Wednesday, April 9, 2014

#990: Christiane Northrup

Christiane Northrup is an MD (OB/Gyn) who has risen to rather frightening levels of fame through her promotion of woo and denialism in the cause of women’s health. She is, as expected, a regular guest on Oprah (where she has advocated the use of Qi Gong to direct qi to the vagina, apparently to cure all manner of female ills and promote fantastic orgasms in the process), and writes columns for the Huffington Post, two items that amply serves to illustrate what kind of person this is. She has also published a long row of best-selling books.

What she offers to her patients include virtually the whole gamut of holistic medicine. Northrup promotes the medical use of chakras, astrology, angels, mysticism, feng shui, Tarot cards, and of course female intuition. No, seriously – Northrup is the kind of doctor who gives you a diagnosis after a round of Tarot solitaire has shown that the pain in your chest is really an indication of unfulfilled spiritual needs, misaligned stars and a strained relationship to your guardian angels.

Among her most recent books, The wisdom of menopause has managed to become frighteningly popular in a certain segment of the population. In the book you can read all about your seven emotional centers, chakras, and have it backed up by “evidence” such as: “My divorce culminated during what is astrologically known as my Chiron return … simultaneously I had been under the influence of an astrological configuration know as a yod … the purpose of this was to move me out of my old life …” Wisdom galore, in other words. And it is to a large extent downwards from there (though she does, in fairness, provide some serious advice as well): you will find the whole range from aspartame conspiracies to nonsense claims to the effect that scientific studies have confirmed that our “emotional style” influences our risk of breast cancer and our ability to recover from it. “All illness is a hologram,” says Northrup (which, due to the blatant lack of meaning, doesn’t even qualify as a hypothesis), and to understand it you have to listen to the message your body is sending you – if you were honest about your feelings, you might not have developed cancer.

As for her astrology, she has spelled out her beliefs in her newsletter “Health Wisdom for Women”. Astrology, according to Northrup, “is truly a science,” though she gives no indication that she is able to distinguish science from wishful thinking. “If you’re skeptical, think about how the moon influences your menstrual cycle,” which it most certainly doesn’t. The fact that the claim is false doesn’t stop her, though: “the moon influences your menstrual cycle and the flow of emotions and fluids in both your body and the oceans. This has been very well documented,” blithely unaware that the moon’s gravitational force on her is less than that of any tiny object in her immediate environment (the “ well documented” inflection is not further elaborated upon). According to Northrup, “people born at exactly the same time and place lead remarkably similar lives and even die at the same time from similar causes, despite having completely dissimilar DNA. They are known as astral or spiritual twins.” Of course, there is no statistics that even remotely suggest anything but the complete opposite of her claim. Truth and accountability have never been known to stop a delusional crackpot from venting her incoherent theories, however.

Northrup is of course also a “vaccine skeptic”. As she puts it: “Getting your child or yourself immunized is a culturally agreed-upon ritual, designed to shore up your first chakra,” but you should apparently not be overly concerned if you choose not to participate in this social construction. Then she, an MD, goes on to quote various antivaxxers with no medical background, concluding that since vaccines don’t always provide 100% perfect protection, they aren’t needed. The real reason people get sick is not because they are unvaccinated … but because of their chakras.

Perhaps her most insidious strategy in her fight against reality-based health measures might be her promotion of thermography for breast cancer, and at that point you don’t get away with ignorance anymore. Ignorance at this level is evil. Period. Her claims are assessed here. Close to that one in terms of vileness is her attempt to dispute the connection between HPV and cervical cancer, which is as uncontroversial as scientific facts come.

A discussion of a few of her claims can be found here.

Diagnosis: A serious danger to public health. Through the misleading veil of formal training, Northrup has a knack for getting away with all the breathtaking ignorance, religious fundamentalism, wishful thinking, distortions, and confabulatory woo she wants – and people do, indeed, listen. An utterly corrupt, horrible human being.


  1. On the recommendation of a friend, I purchased Northrup's menopause book. I had just gotten started reading it when the subject turned to her divorce. She seemed to imply that divorce is a common and acceptable side effect of menopause, and that we should embrace our newfound freedom. That book ended up, unfinished, in the dumpster.