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Britt Hermes once considered herself a doctor. Now, she’s an apostate.

Hermes spent three years practicing naturopathy, a broad-reaching form of alternative medicine that focuses on “natural” care, including herbal remedies, acupuncture, and the discredited practice of homeopathy. But unease about a colleague’s ethics led her to look more closely at her profession — and what she found alarmed her.


So for the past two years, Hermes has been waging a scathing fight against naturopathy on social media, in science blogs, and on her own website, Naturopathic Diaries, which just won a “best blog of the year” award from a scientific skepticism magazine in the United Kingdom. She has not pulled punches.

Hermes has said naturopaths use a “cornucopia of pseudoscientific methods.” She posts articles with the blunt headlines like “Naturopathic pediatrics is not safe,” “Naturopaths need to back off autism,” and “Naturopathic medicine has too much quackery.” And she’s circulating an online petition to stop states from recognizing naturopaths as primary care physicians. Her message: “Naturopaths are not doctors.”

“I’m trying to contextualize and call out the false and exaggerated claims,” she said. “They want to be able to do everything an MD wants to do — but they also want to practice essentially witchcraft.”


Hermes’s activism comes at a time when the roughly 4,400 licensed naturopaths in the US are organizing and pushing for more legitimacy.

In May, more than 100 aspiring and practicing naturopaths descended on Capitol Hill to rally support for a federal pilot program that would allow them to be reimbursed by Medicare for some patients. They’re also lobbying for expanded authority to diagnose and treat patients in a handful of states, including Massachusetts and Michigan.

Those lobbying efforts are funded in part by vitamin companies that want to see the profession grow. Many naturopaths tout dietary supplements, herbal remedies, and vitamin infusions for healing.

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians declined to comment. But some of Hermes’s former colleagues have attacked her for what they see as a misleading attack on the profession.

Mainstream doctors say Hermes is a powerful voice in taking on alternative medicine for one clear reason — she knows it from the inside out.

“Naturopaths dislike me, but they loathe Britt because she’s a traitor,” said Dr. David Gorski, the managing editor of Science-Based Medicine, who has also spoken out against the naturopathic industry.

“They really, really, really hate her.”

From itchy skin to a $200,000 degree in naturopathy

Hermes, who’s now 32, spent her high school days plagued by terrible psoriasis, a skin condition marked by itchy, red patches. She started taking cod liver oil and changed her diet to see if either would help, which she thought they did.

“I became sort of obsessed with the idea of being able to treat it without prescription medicines,” she said.

Britt Hermes
Britt Hermes Taylor Hermes

That sparked a deep desire in Hermes: She wanted to hit an ideal state of health without needing to rely on conventional medicine. She went on to enroll at Bastyr University, an alternative medicine school based in Washington state. It’s one of a half-dozen naturopathic and alternative medicine universities in the United States.

At Bastyr, Hermes took classes with names that would seem familiar to conventional medical students, like human anatomy and physiology. But she also studied botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, and homeopathy, a practice founded on the theory that extremely diluted concentrations of certain compounds can treat disease. Homeopathy has been widely debunked as pseudoscience.

Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring naturopathic providers to be licensed or registered. They need a degree in naturopathic studies and a passing score on the NPLEX, or the Naturopathic Physicians licensing exam.

Naturopathic students can opt to perform a residency, but there aren’t nearly enough spots for the number of students graduating each year, said Jane Guiltinan, the dean of the School of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr. So many go right into practice on their own. By contrast, young MDs fresh out of medical school generally spend at least three years in residency, where they work under the supervision of veteran physicians.

Hermes has railed against the Bastyr curriculum as wholly inadequate to train practicing clinicians. She says she never learned about the medical standard of care for most illnesses and had minimal experience working directly with ill patients.

“I know it sounds cynical, but naturopathic medical care is like picking treatments out of a magical hat,” she wrote in a blog post on Naturopathic Diaries back in May of 2015.

Dean Guiltinan disputes her assessment. “The curriculum at Bastyr is quite rigorous,” she said. “I have full confidence that our graduates can enter primary care.”

A patient’s struggle with infertility

Hermes had that confidence, too. At least at first.

She graduated from Bastyr in 2011 and completed a one-year residency in family medicine and pediatrics at an alternative medicine clinic. (She was licensed under her maiden name, Britt Deegan.)

She saw herself as a primary care doctor for patients who didn’t want to seek conventional medical care — and she had no hesitation treating them. She provided checkups for kids and consulted with sick cancer patients.

“I had become so comfortable with the speech and the rhetoric that I considered myself a doctor,” she said. “It wasn’t difficult to convince anyone I knew what I was doing.”

One of her patients, Emilie Bishop, was suffering from endometriosis — a painful disorder in which tissues normally inside the uterus grow outside it. She’d been struggling to get pregnant for months when her obstetrician referred her to a naturopathic clinic. Bishop had tried all manner of traditional medical therapies, including surgery to address the endometriosis, but it hadn’t helped. She figured she didn’t have anything to lose.

“Naturopathy can sound crazy, but it was no less crazy than anyone else’s approaches,” said Bishop, now 32.

She found her way to Hermes, who started her on a handful of supplements and a vegan diet. Their first appointment turned into an hour-and-a-half long conversation.

“It was really refreshing to have someone who really listened to how the problems were affecting me and my body,” Bishop said.

But there wasn’t any difference in her pain, and Bishop still struggled to get pregnant. As the months went on, Bishop grew wary of the recommendations Hermes made. Bishop points to one email she received from Hermes laying out plans to get her ovulating normally again to boost her chances of getting pregnant.

“She started playing fertility doctor, and she wasn’t listening to what I wanted or what I needed,” Bishop said. “I felt like she was out of her depth.”

Hermes now realizes that she was — but at the time, she said, she genuinely believed in what she’d been taught.

“I trusted the naturopaths more than the scientists,” she said.

“[Naturopaths] want to be able to do everything an MD wants to do — but they also want to practice essentially witchcraft.”

Britt Hermes, former naturopath

Bishop tried other naturopaths but felt that they blamed her when their treatments failed. “I heard, ‘You didn’t do it long enough, you didn’t do it well enough, you need to try harder,’” she said.

In the end, she did become pregnant and had a son. He was still little when she stumbled over the Naturopathic Diaries blog. She pored over every post Hermes had written.

“It was just so freeing to me to hear that it was all crap,” Bishop said. “It wasn’t that I wasn’t doing the treatment well enough or that I wasn’t trying hard enough. It was that I was using treatments that weren’t likely to help no matter what I did.”

Bishop reached out to Hermes and asked if she could write a guest post on the blog; Hermes obliged.

“I bear no ill will toward her. I bear a lot of ill will toward the naturopathic profession,” Bishop said.

Soon enough, so would Hermes.

A distressing discovery leads to a quick exit

She’d been practicing in Arizona for about two years when she said she discovered her supervisor had been importing a non-FDA approved drug called Ukrain from Austria to treat cancer patients. Hermes found out on a Friday in May of 2014.

On Monday, she quit.

Hermes reported her supervisor, Michael Uzick, to the state board governing naturopathy. She wasn’t just upset by his decision to treat cancer patients with an unapproved, potentially risky drug, she said. She was upset by how he responded when she confronted him.

“He said he knew he was walking the ethical and legal line, but that most naturopaths do this,” Hermes said.

She also spoke with a mentor in the field, who told her that she was making too big of a deal out of the situation. Hermes couldn’t shake her anger at the casual responses from colleagues she’d once respected.

Uzick was reprimanded by the board that governs naturopathic doctors in Arizona. He did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

But when he talked to Hermes, “He accused me of wanting to take down the entire naturopathic profession,” she said.

She took that as a challenge.

After she’d quit her job, Hermes found herself in a serious bind. She couldn’t get a job in the medical field or teaching medical science in academia with a naturopathic degree. She had spent more than $200,000 and four years on an education she felt she could no longer use.

“I literally needed to start over. I was terrified,” Hermes said. She packed up her bags and moved with her husband to Germany for his work. There, she decided to go back to school to study science — again. Hermes is now in a master’s program at the University of Kiel, studying the mammalian microbiome.

After her second day of molecular biology class in the new program, Hermes went home and cried. She’d thought she had learned the basics at Bastyr, but now she realized the coursework hadn’t been nearly as rigorous as she’d thought. She was surprised she had to work to understand the concepts. Her previous studies had been a breeze.

“I remember studying for my classes while sunbathing by the pool,” she said.

That frustration and anger sparked Hermes to start her blog, Naturopathic Diaries. She spends about 30 hours a month on it and other forms of media.

Dr. David Palma, a radiation oncologist at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, said he uses Naturopathic Diaries as a resource when talking with patients who want to seek alternative care.

He doesn’t have a problem with them reaching out to alternative practitioners to complement their traditional medical care. But he has seen catastrophic consequences when a patient rejects a traditional therapy with a high cure rate and instead pursues an “all-natural” treatment.

“For us, as doctors, it’s heartbreaking. But it’s absolutely within a patient’s rights as a long as that patient is well-informed,” Palma said.

That’s where work like Naturopathic Diaries comes in, he said.

Under assault from former colleagues

There’s been an onslaught of criticism — some of it vitriolic — since Hermes began blogging about naturopathy as a former insider. The comments on her site say it all.

“[You] became very bitter to the field of Naturopathic Medicine due to the fact that you were not a good doctor period … You need to pray to God and he will lead you to what you were called to do on this earth, but it clearly was not to be a Naturopathic Doctor,” one commenter writes.

Another commenter called Hermes and her guest authors “witch-hunters.”

And an especially determined critic has set up a website to pick apart Hermes’s petition to stop naturopaths from getting licensed.

That site, and many supporters of naturopathy, point to a handful of randomized studies that suggest it can have some benefit.

A 2009 study published in PLOS One, for example, looked at 75 patients with moderate to severe anxiety. They were treated with either a standard psychotherapy intervention that included deep-breathing techniques or a naturopathic treatment that included dietary counseling, deep-breathing techniques, multivitamins, and an herbal medicine called ashwagandha.

Both groups saw significant improvements in anxiety — but the naturopathic patients also reported more improvement in ancillary quality of life measures. The study did not, however, single out the individual effects of each treatment component to figure out what, if anything, gave the naturopathy recipients that added boost.

Another study cited by naturopaths looked at 207 patients with cardiovascular disease. Some patients received care from just their family physician, while others received care from both their family doctors and naturopaths who provided health and nutrition counseling or dietary supplementation.

Those in the naturopathic group had a 3 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease risk after a decade. But the study’s authors point out that they didn’t receive naturopathic care alone, but naturopathy plus conventional care. It’s also possible that the difference came from the extra time they spent in consultation with a clinician — and that they would have gotten similar benefit from appointments with any type of health care professional, not just naturopaths.

Both those trials, and others cited by naturopathy advocates, are also small — larger, more robust studies would be needed to prove that naturopathic care is safe and effective for treating certain conditions.

Gorski said the attacks on Hermes aren’t just about her work in naturopathy. They’re about her as a person, too.

“What I have come to appreciate, perhaps because I’m a middle-aged white guy, is just how much [online] abuse, sexual and misogynistic abuse … that women put up with,” he said. “And of course she’s perfect for that.”

Hermes tries not to take those attacks to heart — but that doesn’t mean she’s not listening.

“I am open to these critiques and consider them carefully,” she said. “But none have yet [presented] a compelling argument that I have mischaracterized naturopathic medicine.”

So she’s not backing down. Nor is she slowing down. For now, she’s focused on building a career in molecular biology. She sees herself staying in the lab — and out of the exam room — and hopes to improve the lives of patients through her research.

Hermes said she doesn’t have any desire to seek out naturopathic care anymore, but she recently got a lesson from her doctor about how stress might be affecting her health. Her iron levels were low and she needed to eat more meat, the doctor said.

“Here was this MD providing me what naturopaths would call naturopathic care. But the aspects that do work are not unique to naturopathy,” Hermes said.

“I walked out of that appointment much happier than I should have been.”

  • My son had his onset of Ankylosing Spondylitis, a crippling autoimmune disease when he was only 16. It is an arthritis that primarily attacks the spine but also affects other joints. The damage is irreversible. It is incurable. He was in constant pain with even the most basic movement. Our very expensive insurance would not approve him for a biologic since the cost is about $4,000 a month. The med is also proven to cause cancer. I’ve always believed in answers in nature so I took to extensive research. I found a book by a physician with the same disease who went into remission using natural supplements and herbs. He was not pushing a brand, a company or a product, which is important to note. I built a supplement regimen around my son’s specific needs and his pain decreased by about 75% since I started him on it 3 years ago. I have had decades long acid-reflux and I was on numerous meds for it; ones that can have terrible long-term side effects. I recently was able to quit those pills altogether in place of a simple, harmless herb I looked into. It was $3.80 for a 3 month supply. Herbal remedies can be life-changing, health-wise and monetarily. I stick with supplements that work for me. Efficacy can be varied, even with prescription meds. Would I go solely on natural remedies? Not for anything such as cancer but I would absolutely use herbal supplements in conjunction with cancer drugs. The sad fact is the drug industry has Americans wrapped around their fingers. They don’t want people to turn to (cheaper) herbal remedies because there is nothing in it for them. They run a billion dollar industry. Of course many professionals and companies smear natural medicine because they get kickbacks for pushing brands of drugs. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that two of my drs have recommended herbs and essential oils for some of my ailments! That speaks volumes.

    • Have you tried an AIP diet for your son ? I have RA and diet totally affects my symptoms. I can almost totally eliminate them with diet. You may want to check out kratom tea for pain relief. It is a game changer for me.


    We spent a small fortune on treating my son’s allergies and asthma with naturopathic medicine and I agree it is witchcraft. It is a lie from the enemy, Satan. It’s very deceiving though, and only until I prayed and sought God’s help and wisdom, did I know. In my son’s case, he had trauma while in my womb, as my mother was dying of cancer and did die 2 months before my son was born. The stress severely compromised his immune system. Prayer and when traditional medicine when necessary. But don’t underestimate the power of prayer!
    Thank you for your blog Britt. God bless you.

  • My reply is to Nicolas’ comment from May 14, 2018 below.

    While I agree that “Quakbusting” is fairly limited in the breadth at which people can be reached, that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile undertaking. You are absolutely correct in saying that there will always be people persuaded by quack remedies, sometimes of no true fault of their own. They might just be desperate. But there may be individuals “towing the line”, meaning that they’re considering the idea of “Naturopathy”, or individuals who simply have no basis of knowledge on legitimate vs. illegitimate medical practices and scientific sources, and these posts and BLOGs provide a basis at which they can be swayed.

    I also don’t disagree that pointing out and combating issues with present modern medical practices, like the over-use of opioids for example, is very important, and it can be argued that it may be of greater importance right now. However, that doesn’t mean that combating quakery is unimportant or useless. You’re essentially arguing a red herring fallacy, and then ending it with an appeal to ignorance fallacy with your question on annual death rates by quack remedies.

    • The errors of medicine are incomparably greater and more lethal than those of “alternative” health products. The medical state prefers to not focus on the hundreds of thousands of people killed and maimed each year (in the US alone) by it’s treatments, many of which are useless, and to focus on the relatively trivial harms of voodoo treatments.

      Physicians still prescribe the anti-hypertensive atenolol despite the fact that it doesn’t reduce morbidity/mortality. In my view this is quackery; but quackery is defined by those who control medicine, just as the winners of war write the history of those wars.

  • My quibble with Hermes and other “quackbusters” is that their efforts are mostly wasted. There will always be people persuaded by quack remedies, and debunking will no more influence them than challenging biblical stories will dissuade someone from believing in the hereafter. Let them buy their lactose pills.

    Her attention is better spent on the far greater harms of medicine, such as plying children with amphetamines and anti-depressants. Those are true abominations. And never enough attention can be placed on the preventable errors of medicine, estimated to kill from 250,00 to over 400,000 a year in US hospitals. How many people are killed annually by all quack remedies combined?

    Mencken’s approach to quackery was a lot more fun and less self-righteous.


  • Homeopathy is quackery, sure, but many programs have eliminated it from their curriculum. I am a Doctor of Integrative Healthcare & Medicine. I never took a single course on reiki healing, prayer, yoga, homeopathy, or any of that. My courses were in things like:

    Cellular & Molecular Biology
    Advanced Biochemistry
    Human Pathology
    Clinical Microbiology and Pharmacology
    Clinical Nutrition

    … and yes, plenty of herbal studies, because contrary to popular belief, certain plants properly processed and properly dosed actually ARE effective and there is plenty of scientific research proving it. Collegiate Intergrative Healthcare programs don’t even include Homeopathy, and actually focus on–depending on level of severity–the use of natural plant-based medicine, OR synthetic drugs IF the problem is severe enough.

    My biggest problem is, when any Doctor of Medicine can say with a straight face that natural medicines don’t work then I know that Doctor is just another allopathic shill. Have a headache? Take White Willow Bark since Aspirin is practically a synthesized version of it and it’s MUCH safer than Aspirin and has been proven to work.

    And that’s just one example, there are hundreds more and if the allopathic community actually paid attention to what the other fields are doing, they’d know that these things have in fact been deeply researched and have been proven effective through countless studies. It really makes me wonder what many Doctors do to stay on top of this information when many of them are adamant these things don’t work and there are no studies when there are in fact too many studies to list. Hmmmm…

    Listen allopaths, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t yell “prove it!” and then stick your fingers in your ears and go “lalalalalalala!” when we present the proof, but that’s essentially what’s happening and it’s sickening.

    Any Master or Doctor of Integrative Medicine knows that severity and stage always dictates which approach to use. Let’s use the headache example again. For a simple headache, I would recommend White Willow Bark because it has been proven to work and it is safe. But for a person with migraines I would first work to diagnose the migraine type, and then prescribe something stronger (like a triptan) because the problem is too severe for wwb to be effective without an excessive/irresponsible dosage. This ability to recognize severity and recommend accordingly is something we are very much capable of but are never credited for because the allopathic community is not interested in communicating, they are only interested in attacking and handing out pills like they’re candy. Maybe that’s why you’re killing so many patients every year, but let’s not discuss THAT fact, oh no, let’s sweep that one riiiight under the rug…

    • Willow bark and aspirin are not comparable.

      Willow species and aspirin: different mechanism of actions.

      “Many believe that willow is the natural source of aspirin. However, willow species contain only a low quantity of the prodrug salicin which is metabolized during absorption into various salicylate derivatives. If calculated as salicylic acid, the daily salicin dose is insufficient to produce analgesia. Salicylic acid concentrations following an analgesic dose of aspirin are an order of magnitude higher. Flavonoids and polyphenols contribute to the potent willow bark analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect.”

    • Your link references the journal article I linked and quoted, which notes that willow bark is too low in salicin for that chemical to act as an analgesic. Is there some reason it needs to act like aspirin?

  • Absolutely off track. Our studies at Bastyr were excellent. Our patients do well. Ms Hermes is misguided and argues her case with an unusually venomous shallow burst of anger. Not scientific in the least. Just angry and off track. How sad to read thus misleading garbage.

    • Quote: “Our studies at Bastyr were excellent.” According to the evaluation of the Christian Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany, (which is a renowned European university) they where not. Britt Hermes had to retake almost all science classes since the university deemed the classes at Bastyr as not sufficient.

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