• Dr. Ferguson

Natural is Neutral

Hucksters selling useless medical treatments love to say their treatments are “natural.” So we must ask the question, what is the value of a treatment being natural? The reality is that whether a treatment is natural is neither good nor bad. It is neutral.

There are only three relevant questions when a treatment is evaluated:

  1. Is the treatment efficacious? In other words, Does the treatment do what it is supposed to do?

  2. Are there downsides to treatment? For example, does the treatment cause unwanted side effects like nausea?

  3. What are the cost issues? If a treatment costs $1000 out of pocket every month and you don’t have that kind of money, then why are we even talking about it?




Arsenic, hemlock and poisonous mushrooms are all natural and all three of them can kill you. Does the fact that those three substances are natural somehow make them safe? Absolutely not. In my medical practice, I recommend natural treatments all day long. In fact, when I see a new patient, there is a great likelihood that I will recommend a new natural treatment. It is my impression that I recommend natural treatments at a much greater rate than most physicians. But natural is still neutral to me. I never recommend a natural product because it is natural. I recommend certain natural treatments purely because those treatments are efficacious, safe and cost-effective. Supplemental fiber, probiotics and increased water intake are incredibly safe and effective in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. Magnesium preparations like Milk of Magnesia are extremely safe and effective in the treatment of constipation. Vitamin D supplements can be very effective in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. An ideal level of vitamin D in the blood is associated with proper functioning of the immune system. Counseling is often effective in psychological illness. Counseling can work better than psychoactive medication. Even when psychoactive medications are prescribed, counseling is almost always a good complement to those medications. The list goes on and on. Natural treatments are often the best. But they are best because they are safe, effective and affordable, not because they are natural. When a person selling a treatment emphasizes that that the treatment is natural, alarm bells should go off. I’m not saying the person is a huckster. I’m just saying that person deserves very close scrutiny. So go ahead and use natural treatments. But use them because they are safe, effective and affordable, not because they are natural.