Acceptance of natural medicine has come a long way, doctor says

by Chris Norred

South County Journal


Loosening the Medicare purse strings is a key to success for the natural medicine clinic that King County opened in Kent last fall, a leading advocate for natural medicine said yesterday.

We can save money by using natural medicine and improve health," said Dr. Alan Gaby, one of the nation's leading advocates of natural medicine, speaking at the King County Courthouse. Natural medicine involves the use of vitamins and herbs, rather than pharmaceuticals, to fight illness. Acceptance is growing, Gaby said, but it's going to require a lot of time and a lot of teaching."

Metropolitan King County Councilman Kent Pullen, a promoter of natural medicine, invited Gaby to speak. The Baltimore doctor who has been in private practice for 15 years regularly speaks and writes articles advocating natural medicine, and has appeared on the Phil Donahue Show and CBS Evening News to promote the field. He is serving a stint in Seattle as chairman of therapeutic nutrition at Bastyr University. Bastyr, a Seattle college, is running the new clinic in partnership with the county.

Gaby said the acceptance of natural medicine has come a long way since he began promoting it 15 years ago.

"When I was in medical school, they called me Dr. Ascorbate, as in Vitamin C, and it was a disparaging term," he said. But Gaby said when he speaks at medical seminars today, hundreds of conventional physicians attend his sessions.

Studies show that about one-third of Americans use some type of alternative health care, including naturopathy, acupuncture or chiropractic care. The King County Natural Medicine Clinic on South 259th Street opened in October. State law requires most health insurance plans to cover treatment by licensed naturopaths. However, Medicare still does not cover the treatments.

Gaby said natural medicine needs cooperation from conventional medicine, because research into natural remedies is incomplete.

"This is a field in its infancy. A lot of people know what they're doing, some don't", he said. "There's a lot of opinions and we need to find out what works and what doesn't."

"When I first started in practice, I didn't even think of applying for hospital privileges," Gaby said. "Anyone who tried this stuff in hospitals got thrown out."

The physician said the King County Natural Medicine Clinic, which opened in October to serve low-income residents, was a step in the right direction.

Reaching low-income residents with the message of the benefits of vitamins and natural medicine techniques may help reduce the public heath care costs, he said.

"Ultimately, the things that work and cost less are what we ought to be doing," Gaby said.

Natural medicine advice form Dr. Alan Gaby