubts that naturopaths are trained adequately to recognize serious medical conditions when faced with them. He included pancreatic cancer and other conditions I didn't recognize, and expressed his doubts as to the alternative medicine community's capacity to treat, let alone recognize these conditions. I think his perspective is valid in that someone who has taken such poor care of themselves as to develop intense obesity and critical heart health issues, is possibly outside the scope of a naturopath's power to heal. After all, the idea is to help the body heal itself, and if the body is wrecked already, there probably needs to be a more acute method of intervention to prevent an impending health-related death (thin the blood, unclog the arteries, and some other things that pharmaceuticals do incredibly well with minimal risk and low toxicity). So I agreed with him on many points... But, I think naturopaths have a place and it's not an inferior position to the work of MDs. I think it fills a very vital and necessary niche in healthcare. Anyway, we both got exhausted from talking and stopped. I decided to do some more research on the internet about the efficacy of naturopathy from a conventional medicine perspective, and I'm genuinely surprised to find that there are some intensely negative perspectives on its efficacy and value to human civilization. Honestly, it often reads like passionate political banter, but I keep wondering... with all the work conventional medical researchers go through to go about validating the efficacy of their own medicine, how could they be wrong? I genuinely respect them and am confused now. My uncle is a research chemist and says a single pharmaceutical takes on average, between 12 to 18 years to develop, perfect, and research, and that even with all this work, many pharmaceuticals never make it out of the laboratory, because they're simply not reliable enough to merit marketing or using on general public. So... I guess my question is, what might be going on here? Is there something psychological, emotional, spiritual or political going on in his mind, that distorts his perspective? Or is possible that he's right, and that many alternative medicines are bogus? I want to say that I genuinely don't believe in divisive or extremist ideology of any sort. I don't really want a conventional answer to this question, such as "western doctors are brainwashed," or whatever else. I want to work with MDs and DOs and chiropractors etc., not insulate myself from them. I consider them experts and future colleagues that I hope to develop professional and personal relationships with. I'd like to think we can learn from each other, and that our perspectives and techniques for healing the human body will change as we all become better educated, more ethical, and wiser in our thoughts and knowledge. I'd like to believe that my perspective is not naive, and I feel mature in holding space for both our perspectives calmly and equally, but I am definitely confused. I'm guessing many of you have dealt with similar friends, colleagues, etc. Opinions, guesses, perspectives are appreciated.