Thursday, February 5, 2015

#1280: D. Gary Young

Donald Gary Young is a self-styled naturopath known in particular for his promotion of essential oils (also here) and his Raindrop Therapy. These are promoted for instance through his multi-level marketing company Young Living Essential Oils, and formerly his Young Life Research Clinic Institute of Natural Medicine. We have been unable to verify any background Young may have in anything having to do with medicine (he claims an MA from Bernadean University, a notorious diploma mill, and once claimed to be a graduate of “The American Institute of Physioregenerology,” which was denied by the Institute), but he has been in trouble several times for practicing without a license, and the claims he makes about medicine are, shall we say, unsubstantiated by anything but nebulous anecdotes. In fact, even some of the anecdotes are questionable – Young claims to have cured himself of paralysis with fasting and essential oils, though a brochure from 1987 attributed his recovery to “Oscillation Frequency Stimulation Infusion (O.F.S.I.)” Still woo, but not essential oils.

Young’s background in the field of altmed is a sordid affair, and is described in detail here (yes, Young is a mainstay at Quackwatch). In particular, Young used to run the Rosarita Beach Clinic in Mexico in the 1980s, with a sister clinic in California, where he offered treatment of cancer and other serious diseases, offering “the most comprehensive treatment program in alternative medicine,” including chelation, lymphatic massage, acupuncture, color and magnetic therapies, “bioelectrical medicine,” homeopathic remedies, and a vegetarian nutrition program. The clinic also offered iridology, live cell analysis, and “blood crystallization,” which he claimed could detect degenerative diseases five to eight years before they caused symptoms. Of course, those pesky skeptics and the police soon discovered that the tests always detected variations on the same kinds of ailments, and were always followed with recommendations for expensive treatments coincidentally offered by Young. Indeed, the diagnoses and recommendations were the same regardless of whether they submitted their own blood, healthy cat’s blood or chicken blood – given the difference between human blood cells and chicken blood cells it is doubtful that Young even looked at the blood, and if he did, that he had any idea what he should be looking for. Suffice to say, his advertising ended up causing him further legal trouble. And that was just the beginning. The story of Young’s unsupported claims and problems with the law is a long one.

His Young Living Essential Oils was started with his third wife (Mary Billeter Young) in Utah in 1992, with the Quack Miranda prominently displayed (the FDA seems to keep an eye on him). Ridiculous claims nevertheless abound, and despite the lack of evidence for essential oils as a healing remedy, Young tries – in addition to offering testimonials – to suggest that the supposed Egyptian and biblical use of essential oils is somehow evidence of their medicinal effectiveness. (Some of the ridiculous claims are summed up in his book Aromatherapy: The Essential Beginning.)

You can read the story of his Young Life Research Clinic Institute of Natural Medicine here. The medical staff at the clinic did in fact include board certified physicians (one Roger Belden Lewis), but also people like Sherman Johnson, who is described here. At the clinic Young offered the same range of bullshit he had earlier offered in Mexico, though the clinic disappeared in 2005 following several legal complaints. The company’s website described the clinic as moving to Ecuador, since that country’s “constitution promotes and supports natural and traditional medicine.” Right.

Still, Young is perhaps most famous for his raindrop therapy, a technique he invented (he claims to have received instructions from a Lakota medicine man, but since the person in question has denied any involvement we’ll keep his name out of it) and which involves dropping essential oils, some undiluted, along the spine and feet and massaging gently to “bring structural and electrical alignment.” He could as well has called it “balancing prana”, for that’s precisely what it is (no, “electrical alignment” makes no sense; indeed, Young seems to use “electrical field” and “etheric field” rather interchangeably). And according to Young, however, has claimed that RDT could effectively treat scoliosis by affecting toxins and viruses, which according to Young (falsely) is what causes scoliosis. Young’s own essential oils are a potential cause of toxic effects, however.

Diagnosis: Either Young has great powers in the department of self-delusion, or he is aware that the claims made on behalf of his products are, shall we say, flimsy. In any case, Young is something of a threat to human flourishing and well-being, and should be avoided. 

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