How Wikipedia Got It Wrong About Naturopathic Medicine

Colleen Huber, NMD

Wikipedia has increasingly circled the wagons around a closed group of editors regarding health and medicine, and has strictly enforced an editorial policy of rejecting, and disparaging anything that this small circle calls “fringe” or “pseudoscience,” which they repeatedly contrast with “evidence-based medicine.” A favorite target has been naturopathic medicine and naturopathic physicians, and Wikipedia editors have even made vague threats against physicians who politely disagree with them. Physicians who attempt to edit the Naturopathy page or to mention ongoing medical research in naturopathic colleges and institutions, or to appeal to open-minded neutrality, have all been banned from editing. Naturopathic physicians have attempted to point out that naturopathy is the original evidence-based medicine, drawing not just from the last century and two continents that conventional medicine draws from, but rather from all known human history and all inhabited continents. All of this is ignored by the Wikipedia editors.

The following exchange occurred recently in the Wikipedia “teahouse” between a naturopathic physician and a number of Wikipedia editors:

Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD):

A group of full-time activists (I call them as I reach for the most tactful term) makes changes to the Naturopathy page many times per day. Those changes are consistently in a derogatory direction toward naturopathic physicians. I see that naturopathic physician edits are not allowed to stand; they are reverted back to libel within several minutes by this vandalizing group, many of whom are outside the U.S., evading U.S. libel laws. The Wikipedia definition of cyberbullying tactics is: “Common tactics used by cyberstalkers is to vandalize a search engine or encyclopedia, to threaten a victim’s earnings, employment, reputation, or safety. Various companies provide cases of cyber-stalking (involving adults) follow the pattern of repeated actions against a target.” [sic] What recourse does the public or the naturopathic profession have to correct the quickly increasing number of lies that comprise the Wikipedia page on Naturopathy? Is there any interest in at least having a balance of viewpoints reflected on this page? “Talk” or other negotiation with the cyberbullies is not on the table, due to their flagrant violation of law and ethics. Will Wikipedia administrators take action against this problem?

Wikipedia editor 1:

Wikipedia presents materials as they are seen the mainstream academic and medical sources . — TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom


Please answer the questions that I asked: What will Wikipedia do about the false statements, libel and cyberbullying on the Naturopathy page? Naturopathic physicians have approximately twice as many classroom hours and twice as many courses as MDs in the medical schools, verifiable at the respective schools’ curricula descriptions online. Unlike MDs and DOs, naturopathic physicians have full-term courses in cardiology, pulmonology, endocrinology, through all major systems, again verifiable at the schools’ own curricula descriptions. All of that is contradicted on the Wikipedia Naturopathy page. How will Wikipedia address not only the cyberbullying and libel, but its own impaired credibility?

Editor 2:

Because naturopathy is a fringe topic based in large part on pseudoscience, as reported by reliable sources, our experienced editors who work to defend the encyclopedia from content endorsing pseudoscience will always monitor this article closely. This is bound to hurt the feelings of the advocates of naturopathy, but that is the way things are, and all concerned should avoid insulting language. That includes you, with your talk of “evading U.S. libel laws” and “flagrant violation of law and ethics”. You are coming perilously close to violating our policy calling for No legal threats. Those who make such threats are blocked from editing until the threat is withdrawn or all court cases are resolved.


Dear Sir,

First, as you well know, you have found no threat at all in anything that I said. Second, if all concerned should refrain from using insulting language, then it would be best for you not to use the word “fringe” regarding a vast and eclectic system of medicine on which many around the world and throughout human history (in fact all of our distant ancestors) relied for their healthcare, a system of medicine that today is practiced in 17 US states by duly licensed physicians, who have scopes of practice that range from time-honored natural modalities through contemporary medical practices such as laboratory analysis, the prescription of pharmaceuticals and minor surgery, depending on the state. That training happened extensively in medical school and was confirmed by the longest and most rigorous medical board certification examinations in the U.S. I regret to inform you that the sources you call “reliable” have only been reliable to consistently misrepresent and falsify the history and the effects of naturopathic medicine. The cyberbullying that has damaged the Naturopathy page on Wikipedia has continually worsened in large part due to the echo chamber reliance on such sources, and I am indicating to you the problems that arise from allowing such behavior to continue. I have shown that the Naturopathy page fulfills the Wikipedia definition of cyberbullying tactics. Please be clear: Are you defending the cyberbullying tactics? If not, what will be done to stop the problem?

Editor 2:

Accusing other editors of “flagrant violation of law” without indisputable evidence is inappropriate behavior here on Wikipedia and perilously close to a legal threat. If reliable scientific sources say that naturopathy is largely based on pseudoscience, then so too shall Wikipedia. It cannot be any other way. You are, of course, entirely free to promulgate your beliefs on other websites, but Wikipedia does not exist to validate or promote pseudoscience in any way, shape or form. As for your other unproven accusations, I believe in being polite to those with whom I disagree. I recommend the same course of action to you.


I have shown that the actions of the referenced editors fulfill the description of cyberbullying by Wikipedia’s own definition. I have asked that this be corrected by Wikipedia. It seems that you are unlikely to examine or to correct the problem.

Editor 2:

It seems that we disagree about what the problem is, having thoroughly debated the issue, but that is relatively common here on Wikipedia. I could be wrong and if other experienced editors think so, then I will pay most serious attention to their opinions.

The Teahouse is a place for new editors to ask questions about editing, a place for answers, discussion and advice. It is not Wikipedia’s Night court nor a place that issues binding decisions about anything, other than advancing the goal of building a better encyclopedia. You are entitled to seek more formal action if your concerns are so deep. Please read our policy regarding dispute resolution for much more detailed information.

Editor 3:

Wikipedia has a policy of not giving equal validity to fringe subjects and pseudoscience. This is not bullying.

Editor 4:

First, your whole attitude appears to be that you are here to right great wrongs, and that isn’t what Wikipedia is for. However, why don’t you start over? Instead of starting with the assumption that we are mistreating you and your subject, let’s start with a quest for neutrality. Here are my suggestions. First, I am aware that there are some naturopathic medicine programs, that, like osteopathic medicine programs, have outgrown their fringe roots and have adopted most of the content of allopathic (orthodox) medicine. If you can source them, and you should be able to do so, you should be able to add them. Also, if you feel that that your contributions are being disregarded, as other editors have noted, we have dispute resolution forums, some of which are for content disputes, which this is. Some of them are particularly suitable to the extent that some naturopathic programs have incorporated some of the wisdom of allopathic medicine, and have licensure in some states. Those might include the fringe theory noticeboard, but it may have anti-pseudoscience warriors. They also include the dispute resolution noticeboard, in which most volunteer moderators start off with little knowledge of the subject matter and expect the parties to state the material. Beyond that, there is requests for formal mediation, by an experienced mediator. So what you should do is, first, find the sources that are out there that show that naturopathic medicine has grown up and become partly orthodox. Second, back off from your hostility and ask other editors to back off from their hostility. Third, discuss on talk pages, with references to reliable sources. Fourth, engage in dispute resolution, possibly at DRN or RFM.


Thank you for your suggestion. However, I have no need to try to drag naturopathic medicine over to something that it is not and should not be: allopathic medicine. Nor would that serve any greater interest, since naturopathic patients are generally much healthier than allopathic patients. “Pseudocience” is an invalid term that is used to stockpile evidence that the user wishes to ignore. In this case, your associates have used it to make excuses for the damage caused by libel and cyberbullying. I agree with one thing that they have said: this discussion has moved past the purpose of the “teahouse,” and I therefore leave this discussion behind now.

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As a final word to this group of editors, I would say this:

I see the extent of your distrust and distaste for naturopathic medicine.  I see your willingness to promote and publish that dislike on the internet.  I would ask you to consider the presence of an ideological opponent in your immediate vicinity, much closer than you think, and it is as follows:

Every cell in your body rebels against your mind’s chosen direction.  Whereas you believe that an all pharmaceutical lifestyle is what you want, you could not endure even a week of an all-pharmaceutical diet without incurring severe illness.  Whether your diet is hot dogs and soda, or raw, vegan and locavore, your intestines transmit the available nutrients from that food into your bloodstream.  If you injure yourself, vitamin K is there for you, to help clot the blood before you lose too much.  If your tissue is weak, vitamin C is there for you, as a precursor and stabilizer of collagen, to rebuild and strengthen tissue.  Calcium and magnesium are there for you, to enable muscle contraction and rest, so that you can move as you need to.  This is basic biochemistry and physiology, taught in medical schools of all kinds.

The metabolic pathways, which are not a naturopathic ideological tool, but rather a biochemical roadmap or a tapestry illustrating the uses your body makes of each vitamin, mineral, lipid and amino acid as co-factors (metabolic aids), is only a still incomplete illustration of the many complex ways that your tissues and organs function with each of the known nutrients and the synergy among them.  To be in opposition to this dire need for nutrients, may be compared to the alcoholic who preaches temperance, a hypocritical denial, hiding one’s own needs.

Naturopathic physicians are the only healthcare providers with six to eight full-term courses in nutrition, which itself is applied, advanced biochemistry.  Most naturopathic physicians consider nutrition to be the cornerstone modality of naturopathic medicine.  Why disdain the only type of health professional who most profoundly understands the most basic needs of your own body and your own cells?  You may find that you could benefit from our advice and treatment someday.