The Bell Tolls for Homeopathy: Time for Change in the Training and Practice of North American Naturopathic Physicians
North American naturopathic medicine is a distinct form of practice that is woven into the larger fabric of integrative medicine; in a number of US states and Canadian provinces, naturopathic doctors enjoy a wide scope of practice, including the ability to make diagnoses, order tests, use medical technology, write prescription drugs, and perform minor surgeries. However, the basic premise of naturopathic medicine and its guiding principles—considering the whole person and supporting healthy lifestyle behaviors—is the unifying approach in clinical practice. In the 1970s, homeopathy—considered in many circles to be a hypothesis-driven, fringe form of alternative medicine—became embedded into the training and practice of North American naturopathic doctors. Since the earliest days of its theory (circa 1800), homeopathy has escaped, and continues to escape, biological plausibility; however, the persistence of this modality (and the insistence by both its consumers and practitioners that it provides benefit) speaks to the role of expectations, beliefs, values, agency, context effects, and the placebo-at-large. It is our contention that the progression of professional naturopathic medicine in the 21st century requires a major transition in how it approaches the subject of homeopathy. We propose that students should be encouraged to critically analyze the tenets of homeopathy, its lesser known history, and the idea of homeopathy as a biomedicine that simply awaits untold chemicophysical mechanisms. Furthermore, the modality of homeopathy should be incorporated into the larger context of placebo studies, narrative medicine, ethics, and psychotherapeutic techniques.